In the middle of the exhibition stands a man with a plastic bag taped around his head. He is trying to make a comment about environmental pollution. On the off-chance that any of the people watching him have failed to grasp this, in twenty minutes time he will strip to his boxers and smear himself with green and blue paint (the colours of our abused earth).
Welcome to A Perfect Day: a place in which ‘artists reflect, through drawings with text, on the absurd, poetic, frustrating and glorious daily life accompanied by experiment in music and performances.’ The crucial adjective that is omitted from this description is depressing. For more than they were absurd or poetic or glorious or frustrating, the art-works were depressing. I recall one canvas that would have utterly bare if not for a list of mood-stabilising medications the artist had scribbled on it. Such paintings bring to mind Geoff Dyer’s joke about the American attitude towards minimalist prose: ‘If only it were possible to write without writing at all.’ This effort (although perhaps that is the wrong word, when so little effort evidently went into it) is particularly irritating when I contrast it with other works in the exhibition, some of which were marvellous. There was one untitled painting which struck me as being a brilliant illustration of a panic attack. Studying it, you have the sensation that all of its contents are collapsing within the frame. The rich blue background is interrupted by a filigree of cruel white streaks; the figures that appear against this background are frozen in positions of distress and derangement.
The most prestigious artist to contribute to the exhibition was David Shrigley, whose Life Model II resembles nothing other than an enormous doll denuded of all its clothing. A shiny brown wig has been planted upon the model’s head; stare at it for long enough and the eyelids begin to flicker. If you search online for information about Life Model II, you will find people describing it as an attempt to subvert what historically has been the traditional approach to the art of sculpture. Now this may very well have been what Shrigley intended when creating the model, but to me the finished artifact seemed plain and uninteresting. I returned to it repeatedly throughout the gallery opening, wondering if I had been too swift in my judgement, but on each time that initial impression remained unaltered. Jacob John Shale 23rd September 2022
A Perfect Day continues until 2nd October