By Alex Leggatt
The lack of spaces dedicated to showcasing artwork in Durham is deeply saddening, especially given the wealth of artistic talent the county has to offer. However, the recent exhibition Wabi Sabi defiantly demonstrates the potential for Durham to assert itself as a hub of artistic culture.
Collectively curated by artists across the UK, this exhibition takes advantage of TESTT Space, an offshoot of Empty Shop, renovating an old office space whilst maintaining its brutalist façade. Upon entering, one is struck by the plethora of mediums on display; watercolours, film, photography and interactive installations. Despite this diversity, the works are unified by common inspiration: Japanese art, the acknowledgement of our transient existence, and beauty characterised by an authentic form of imperfection. What makes Wabi Sabi so engaging is the space and focus it gives for each artist, allowing the viewer to become fully immersed in each work.
Diverse themes are explored in this exhibition: Helen Smith investigates the nature of political protest, with cross-hatched lines forming a banner conveying a shared connection between activists, whereas Andrew Rogers’ photography explores similar connections found in the mundaneness of everyday existence between person and place. Other installations, including the short film A Day in the Life of a Metronome, explore a stoic resolution to existence; merely accepting the cycle from life to death as time continues to tick indifferently. Some works challenge and subvert preconceptions of what an art exhibition should be; the immersive Grand Theft Bicycle allows one to take role of a vigilante cyclist, gunning down political opponents from Trump to Castro, igniting a strikingly personal political engagement whilst operating under the guise of a “harmless” video game.
The nature of the exhibition is organic and honest; most of the works were not created especially for Wabi Sabi, and thus each artist has their true style represented, and is a testament to an artistic culture which deserves to thrive in Durham.
Image: Peter McAdam via Facebook