'In Residence' Exhibition
23 April - 28 May 2021
No Jobs in the Arts and Attenborough Arts Centre asked six early-career artists linked to Leicester/shire to spend a day creating at home. With their immediate surroundings as their prompt, artists were encouraged to be inspired by the place they reside in; their home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The work they created embraces the idea of working with what you have or haven’t got, and celebrates the ups and downs of that domestic, creative experience.
The online exhibition showcases works by Ellé Hill, Elliot Robert Lawrence, Harry Garner, Jessica Wilson, Masah Azar and Sammy, which you can explore below; click an artwork to expand the image. The artists have also come up with six prompts, hoping to encourage different, perhaps more creative, ways of looking at our homes. So far, the exhibition includes a reflective thought piece by Curatorial Trainee Jenny O’Sullivan, and will come to feature creative responses by Attenborough Art Centre’s young ambassador group, Next Gen, building on the exhibition’s themes and ideas.
Co-curating this exhibition was more about curating conditions than choosing specific works. ‘In Residence’ was brought to life by six artists, independently spending eight hours creating in their homes, united simply by that very setting. However, moving beyond early myths of lockdown as a ‘great leveller’, I think it’s all the intriguing differences that really sparkle when these works are brought together. I can almost imagine the residency process as a sort of new, domestic biome: the things that grow within that space are strikingly different, but so clearly connected by similar currents and climates, sharing sensations and sustenance from beneath the soil. After setting the residency brief, we could only step back and wait. Now, it feels quite magical to see what has emerged.
Whilst these pieces are centred on specific spaces, looking through them, I feel that everything else becomes less stable, from time, to mood, to plane of reality. Sammy’s beautifully framed photograph makes me think of a haunting Victorian daguerreotype, but, one plastic bucket at a time, it gradually reveals its deceptively contemporary origins. Warping the wonderfully wry realism of Masah’s illustration, a figure sits comfortably with other versions of themself from different times of the day. Or month? Or year? The layering of time is also foregrounded in Ellé’s highly evocative collage work as reclaimed photographs give way to fantasy and escapism. Despite their immediately contemporary subjects, Harry’s skilfully speedy serial oil paintings gain a nostalgic, archival quality, whilst a focus on mundane surroundings produces unreality in Elliot’s surreal but fantastically familiar 3D renderings. Jessica’s invisible ink line drawing maps out a mesmerising stream of consciousness; an electric, nocturnal glow, that can flicker away in an instant.
The confined experiences of lockdown were not new for everyone, and nor do these works speak only to this particular situation. Being able to take inspiration from what happens to be our immediate surroundings will always be an invaluable tool for artists. And if these images and prompts can offer a refreshing perspective on the spaces we live in, or a bit more creative agency in how we occupy them, I don’t think that would be a bad thing either.
Jenny O’Sullivan has been the curatorial trainee at the Attenborough Arts Centre for the past year, whilst studying Socially Engaged practice in Museums and Galleries part time at the University of Leicester.