Fore Street & New Bridge Street, Exeter
17/4/10 - 14/5/10
Megan Calver 'Look upon the marvel-matters' (fluorescent polyester,
reflective tape, metal zip, glass jar with lid, one slice of foam 4 x
volume of jar)
‘Stowage’ was an exhibition of
small-scale artworks in the shop windows of Exeter’s West Quarter.
Bringing together more than 20 artists from around the UK, the project
aimed to deliver a diverse range of work celebrating the rich history
and independent spirit of Exeter’s West Quarter shopping district. It
was also hoped to generate new networks and points of connection between
Selected artists from the North West and South West of England were
invited to make work in and around old-fashioned confectionery jars.
This familiar shop item was chosen to stand in for the gallery vitrine:
a place to stow or contain ideas and to demarcate the work from the
surrounding sales environment. It was decided not to impose other
trappings of galleries such as plinths and stands to display the work,
but instead to use what came to hand in the shops themselves.
A significant number of the works in ‘Stowage’ were made for particular
shops or sites. For example, Megan Calver worked with materials sourced
in Langans Foam Tools DIY to make a comment on the precious
possibilities of do-it-yourself, while Fiona Hamilton and Jane Lawrence
worked over several weeks with the customers of 'Heavenly Yarns' to
develop their collaborative piece on knitting.
John Maxwell Goodwin 'You can take the
'X' out of Exeter, but you can't take the Exeter out of the 'X''
(mirrors, bonding agent)
In other cases, the later siting of works has generated unexpected
resonances. When located in the hairdressing salon tma2, John Maxwell
Goodwin’s mirrored bisection of the jar structure moved beyond form and
surface to become a pointed comment on self-awareness.
Some artists chose the challenge of adapting their existing practice to
this new context. Ben Cook’s themes of surf culture and the Cornish
landscape found a new outlet in Granite Jar. Ben Langworthy & Scott
Daniels’ Morse code installation was an extension of previous practice
involving intervention and social interaction.
Ben Langworthy & Scott Daniels 'Magnificent Morse
Mints' (wood, brass, electric motor, timer switches, LED lights, paper,
Not surprisingly, miniaturisation was a common theme. Jill Randall
continued her practice of making models of sheds to explore the
assertion of personal territory through ad hoc structures. Andrea Zapp
used the idea of peering through a magnifying glass at a tiny world to
point at the inescapable infrastructure of surveillance and control.
Jill Randall 'Sheds of Rossendale -
Log Cabin' (mixed media)
The social history and psychology of sugar were not as dominant a theme
as might have been predicted. However, Buff Lancaster-Thomas’ jar
pierced with pins reflected on the dangerous seductiveness of sweetness
while Steven Paige engraved the different cooking stages of sugar on a
jar filled with molasses. This black, viscous substance evoked not just
sugar but other raw materials (such as oil and opium) that have been
linked to ruthless exploitation.
A strong sense of ownership
over the works quickly developed amongst the 17 host shops and, once
installation was complete, curatorial and artistic control had to be
applied very gently or relinquished altogether. This was particularly
acute with Bill Longshaw’s work for The Co-operative, which was
repeatedly hidden or turned away from the street. It has to be assumed
that the artist’s sincere reflection on the founding values of the
co-operative movement may not have resonated with modern-day staff and
Steven Paige Burnt Sugar (engraved glass,
‘Stowage’ worked as a treasure hunt or trail (maps were provided), but
also as a chance encounter with art for those who rarely visit
galleries. As well as giving retailers the opportunity to generate new
custom, this project built on the strengths of this friendly, eclectic
and close-knit shopping district, renewing its sense of shared purpose
and creative enterprise.
Gabrielle Hoad 07/05/10
A guide giving locations of all the works and an
overview of the exhibition is still available at
Artists: Andrea Zapp
(Manchester), Ben Cook (Cornwall), Bill Longshaw (Manchester), Buff
Lancaster-Thomas (Devon), Chris Knight (Manchester), David Chatton
Barker (Devon), Felicity Shillingford (Devon), Fiona Hamilton & Jane
Lawrence (Devon), Gabrielle Hoad (Devon), Hilary Jack (Cheshire), Janet
Griffiths (Manchester), Jill Randall (Lancashire), John Maxwell Goodwin
(Devon), Kwong Lee (Manchester), Laurel Coxon (Devon), Maddy Pethick
(Devon), Megan Calver (Devon), Scott Daniels & Ben Langworthy (Devon),
Steven Paige (Cornwall), The Grimm North (Devon). Curators: Gabrielle
Hoad and Felicity Shillingford.