BLANK LIONS at Bankley Studios and Gallery Manchester, Levenshulme, 15–30 June 2018, free entry
Bankley Gallery in Levenshulme presents BLANK LIONS, a sensuous and thought-provoking group exhibition that celebrates the unplanned and the potential for transformation within the most ordinary of materials. Together, artists Katrin Hanusch, Linda Hemmersbach, Isobel Wohl and Jack Vickridge express a fascination with the unexpected directions that open-minded exploration can take you in. The works presented do not draw conclusions, but instead hint at new forms, uses or ideas; never settling in one place and leaving plenty of room for the viewer to respond.
Serving as a useful starting point to interpret the exhibition, Hemmersbach’s paintings illustrate the instinctive observation and organic making processes of all the artists. Challenging the necessity for pre-meditated ideas, Hemmersbach’s works absorb their surroundings to create intuitive responses to their environment; while Vickridge’s sculptural forms capture the moment of wonder when one first comes across an object and is completely ignorant of its purpose. The functionally aesthetic artworks seem like they should have a purpose, but this is kept just beyond our grasp.
Referencing a phrase used in ancient cartography to denote unknown territories, the title of the exhibition reminds us not be wary of the unknown and to embrace the notion that space is necessary to see new possibilities. This is present in Hanusch’s DIY assemblages of old laptops through which the artist invites us to consider the blank screens as objects instead of interfaces for the relentless consumption of information, changing the way we view them. If we embrace our new perspective and regard the materials differently, it is easy to see that Wohl’s assemblages are the result of sense-based decision making, responding to the properties of the interacting materials as the making process unfolds.
Altogether, BLANK LIONS sets out an ambitious premise, but given space and time, it is an intriguing and intellectual proposition for how simple, fresh observation can fundamentally change our interpretations of not just artwork, but also our surroundings.
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