Hey guys, what’s good? In this week’s episode myself, Alice and Ellie talked about ‘North East Style’ By Sophie Lisa Beresford which is currently showing at the Abject Gallery. Much to our surprise and delight, we left the exhibition preview feeling empowered and highly motivated. Perhaps the feeling that can be equated to that of walking home from a really good night out. Part of this was due to the nature of the exhibition, which incorporated wall based work, sound, moving image and performance showcasing a niche form of Northern identity and encouraging a sense of Northern pride. But I feel a lot of the good vibes we walked away with can be accredited to the enthusiastic and energetic artist herself.
When talking to the Beresford, she explained that some of the contributors of the show, in particular the artists who created the album artwork that was exhibited, would not class themselves as an artist in the traditional sense. It was therefore the aim of Beresford to use her position as an artist to use the gallery space to help showcase these works of art and help these individuals give value to their work. She explained to me in conversation that the reason they may not feel this way is because of the informal form their art takes. Many of these artists are far removed from the ‘high-art’ scene, which as we have mentioned a few times here on Hey Art, What’s Good?, can be unapproachable to the average person. Beresford wants to celebrate her culture and enable others to do the same. For her, a big part of this is helping creative people who do not associate their work with art galleries and the arts scene understand that their work is important and should not be overlooked.
This resonated with me as an artist. At university I met a visiting artist named Kerry Morrison who explained to me that she felt her role as artist within her community was as important as the local shopkeeper, policeman, doctor or postman. But in order for this to be a reality she needed to use her position as artist to benefit her community and create art that was for her community. This dictated a lot of her art practice and motivated her to make art that was accessible for all. It was through meeting Morrison that I began to understand that art is not for everyone by default and as contemporary artists it is up to us to choose to make our work accessible. Sophie Lisa Beresford also has an understanding of this and is using her role as artist to address issues close to her own heart: that the contemporary arts scenes can be exclusive and therefore is not currently for all practicing creatives. There is an injustice in this that I can most certainly agree with.
‘North East Style’ takes objects, music and video that one would not normally expect to see in a gallery and uses the power that the gallery has to give it a higher value within art and culture. People understand that when something is in a highly curated space, such as a gallery or a museum, that it is something of value that they should respect. An audience understand that someone else has taken the time to place it in the space and therefore expect it to hold some value. The gallery reframes the object, changing how it is understood.
Another artist who has used the gallery to subvert how we value art is contemporary artist and 2001 Turner Prize winner Martin Creed. The specific artwork that was brought mind was his 1994 piece ‘Work No. 88’ which consisted of an A4 sheet of paper crumpled into a ball. There are many ways to interoperate this piece, but to me, this is the perfect example of the gallery, and the artist, elevating the value of an object simply through their own intervention. The prestige that is associated with the gallery and the artist change what this object is. Creed has expressed that he is of the opinion that anything can be art if it is understood as such. Here, what could be classed a piece of rubbish has been elevated to a piece of art simply by framing it in a gallery setting. The expectations an audience have when something is placed within a gallery setting denote it as art. Creed used ‘Work No. 88’ to really examine what could be art, pushing the boundaries that the power of the gallery, and by extension the artist, present. ‘Work No.88’ does not necessarily ask an audience to reconsider what they understand as art, but rather addresses the fact that an artwork can be created simply through its environment and the way it is framed. Whether you think it is art or not, it certainly completes this purpose.
(Martin Creed, Work No. 88, http://martincreed.com/site/works/work-no-88)
Considering this, I think the work that Sophie Lisa Beresford is doing for her community is of the utmost importance. She is using her position as a contemporary artist to reach out to other artists and creatives and support them in their practice. Not only does this exhibition bring a subculture to the forefront of art, it encourages artists to understand their true potential and the value of their work. By reframing the work that already exists, Beresford is inviting an audience to appreciate what she has always understood to hold value. I by no means wish to imply that the gallery is the ultimate goal as it most certainly is not. But perhaps by seeing their work framed in the context of the gallery they may be able to celebrate the worth of their work.
In relation to the gallery visitor, this may not encourage those who would not normally go to the gallery to pay Abject a visit, however it may encourage those who do attend art exhibitions regularly to rethink what they understand to be art. The work exhibited in this exhibition is aesthetic with a clear message and some tongue in cheek humour. I truly believe that Beresford has succeeded in translating a street subculture which can often be dismissed or overlooked into a thing of beauty and value.
– Rosie Stronach
Martin Creed interview: ‘Art is anything used as art by people’ by Kate Kellaway
Martin Creed Work No. 88