Art Work Inspired by Literature at the Golden Thread Gallery
Artists display their own takes on classical literature in the Convergence exhibition
Setting the art itself aside for a moment – a strange start for an arts feature, but bear with it – the u-bend shaped main gallery at the Golden Thread deserves its own moment in the critical sun. White-painted and accessorized with its very own wandering wall, it is large enough to display exhibitions effectively, but still small enough that it can be described as intimate.
It encourages the audience to meander and mingle, taking up space in the middle instead of clinging to the walls. In Convergence, the current exhibition at Golden Thread Gallery, curator Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes takes full advantage of the space.
Comfy black leather sofas bookend the gallery, complete with shelves and coffee tables laden with novels and exhibition catalogues. Patrons are encouraged, perhaps even expected, to relax and enjoy reading some of the literature that inspired the exhibition. There is even a tin of Bertolt Brecht by Heinz, if you really want to make yourself at home and don’t mind that aftertaste of alienation.
The art itself – told you we’d get back to it – is displayed with a sure hand on the gallery walls. Hayes demonstrates that she has no fear of white space, giving each piece a frame of blank wall. Her exhibition could easily have looked sparse, underfilled, but Hayes' fine sense of spatial aesthetics balances on the tipping point between cluttered and empty.
Each piece of art in Convergence was created in answer, challenge or agreement with a piece of literature. Like literature, the art is subjective. The quality is unquestionable, but the appeal varies from viewer to viewer.
One might be intrigued by Andrea Theis photographic installation 'Reviewing Image Disturbance'. At first glance it appears to be a catalogue of holiday photos, albeit all taken at the Goethe and Schiller statue in Weimar. (A tour guide’s Sisyphus perhaps?)
It is the explanation that adds interest. Theis installed herself at the monument to literally ‘disrupt’ the holiday snaps taken by cultural pilgrims in front of the statues.
Other viewers might prefer to linger over the display containing The System of Landor’s Cottage by Rodney Graham. It is a beautifully constructed, archaic looking novel that purports to ‘finish’ 'Landor’s Cottage', a story Edgar Allen Poe was working on when he died.
The fragment of Poe’s work is an implicitly eerie piece, with lyric passages describing a beautiful, peaceful cottage infused with the reader’s expectation of dread. It was Poe after all, there had to be a horrific twist.
Graham toys with those expectations, adding a seemingly infinite series of annexes to the cottage. Each chapter is ripe with the possibility of horror postponed, the building narrative promising that something dire will appear, if not in the next chapter then soon. It is a concept that wouldn’t be out of place in one of Poe’s stories. One that ends with a dead reader, skeletal finger poised mid-page turn.
Some of the pieces are quite dark – Joanna Karolini’s rewritten and overwritten copies of Franz Kafka’s letters, 'Kafka's Love Letters to Felice', convey a claustrophobic, almost desperate intensity – but this writers favourite piece is one of the lighter ones.
Inspired by Beckett’s Watt, Nick Thurston’s ‘un-designed’ posters take out every noun and adjective and replace them with ‘noun’ and ‘adjective’. It is both simply delightful – ending with an oddly arch ‘And sometimes he went adverb’ – and challenging. Do you know your Beckett well enough to fill in the words? Or, to flirt with literary blasphemy, could you come up with something better?
The intent behind the exhibition – one of them at least – is to breathe new life into these literary classics, presenting them as living, responsive pieces of art, rather than fossil records in the literary strata.
‘What I’d like people to do in this exhibition is to take some time to appreciate it as a wonderful collection of contemporary artworks. You can also come back, sit on the couch – for hours if you like – and read the primary texts. Those the artists found interests and those where, I think , some really liberating thoughts can be found.
It works. If you don’t leave the Golden Thread Gallery with your head full of words, then you haven’t been paying attention. Check out CultureNorthernIreland's What's On for more information about Convergence and other Visual Arts Exhibitions