Bodies in Space, a group exhibition of figurative painting and drawing curated by Ben Borthwick, will open in MIRROR at Plymouth College of Art on 27 November 2021.
Running until 26 February 2022, Bodies in Space presents work by artists using the figure in painting and drawing to question and understand how we occupy, move through and negotiate the public and private spaces of daily life. The exhibition also reflects how figurative painting and drawing becomes more visible at times of wider social and political change.
The free exhibition features work by Nicola Bealing, Flo Brooks, Andrea Buettner, Andrew Pierre Hart, Nick Jensen, Claudette Johnson, Joy Labinjo, Bruno Pacheco, and Charmaine Watkiss, plus additional artists to be confirmed.
Independent Curator Ben Borthwick is Head of Creative Programme at KARST. He combines working internationally with grass roots artist development and community engagement in Plymouth. He was previously Artistic Director of Plymouth Arts Centre, CEO of Artes Mundi and Assistant Curator at Tate Modern.
“Not all bodies are treated equally”
Speaking of the exhibition, Ben said: “Bodies in Space is an exhibition of work created by artists who are working with the human figure. Not all bodies are treated equally and not all bodies are equally represented, whether politically, legally or pictorially. The exhibition draws out the ways that some artists are addressing much wider social and political issues and inequalities through their work. Bodies in Space is firmly anchored in some of the big questions and themes of society right now. As such, I hope that visitors to the show will see and think about how the artworks engage with those contemporary themes.
“Just across the road from Plymouth College of Art is The Box, Plymouth’s museum which has a great collection of artworks from different moments in history. We may now be distanced from what those artists were thinking and preoccupied by in their lifetimes, but I’m certain that when those artworks were first created the artists were also tackling the big questions of their generations, sometimes questioning the status quo and sometimes reinforcing it.”
Transgender and queer identities
Discussing some of the artists chosen to contribute to ‘Bodies in Space’, Ben said: “Flo Brooks is an artist whose work is incredibly detailed but not necessarily realistic, loaded with symbolism and mystery. His work explores questions around transgender and queer identities, often locating the relationships between figures into the society’s overlooked spaces and activities.
The edge of abstraction
“Nick Jensen’s work, by contrast, is always on the edge of abstraction. His work almost eludes any specific form of representation, where the figures barely break through the materiality of the paint and take shape. Much of his recent work has focused on crowded street scenes, but for ‘Bodies in Space’ we’re showing a new painting that is about the intimacy between a mother and child during lockdown, enclosed in a private space. This painting is loosely based on an etching by Lucian Freud, one of the great figurative painters of the twentieth century.
Lightning rods of representation
“Joy Labinjo takes a different approach again. Her painting of the deposed statue of Edward Colston was an unexpected direction for the exhibition. My interest in her work began with her portraits of family life and contemporary figuration but this painting of a 19th century statue of the 17th century slave trader immediately brought home how artworks can contest or consolidate power. Statues of ‘great’ figures have long been contested as lightning rods of representation, not least in the context of Black Lives Matter. This painting seemed like a perfect way to introduce those themes to the exhibition in a very direct way.”
Curator Ben Borthwick will give a guided tour of Bodies in Space on Friday 26 November 2021 from 5:30pm to 6:15pm as part of the opening event for the show, followed by a drinks reception from 6:15pm to 7:30pm. All are welcome to the drinks reception with no booking required, or click here to book tickets for the Curator’s Tour.
‘Bodies in Space’ runs in MIRROR at Plymouth College of Art from 27 November 2021 until 26 February 2022. Please note that MIRROR and Plymouth College of Art will close between 24 December 2021 and 9 January 2022.
top image: Close up from Flo Brooks’ ‘To Be or No To Be’ 2020 Acrylic on wood 164 x 188 x 4.5cm Courtesy of the artist and Project Native Informant, London
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