Galleries - February 2010

9. GALLERIES FEBRUARY 10 N ewport Museum & Art Gallery is relatively small in scale but that doesn’t affect the scope of its shows. For its latest venture, Simon Fenoulhet has designed a site-specific light installation. Visi- tors will walk through the blacked- out gallery and encounter col- ourful sensations that loom out of the dark. Fenoulhet used to dis- sect furniture and rebuild it in wacky ways but for the past decade he has concentrated on transforming mundane objects by means of light. These objects have included teaspoons, table tennis balls and cocktail stirrers, things we would normally dismiss as disposables. His interventions ask us to reckon with them as ab- stract and environmental art. One of his new pieces is an ap- parently freestanding light curtain which “glows out of the relative darkness of the surrounding space”. The curtain is made from electro-luminescent wires encased in thousands of multi- coloured plastic drinking straws. The light source is hidden and the “curtain hangs like a veil . . . The . . . straws . . . gently dis- tort the hanging wires so, as the light pulses through [them], it echoes ripples on water or cloud movements. It’s transparent, so that people on the other side can be seen moving across its sur- face. The straws glow like neon, their colours sing as they light up and then fade.” On his website Fenoulhet says that he has rejected associations with natural forms but lacking other interpretations, many visitors will try to make those connections for themselves. Looking through the pages and video clips you re- alise that these smart, seemingly effortless and rather lyrical pieces take a lot of messy wiring to cre- ate. The show makes ironic as well as romantic points about the contradictions in western society but it also makes you ask –delib- erately? –whether his means jus- tify these particular ends. T hirty is an admirable age, mature certainly, but still young enough to know what’s going on and for an art gallery showing modern and contemporary art, reaching thirty is surely indicative of ‘getting it right’. For Beaux Arts Bath their Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition is just such an affirmation. Situated mid-way between St Ives (where directors Reg and Patricia Singh first started in the 70s with Wills Lane Gallery) and Beaux Arts London –22 Cork Street –which they opened in 1993, Beaux Arts Bath has always been the pivotal space for their successful exhibi- tions. The St Ives connection has endured: the first show at Wills Lane presented work by Barbara Hepworth which, together with that of Nicholson, Frost, Hilton, Wallis and Pearce, easily trans- ferred to the more spacious Georgian building in Bath. As suggested by Bernard Leach, ceramics have also played a part in the gallery’s success while, during the 80s and 90s, sculpture and drawings by Elisabeth Frink, together with work by Lynn Chadwick and Michael Ayrton ensured that it was always ‘major league’. The birthday bash, however, celebrates not with a look at the past but with an astute and appre- ciative eye to the future. The Cornish connection is still strong but it has veered to the figurative; now it is the quiet textural com- plexity of Naomi Frears’ paintings, the vigorous narrative exuberance of Nicola Bealing’s and Lisa Wright’s thoughtful studies that join Breon O’Casey to make the running. John Bellany’s work is here but so too are a younger generation of painters including BP award winners Akash Bhatt and Nathan Ford. In addition there are exquisite porcelain ‘unfolding’ vessels by Takeshi Yasuda (one of which is pictured here) –a measure of Leach’s foresight perhaps, or further affirmation that Beaux Arts are getting it right. LUCENT LINES Caroline Juler 30 YEARS ON Pip Palmer S imon Fenoulhet installation (detail) Newport Museum & Art Gallery Takeshi Yasuda ‘Open Vase’ Beaux Arts Bath