By Tamar Dutton
The Lock-In exhibition finale ‘WORK’ was a wonderful celebration of a successful year of students working in the newly created TESTT Space, located on North Road in Durham City centre. Having been founded in 2017, the visual arts venue invites both local artists and Durham University students alike to have the freedom to explore their creative interests. This would not necessarily be the case if it weren’t for the University’s Culture Durham department, who pay the rent for this space to ensure students have the opportunity to enjoy art alongside their studies.
The theme of the exhibition was influenced by the local artist Toby Phips Lloyd, whose work asks his viewers three major questions: what would you do if you had a year off, what gets you out of bed in the morning, and what did you want to be when you were growing up? According to the TESTT Space Project Manager Nick Malyan, this led to the exhibition theme ‘Work’ and was explored across an intense three-day ‘lock-in’- the outcomes of which, were rather wonderful. Compared to its former sister, Empty Shop, the venue is much larger and was able to accommodate the art pieces, which differed greatly in size.
The variety of art was exciting, making for a visually stimulating exhibition revolving around students’ concerns and frustrations with the current world, as well as the high expectations they face after they finish their studies.
According to the event organiser, Eliza Colin Hodges, childhood and ‘play’ was a theme that often resurfaced in group conversations. All of the art is to be commended, with each artist’s interpretation of both work and play allowing for a unique collection.
Brontë Anne created a simple yet beautiful clay sculpture of hands stretching upwards to symbolise reaching for one’s dreams through hard work.
Other exciting pieces included two installations which allowed viewers to ‘climb inside’.The first was a cardboard ‘Wendy House’ created by Alannah Travers, which encouraged the viewer to sit inside its reflective space both literally, as it was adorned with tin foil and a mirror that you were invited to stare into, as well as figuratively, shutting out the distractions of the outside world. There was also a well constructed rustic ‘den’, built by Lily Arnold, along with the help of Theo Dye. Theo rather ingeniously engaged the viewer with an opportunity to create their own sound of ‘nothingness’, by playing with dials set up inside the installation to change the sound of the white noise he had pre-recorded from his guitar.
The most poignant piece wasn’t necessarily the most eye-catching. Teo Tranca’s painting presented a map of Durham, as well as sketches of locals he had spoken to. I was pleasantly surprised to instantly recognise one subject, the happy gentlemen who often busks on Framwellgate Bridge with his obedient dog snoozing by his feet. As Teo rightly argues, many Durham University students are unaware of what Durham has to offer outside their small yet busy world. Through his collage, Teo seeks to emphasise that many students are too disconnected from local life, we aren’t taking the time to care about our surroundings, nor working towards contributing to the greater community.
So, with this in mind, maybe try and see something different and outside your comfort zone in Durham. You can book by appointment to view this artwork through its social media page on Facebook. I would definitely recommend it!
Photographs: Tamar Dutton