home features exhibitions | interviewsprofileswebprojects | gazetteer | linksarchive | forum

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 participating artists.

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, sweets)

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 customers.


Steven Paige Burnt Sugar (engraved glass, molasses)

‘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 http://www.foundspace.co.uk/guide.html

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.