Beyond the Linear by Emma Lloyd at Salford Art Gallery
When I really like an exhibition, I sometimes struggle to write about it. When something is really good, how do I write an article that is new and engaging when all I can say is that I really liked it? This is how I feel about ‘Beyond the Linear; by Emma Lloyd. I really liked the work but found it difficult to write about, I can’t put my finger on why, but here goes…
‘Beyond the Linear’ by artist Emma Lloyd is a really great exhibition. There is loads to see, it’s really interactive and I love art that involves text. So it should tick all the boxes right? But something is holding me back from singing and dancing about it? I’m really not sure what it’s missing and these are the hardest reviews to write. It’s like I have nothing bad to say, everything was really good! Maybe I was just in a bad mood that day? It did take me ages to get there as trains were delayed and then that caused over-crowding, plus it was freezing! And I felt bad too as there were artists there I wanted to speak to but wasn’t feeling very sociable. So all I can do is apologise to Emma Lloyd for that, as maybe my mood took away from me experiencing the exhibition to it’s full potential.
Let’s just get into the review, and I’ll stop complaining about my mood.
I heard a fact recently that teenagers are reading more now than they ever have before. This is because of how much time they spend on their phones! They aren’t reading books or magazines, but they are reading on Facebook and Instagram etc. Weird right? And not what you expect, but still a fact. Within the exhibition there was a statement that read ‘how much do we read / see the text that surrounds us? How much do we see without knowing how much we take in?’ We are literally surrounded by words, adverts, instructions, phones etc all day, and although we are reading, we probably don’t realise how much we are reading and probably not taking any of it in. ‘Beyond the Linear’ uses these points and surrounds you with letters and words. It’s like walking into a jumbled up dictionary of art.
The exhibition is a mix of sculptures, paintings and installations. As you walk around the Salford Art Gallery in a clockwise direction, the works seem to get larger. You start with intricate mini sculptures, my favourite being the re-invented letters, a change of the alphabet, which look like tiny little jigsaw pieces and Mahjong tiles.
So much of Emma Lloyd’s work is based around sculpting with wood, scraping away at the medium, forming new shapes and letters as she carves. You feel involved in this process when you head into the first installation room, a piece named ‘Translate II’. You open a black-out curtain and step inside a pitch-black space. This installation messes with your senses. You loose the sense of sight as the room is completely dark. The empty space is filled with the sound of wood cutting, the cold metal tools scratching against the soft wood, the noise cuts through the air. I don’t know if this is intentional, I really hope it is, but the room smells like fresh wood. It could have just been the smell of the heavy curtain? But the smell distinctly reminded me of the wood-room at University. That earthy, thick, freshly cut grass type of smell. Although I love a bit of interaction in an exhibition, I couldn’t stay in there very long as I am a little afraid of the dark. Well, maybe not so much of the dark, but I have a fear of being blindfolded (so you can imagine how scared I was watching Birdbox!). That vulnerability of not being able to see, not in control, it makes me feel a little uncomfortable, so I had to step out.
I regularly say or think, ‘imagine if this was bigger?’ Well, with the two pieces of work named ‘They Sleep’ my wish came true! First, you see the small wooden sculpture, two diamond shape forms, created with the words ‘they sleep’ in block, strong text. Yet the words all interlinked and juxtaposed with free-flowing, water-like resin. ‘They Sleep’ number one is about the size of a shoe box, locked away in a glass cabinet. Then, carry on strolling round the exhibition and you are hit with ‘They Sleep’ number two, this huge installation that you can walk around – and this makes me happy! However, there is no resin. Why? Is the human interaction replacing the resin? As we walk around the piece, are we representing the curly free-flowing lines? As you may know I tend to not read the artists’ statements as I think that then clouds what I take away from the work, so I actually don’t know why the resin part isn’t in this piece? Perhaps if the sculpture is too big to create the resin parts, then maybe find another material it could work with? It just felt like a little part of it was missing.
‘Selectric Salford’ is another huge piece featured in Beyond the Linear. There are a number of different sized balls of text on plinths. These balls are surrounded with paper trails, the text printed on the paper was created by the sculptures being rolled in ink and rolled along the paper. They look like museum pieces on stands, like Greek sculptures taken out of a Hercules film. The jumble of letters cut into the sphere are like a foreign, unreadable text. The paper trail falls from the walls to the floor, spiraling around the balls themselves. You know when you create a snowman, rolling a snow ball along the ground and you leave the empty path behind you, now clear of snow – that’s what the paper trails reminded me of.
As you can see, I genuinely did enjoy a number of works here and I definitely would recommend visiting the exhibition. It’s very interactive, appeals to the senses, and the themes of language, text and words is something literally everyone can relate to. So I apologise again for being a bit of a grump. My state of mind was all out of whack, and that shouldn’t take away from the exhibition, as I did really like it.
For a listing of all exhibitions and events across Greater Manchester, check out our What’s On Calendar.