REVIEW: Spike Island's Springtime Trio

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Online Arts Editor Helena Raymond-Hayling gets down to Spike Island to check out the tryptich of artists exhibiting this springtime opening this May bank holiday weekend.

The spring exhibition set-up at Spike is a little out of the ordinary, because it contains work of three artists, all with very differing practice. The grand opening comes amongst the carnage of the yearly Open Studios event, where artists and tenants throw open their doors to allow the public to explore the working environments of artists, designers and creative businesses.

I am blessed to be given the opportunity to attend the preview where the three artists give a tour through their work giving insight into their practice.

Alex Cecchetti

Alex Cecchetti, <i>At the Gates of the Music Palace </i>(2018)

Alex Cecchetti, At the Gates of the Music Palace (2018)

Cecchetti is an artist with some serious flair. In his own words, 'If all matter jiggles, the universe is an orchestra'. His display includes some wonderful immersive pieces, whereby each is a musical instrument to be activated by the viewer, both actively and passively in passing through the gallery space, turning it into a harmonious and every-evolving orchestra of sound and shared music.

Cecchetti is not only as maker but a musician and a storyteller, and his works unite his craft in romantic multi-sensory works

He talks us through Singing Line, a beautifully looped and whorled piece of orange fabric, which represents the story of two musicians who are in love, gesturing up and down along the folds of the fabric before finishing at the base, where the two characters make love in the beautifully rippled piling of the end of the fabric on the floor. Cecchetti explains the symbolism of the ornate arrangement and how it shows 'streams, rivers and lakes', illustrating this wonderful interpretation of his poetic tale.

'you are welcome, musician, to take part in this concert no matter if you have never heard the beginning, because there is no beginning, everyone is welcome'.

Brass and glass panels within the work make gentle music as the fabric ripples in the gentle breeze of passers-by. It is easy to see that Cecchetti is not only as maker but a musician and a storyteller, and his works unite his craft in romantic multi-sensory works such as this.

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Singing Line (2018)
Epigram / Helena Raymond-Hayling

Next on the tour is the cascade of various poems disguised as paintings contained within Erotic Cabinet, which are painted in an array of styles, expressing lust and incredibly sensual depictions of lovemaking, intimacy and mythology.

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Erotic Cabinet (2016-17)
Epigram / Helena Raymond-Hayling

Included is an illustration of the lovemaking of Leda and the Swan, where Cecchetti explains that as a child, he could imagine this seduction by the swan only by the less-than-romantic and comic image of the swan's entire head penetrating Leda's vagina. This reminder into the interplay between adolescent sexual desire and a childlike imagination is touching and endearing, and causes a ripple of joyous laughter among the crowd as Cecchetti explains his creative inspirations.

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Erotic Cabinet (2016-17)
Epigram / Helena Raymond-Hayling

The process of opening and closing the panels to reveal each of the artworks feels like a journey through Cecchetti's eccentric soul; in his own words, he wants the cabinet to open and cascade 'like a flower, smart and sexy'. At the very back of the giant 1.5m work is a self-referential 'meta' painting which concludes the journey with a sprinkle of light humour: a depiction of the bent over backside of a viewer who has crawled all the way inside.

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Erotic Cabinet (2016-17)
Epigram / Helena Raymond-Hayling

The crowning jewel in Cecchetti's exhibition is Singing Chandelier, a glorious bell-shaped arrangement of hand-blown glass bird heads, big enough to stand inside. This too is an instrument to be played, and is displayed in a blue-carpeted central space with audio played in stereo of a soprano, an alto and a tenor mimicking whale noises, giving the space a serene, underwater feel. The result is a concert in an ethereal plane, which Cecchetti implores are to 'make you fall asleep and accompany you into your dreams'.

The ingenious use of acoustic engineering and gorgeous sculptural work are truly breathtaking

Cecchetti ducks into the sculpture and taps the centre with his hands, and begins to make the structure resonate, producing hypnotic 'twinkling' sounds, and with us bathes in the auditory ecstacy experienced from this magnificent creation.

The ingenious use of acoustic engineering and gorgeous sculptural work are truly breathtaking, and allow for some exciting collaborations. Twice during the run of the exhibition, a soprano will sing beneath Singing Chandelier, performing a piece written by Cecchetti specifically for this work, and visitors are invited to sing, to play and to scream beneath the sculpture, creating their own harmonies. He writes, 'you are welcome, musician, to take part in this concert no matter if you have never heard the beginning, because there is no beginning, everyone is welcome'.

It is clear that Cecchetti longs to share his works with us as an audience as a most passionate artist and novel creator. His good humour, eloquence and quirky personality are reflected most poignantly in the stunning exhibition; At the Gates of the Music Hall is truly unmissable.

Zoë Paul: La Perma-Perla Kraal Emporium

Paul’s exhibition at Spike Island revolves around La Perma-Perla Kraal Emporium, a collaborative work that invites visitors to sit around a long table and make clay beads, thereby becoming the work at the same time as creating it. She is dressed in a neo-classical robe, which highlights her interest in exploring the anachronistic, bringing her upbringing in rural Greece into the 21st century, and bringing archaism head to head with modernity, and uniting them to create something innovative and exciting.

Allusion to Greek culture and mythology is very prevalent in Paul's work, Land of the Lotus Eaters is a stunning eight metre long curtain made with beads of traditional clay and teracotta. The curtain depicts a scene from The Odyssey, where lazy residents of a remote island lay idle on its glorious shores, gorging themselves on the native hallucinogeninc lotus fruits, forever sedentary and content.

Paul explains that this work too represents the similarities of homoeroticism and combat, leaving the figures in the pictures in an orgasmic anger and idleness both simultaneously.

Zoë Paul <i>Land of the Lotus Eaters </i>(2018) Clay, porcelain, steel, brass, lead, silver

Zoë Paul Land of the Lotus Eaters (2018) Clay, porcelain, steel, brass, lead, silver

The lotus eaters represent a complete antithesis to a modern drive for progress and change. This is an idea explored too by Paul in her beautiful weavings on old refrigerator grills, which she says symbolises a decline in sharing and community upon the advent of refrigerator technology in the home. Where once, meat caught and killed would need to be shared with an entire street, the domestic refrigerator ensures meat does not spoil and removes this shared culture, 'changing society overnight' - Paul explains.

raises important questions as to how technology changes us as individuals, as societies and as families

Paul's interest for cultivating this kind of shared environment is integral to her work. Perma-Perla Kraal Emporium is a long banqueting table, and a novel experiential and immersive environment, where ceramic teapots and cups made by Paul are used to serve tea to participants.

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Epigram / Helena Raymond-Hayling

Paul's work is enchanting, and brings about a sense of the Grecian culture she feels so strongly. It raises important questions as to how technology changes us as individuals, as societies and as families, all over a charming cup of tea.

Andrew Mania

Andrew Mania (2018) Collage featuring Carl Van Vechten 1940s portraits of Marlon Brando and Sidney Lumet

Andrew Mania (2018) Collage featuring Carl Van Vechten 1940s portraits of Marlon Brando and Sidney Lumet

Andrew Mania explores identity, sexuality and nostalgia through portraiture drawing. His works have been described with the Portuguese term ‘Saudade’ (Martin, S., 2016) a word with no English equivalent, meaning a deep emotional state of nostalgic or profound melancholic longing for an absent something or someone beloved.

Mania develops these drawings within assemblages set on decorative backgrounds such as hanging printed fabrics. A voracious collector, he here creates a dialogue between a series of early vintage photographs selected for their aesthetic or mystery, and his own drawings that capture a state of mischief and yearning.

This trio are truly unmissable, and along with the open studios event this bank holiday weekend, I implore you to go check out the epic display that the talented artists and curators have yet again showcased.

The spring exhibitions are on display at Spike Island, Cumberland Road from 5 May to 8 July 2018. Admission free.

Featured image: Zoë Paul - Land of the Lotus Eaters (2018). Photograph by Helena Raymond-Hayling.


How do you like this springtime exhibition? Did you enjoy the open studios event? Let us know in the comments below or on social media

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AUTHOR

Helena Raymond-Hayling

Online editor for Epigram Arts and final year physicist. Trying to learn Arabic. Ambivalent about marmite.

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