On Friday, the OBS Gallery at Tonbridge School launches its latest show, Flow, which runs until March. Curator and artist Emily Glass tells Eileen Leahy all about it
THERE was a time when if you wanted to see a show brimming with thought-provoking contemporary art, you’d have to travel up to the capital. Thankfully, though, we now have plenty of galleries and smaller spaces in our area committed to exhibiting groundbreaking and exciting work by both established and up-and coming painters and sculptors.
One such place is the Old Big School Gallery, known as OBS, at Tonbridge School, which launches its latest exhibition this Friday (January 26).Entitled Flow, it explores the ways in which the ‘physical materials that artists choose and use to create work, influence and direct the final outcome’.
The exhibition, which runs until March 4, features sculptures, paintings, photographs, film, ceramics and installation work, which – according to the show’s curator Emily Glass – all boast a common theme: That of matter ‘oozing, pouring, cracking or sagging’, which in turn influences the final work’s form and scale.
So what gave Emily the idea to curate a show like this? “The starting point was seeing Solveig’s Settemsdal film Singularity, which won the prestigious Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2016. “It got me thinking about the extraordinary materials that artists work with, and the ways in which for some their making process involves planning and a controlled manipulation of materials, but may also incorporate elements that happen by chance.”
In total there are six artists exhibiting, and they include painters Clare Price and Alexis Harding, Jonathan Keep, who specialises in making porcelain pieces using a 3-D
printer, Harriet Hill, who is making an installation especially for the exhibition, Emily herself, who is a sculptor, and also her initial inspiration, Solveig Settemsdal, who is showing a film and photographs.
How were they selected to exhibit in the show? “I wanted artists who used chance and accident in their work, and looked for this link between otherwise very different pieces,” explains Emily, who runs OBS and teaches at Tonbridge School. “I had seen all of their work previously in exhibitions, or they were suggested by other artists who knew what I was looking for.”
In terms of what visitors will enjoy about this exhibition, Emily says it’s predominantly the ‘extraordinary use of materials’ – but there is lots more to aesthetically appreciate here, too.
“The variety of artworks, the playful approach to making, and the different meanings that come from this.
“For example, some of the work can be seen to represent emotional or bodily states, whereas other works might seem architectural, or performative, but they all share a kind of tension… a balance between intention and accident.”
Emily also says that OBS is well worth a visit anyway because it’s a beautiful space. “The quality of the gallery has enabled us to show international and local artists. We’ve been able to develop an exciting and contemporary exhibiting programme that keeps art education at Tonbridge rooted in professional art practice and debates.”
Emily’s personal contribution is a series of sculptures ‘that evoke something bodily’. Whether this is human or animal she says is ‘totally up to the viewer’.
“I like the idea of things which might be vessels, containers, but then might suddenly wriggle into life… there’s a struggle between inertia and energy, control and collapse that evolves as I make them, and the exciting part is not knowing everything about what I’m going to end up with.”
Emily says in combining her artwork with her roles at Tonbridge they ‘feed into each other’