This show celebrates the friendship and belonging of more than 30 young and emerging artists in Hastings as friends move on and away to university. It gives an intriguing snapshot of the life story of each artist at this early point in their career and is an opportunity for people to reflect on what they have to take forward with them into their future artistic work.
It is a show about connection and community, curated in a spirit of friendship and collaboration. The show has been divided into two parts, with many artists participating in many different art forms. I talked to Maya Ramnarine about curating the show with Yetunde Yusuf and about her work.
Maya’s studio, she said, had been gifted her for the course of the exhibition as a workspace by Electro Studios, enabling her to keep working during this time when she had no space to work on her art. Around her were items from her Home, including furniture with a specific decorative design. This motif, she said, had kept cropping up in her work, not knowing why or perhaps realising it, but in any case, this show made her reflect on the relationship of her artwork with her Home.
The word ‘Oikos’ from ancient Greek was chosen to amplify some aspects of Home, particularly the emotion of belonging. Each artist used this word to approach their feelings personally, employing diverse media.
I was unprepared to document my responses to all the artists during my visit. Still, I found many works that I wanted to express my admiration for and interest in, and these included the tree prints of Ethan Kirby. His digital prints of multiple sheets of paper with digitally altered images showed how tempting it is to transform photographs with the tools we have so readily available. There was a funereal quality to the pictures, white crosses on the logs and trunks of condemned trees reflecting this time of plague, which has had such an emotional impact on the lives of young people.
Photography was an essential part of the show and Ida Baker’s ‘A Family Portrait’ brought together a collection of family photographs with polaroids and collaged media. I felt I was getting to know her seemingly ordinary and simple family life as if it was a film or soap opera, which made me feel a bit voyeuristic. Her pictures were not statement photos, where subjects are conscious of impressing the photographer, but simple and private family album shots. It seemed strange to encounter them in the exhibition, giving them a simple power.
Other works became more abstract and sculptural, showing craft processes such as the ceramic pieces of Holly Dawes. These included ceramic tiles made with local clay, connecting to the earth (literally). Holly writes,’ the process of finding and digging clay grounds me and gives me a sense of home’. The thoughts behind Holly’s work drew me in and I felt I related to the backstory behind the pieces. She also presents ceramic plant pots with plants and says, ‘I have lived in a van until recently and couldn’t keep plants aedive, so home for me at the moment is cultivating Home in a specific place and hopefully keeping plants alive.
The lugworm casts of Annie Watkins resonated with my impressions of the Hastings area. As a child, I, too, was fascinated with the casts of worms in soil and sand. This is a common experience, but it was wonderful to see these brought to life in the repeated spirals in both hard and soft materials hung and placed around the upstairs corridor. Her titles bring forward her thoughts in making ‘Rumination on a dying Ocean’ and ‘Home is the womb from where we came. She writes that the lugworm casts lead to a spiral which symbolises ‘birth and rebirth, connection with the divine and growth development. She says, ‘I’m interested in the interconnectedness of all life forms; how we relate to and affect each other and how we grieve the loss of other species and life forms.’
Again, the motif of grief and loss that permeates these young artists’ work. We seem to have put old heads on young shoulders and old eyes, not jaded but bleary with tears, looking out at the mess of the world with affection but also with fear of what is happening to it. Of course, it is essential to be aware of climate change for all generations, but what a burden the young are carrying into their artistic and other lives.
Oikos (Part 1 of 2) Sat 3 – Sun 11 September – Electro Studios – St Leonards On Sea
Hayden Ackerley / Joe Ackerley / Rosie Sullivan / Lily Dixon / Daisy Stewart-Darling / Hattie Stewart- Darling / Maya Ramnarine / Yetunde Yusuf / Annie Watkins / Kate Young / Lulu Honey / Joe Charrington / Kira Ramchaitar- Husbands / Sam McGoun / Holly Dawes / Ida Baker / Ethan Kirby / Franky Cordell / May Mayor / Evie Ukairo / Mara Ukairo
Top Photo: Jude Montague Work By Hamish Cairncross May Mayor Tom Healey