Sunday, 10 February 2013

Kelly Richardson - Legion (art)

The Erudition, Kelly Richardson
Image courtesy of the artist and Birch Libralato
Photo by Colin Davison
I mentioned my imminent Kelly Richardson preview visit recently when I blogged about the Collection Store Tours at the Towner Gallery. The preview was straight after work last Friday evening and was well attended. As one of the very newest members, I was pleased to meet the first, Maureen Honey, and also got to chat to The Artist for a few minutes!

Canadian-born Kelly Richardson is originally from Ontario but has lived in England, in Whitley Bay, since 2003. I believe that Legion is her first major exhibition in the UK and it was interesting to hear how she has always been leaving the country over the years to promote her work. Now Legion is at its third venue of a 'UK tour', the Towner, after popular showings at the Grundy Art Gallery in Blackpool and the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Newcastle. Kelly said that she is flattered by the positive reception that her work had in both the previous venues and was obviously very keen to discuss and show the installations to her Eastbourne audience.

The first work, entitled Leviathan, was created in two months during a residency at Caddo Lake near the wonderfully named town of Uncertain in Texas. This is fast work for Kelly whose other installations have taken far longer. A three-screen film of swamp in January has been embellished with golden light ripples in the water. Inspired by the BP oil spillage, Kelly has created an uncertain, threatening image where we do not know whether the darkness is simply shadows or the approach of something more sinister. I had the opportunity to spend several minutes gazing at Leviathan while waiting for a bottle-neck through the next work to clear. It is hypnotic and fascinating.

Great Destroyer is an unusual installation of multiple forest scene videos being displayed on a number of hanging screens. The viewer walks between the screens as if navigating a forest floor. Kelly explained that the audio for this work conveys its meaning. The soundtrack includes a knocking sound which could just be woodpeckers in the trees. However, in combination with the works' title, the viewer is pushed to assume human intervention, perhaps the distant destruction of the forest.

Twilight Avenger features two amalgamated videos and took about five months of painstaking manual work to complete. The background was filmed in a Canada forest and the foreground is an English deer. He was added to the film, frame by frame, and surrounded with a ghostly aura. Kelly was particularly pleased that she had managed to capture such natural behaviour from the deer. 

The final installation is a haunting science-fiction inspired piece entitled The Erudition. I think this is probably my favourite of the four, although I also love Leviathan and will need to return to see them again before I make up my mind. The Erudition appears to have been filmed on another planet but the barren rocky landscape is actually the Canadian Badlands. Kelly slowly went through the footage removing every sign of life so the viewer believes that the place has been deserted for at least decades, if not centuries. She then added in holographic trees. The holograms do not function properly - they vanish suddenly, crackle and flicker, and are no longer even tree-coloured. Kelly explained the idea was to show a place where someone, maybe, had manufactured a park a long time ago, but now the people have all gone and their last traces are breaking down. She hopes it will lead us to think about what we are leaving behind to break down when we have gone and I have certainly given much thought to the work since I saw it.
Towner Gallery, Fri 2nd Feb - Sun 14th Apr.
Tuesdays-Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, 10:00-17:00.
Free admission.

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