This exhibition was organised after a discussion between Catherine James and Barbara Nicholls about the exhibitions that have been – and will be – cancelled due to Covid-19. There are many practical implications to these cancellations, for example the need to reconsider the end-of-year examinations for Foundation and Degree programmes, and the financial impact on both commercial galleries and artist-led spaces. These are important concerns, but the cancellations have also created an array of intangible problems that are harder to articulate and mitigate.
Exhibitions in physical gallery spaces provide artists and visitors with an embodied experience of displaying and viewing art. There are many stages to this process; the original concept the artist decides to work with, the choice of materials, the location within the gallery space, the physical act of viewing a work in a gallery – looking, moving closer, standing back. Every stage in this process has been disrupted by Covid-19. Even if an artist decides not to adjust their original concept, access to materials and studio space changed overnight – and presenting photographs of work on a website rarely reproduces the experience of installing or viewing work in a gallery.
This exhibition has been designed to recapture the gallery experience as closely as possible. The chosen platform allows work to be displayed at scale in a gallery room, so that the relationships that develop between individual pieces of work in a physical gallery are able to establish themselves in a virtual environment. It also allows viewers to physically enter the gallery space in a way that is analogous to entering a gallery in person. However, displaying the work in this way brings new challenges. Although rendering three-dimensional work is possible, the technical challenges that this presents could not be resolved at short notice. Similarly, all works in the virtual gallery are static – as the combination of moving image work and the virtual gallery would be accessible only to those with the highest quality internet connection. These problems have been resolved by those artists who work in three-dimensions displaying photographs of these works, and those working with moving images displaying stills. (Videos may be viewed outside of the virtual gallery space, by selecting the ‘Video Gallery’ tab on the exhibition home page.)
The artists involved in this exhibition have all taken part in the Fine Art Mentoring course run by Erika Winstone at Morley College. Erika comments:
‘The work demonstrates the rich achievements of each artist individually, as well as the benefits of alternative models of learning to increase access to a peer group inclusive of a wide range of histories, background and experience. I congratulate each mentee on this exciting online exhibition, and I look forward to seeing their continuing journeys as artists and the further development in their final show next March at Espacio Gallery.
‘My thanks to mentees Terry, Tabitha, Gill, Octavia, Caroline and Catherine for their work masterminding this online exhibition. Also special thanks to visiting tutors this year for their invaluable contributions: Rosalind Davis, Justin Hibbs, Sara Knowland, Barbara Nicholls and Susan Sluglett.’