Elevation. Underground: Exhibition Review

‘Elevation. Underground.’ by artists Bethany Costerd and Zac Bradley at Bunker Gallery.

I hate writing negative reviews. There are some critics out there that strive off bad reviews (I shall not name them), but I am not like them. However, I can’t call myself an art critic if I don’t write a review because I don’t want to write it. So I do apologise for the below, please don’t hate me, I just have to say what I feel!

It’s an odd one this exhibition. I just don’t understand why and how Catflap Collective (currently running and curating the exhibitions at Bunker Gallery) decided to curate ‘Elevation. Underground.’ as they did. There are two sets of artwork that clearly don’t go together, there seems to be no correlation, no relationship, there’s no flow. Bunker has two sections, two separate rooms! Why not give each artist their own space? Why have they tried to combine the artists together? I don’t get it. Worst of all I think it takes away from the artist’s work.

Let me take a second to talk about the artists individually, as I don’t want to take anything away from their hard work and talent! Bethany Costerd’s work was intriguing. She has created abstract ceramic sculptures, they twist and turn and sprout from the ground like tree’s growing tall and trying to find the light. The sculptures, earthy and raw-like, painted in earthy, deep colours, work alongside the rugged look of the gallery.

Zac Bradley’s paintings are like a soft dream, like a memory of a landscape. These colourful paintings seem hazy, unfocused, almost child-like paintings of wistful landscapes, with touches of details in reflections in the water.

However, the soft and hazy landscape paintings don’t see to have any correlation to the raw sculptures, full of structure and form. When you combine the two sets of artwork, your eyes don’t know where to look, it’s unsettling.

If they have linked them together for marketing reasons, I’d maybe understand that, promoting one exhibition is miles easier than promoting two exhibitions that are on at the same time. But that doesn’t mean you have to force a link between the two. The promotion text does try and link them, but that alone is incredibly hard to follow and understand, and that is reflected in the gallery itself. I really dislike pompous statements! Art already has a stereotype of being stuck-up, unreachable, for the higher educated. And when statements like this come along and sound so ‘arty’, I totally understand where that stereotype is coming from!

‘Elevation’ has as many physical connotations as it does spiritual, where one can climb, they can also ascend. This dualism reflects tensions between sculpture and painting, sculpture as the physical totem, and painted image, the dream. The works presented are displaced in time. While the sculptural works hint at an early desire to create physical height by building, the painted work attempts to depict future spaces that deal with the construction of a future home.
Underground locations provide a sense of gravity from above, a slight pressing sensation that alludes to higher levels, echoing the flawed rationality of dream space and childhood flights of fancy.’

Sorry what? What does that even mean? I have read it over and over and I’m sorry, I just don’t understand. Not everything has to have a deeper meaning, not everything has to reflect some higher calling. What I am trying to say is keep things simple and you’ll find more people will appreciate it. With this statement above, you are closing the doors to anyone new, any art ‘outsiders’, you are setting a bar way too high and people don’t get it.

There’s more to that statement, and when you read on and find out more about the artists work, you realise that, although Bradley’s paintings do link back to ‘dreams’ and ‘elevation’, Costerd’s don’t. Further confusing us as a viewer as to the link between the two pieces. For Bethany Costerd’s work, the descriptions reads:

‘…new ‘stackable’ ceramic sculptures trail behind the artist’s insatiable appetite to create form and height. This frustration she likens to a childhood desire to build her own theme park. Their precarious quality is also influenced by the artist’s adult attraction to the crumbled columns of ancient history.’  

Perhaps there is an extremely tenuous link of buildings being elevated? That’s a much as I could connect the two. But on instant reaction the the exhibition, you don’t see this. You come into the first room and think – oh, it’s an exhibition of sculptures. No, wait, there’s a lovely painting of a tree in the desert. And then an abstract painting of a hut over a lake. But then there’s ceramic forms protruding from the ground… You can’t focus on one piece, the others force a distraction. The two combined artists neither aid or enhance each other’s pieces.

To me, and I can only write from what I see and what I take from an exhibition, these two artists are totally different and it seems like Bunker Gallery have tried to find a way, perhaps event force a way to link them together. If the artists are so different, keep it that way! I can’t imagine what the curation conversation was, you have two rooms and two completely different artists! Why did you not just give them there own space? I feel like if you had done so, the overall exhibition would have worked so much better, giving you the time and space to appreciate each artist individually, rather than feeling a sense of displacement and confusion.

Elevation. Underground.‘ is on at Bunker Gallery from 11th January till 9th February.

Check out our What’s On Calendar for more exhibitions and events.

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