Northern Exposure

April 2001

Publication: The Times

The Pier Arts Centre, founded by Margaret Gardiner, houses an important and impressive collection of 20th Century British Art as well as acting as a forum for internationally known contemporary artists.  Currently, the centre is completing plans for extensive expansion and alteration to its physical premises which will serve to confirm its status as a pre-eminent venue for the visual arts well into the future.

Since 1996, the Pier has provided an annual residential Artist’s Fellowship (worth over £8000) which provides artists with the opportunity to develop ideas and practice over a six month period.  The current exhibition focuses on the subsequent work of three previous recipients — Judy Spark, Zoë Walker and Jenny Brownrigg — who held the fellowship, respectively, in 1996 1997 and 1998/99.

Spark has recently completed a Millennium project investigation into cellular telephony and its effects on human health and the environment, entitled ‘The Precautionary Principle’.  Few would disagree that the mobile communications revolution has taken us by surprise. The location of transmission masts and the continuing debate on the health effects of mobile phones, particularly within the city of Glasgow are important issues with which   Spark engages from a position of attempted neutrality.  This is artist as observer, researcher, someone who seeks the truth, however difficult and obstructed that path might be.

Walker, in a video work entitled ‘My Island Home’ is seen sailing down the river Thames on an inflatable Scottish island — despite the humour, the point is serious: dislocation, or exile, is a fact of life for many in the capital.

Brownrigg was artist in residence at Grizedale Forest in Cumbria and her time there forms the basis of a series of photographs which document a project with children on the theme of metamorphosis. Here she focuses on a group of children who are given instructions on taking on characteristics of animals. Brownrigg’s book, ‘Nature Centre’, poses provocative questions on the philosophical and cultural meaning of nature itself.

The current holder of the Pier residency, Susanne Nørregård Nielsen, studied in Poznan and Copenhagen before completing a training at Glasgow School of Art where she was a research scholar and is now a part-time lecturer.  Although Nielsen’s paintings are abstract, they make reference to a wide range of art historical issues, including the work of Velázquez, Juan Gris and Per Kirkeby.

Nielsen also bases some of the ideas behind her work on the ‘Fold Theory’ put forward by the French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze.  The theory holds that past and present can co-exist without separation or opposition.  Nielsen’s paintings express these ideas in visual form, involving the viewer on a physical as well as intellectual level.

Compositionally, her paintings are underpinned by a grid, although the underlying structure of these works should not confused with the processes inherent in their composition.  In her ‘Damask’ paintings, for example, alternating layers of vertically and horizontally positioned paint are built up, from which a new diagonal structure emerges.

 

Northern Exposure

Pier Arts Centre

Stromness

01856 850209

Until May 19

 

Published in The Times, Around the Galleries, 18-04-01