Friday 9 June 2017

York Art Gallery: 2017 Aesthetica Prize exhibition

Hello, hello.

(BTW: This is NOT, in any way, sponsored post, I paid for my National Art Pass myself!)

Calling all art-lovers! See if any of this grabs you ...

If you're not going to be near York ... hang around anyway and have a virtual visit!

And ... if you're anywhere in the UK: make sure you check out the National Art Pass summertime 3 months for £10 offer. 
The £10 card gains you free entry to over 240 museums, galleries and historic houses across the UK as well as 50% off entry to major exhibitions. (Offer ends July 7th - so get a move on!)

FYI: adult entry to York Art Gallery is £7.50, and there are several other places you can use the card while you're in York, making it definitely worth the £10 up front! And then you can continue to use it for the remainder of the 3 months anywhere you like! 

Ready for the tour? OK then ... (try to keep up or I'll have to make you all wear coloured baseball caps so I can keep count and make sure no one's wandered off ...)

Last summer James and I both signed up for the 3 month £10 National Art Pass deal after a friend shared it on Twitter ... consider this me paying it forward! After the 3 months, when the card ran out, we decided to subscribe for the full year, full price, as we'd become used to having a good excuse to get out and have a wander around a gallery or museum. Now, each time we visit York we pay the gallery a visit, no matter what's on; as we get in free with the Art Pass, we don't need to check or worry if an exhibition is not our 'thing' ... we can just let serendipity lead us (and you know how much I like a bit of serendipity!) 

Which is why we didn't know anything about the Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition currently running on the first floor of York Art Gallery, before we found ourselves standing in it! And, for anyone else as oblivious to it - here's the official description from the gallery website:

"A platform for innovation and originality, the Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition invites audiences to engage with captivating projects from some of today’s leading artists, both established and emerging. From individual narratives to global concerns, the artworks comment on contemporary culture and explore themes such as globalisation, perceptions of space and alienation in the digital age."

And it really was original and captivating (and filled with photo-opportunities which perfectly pandered to my Instagram fixation!) photo-, here are a few of my favourite pieces ... 

most photo-worthy was this rainbow beauty ...

I Am Here by Emmanuelle Moureaux
This delicate, swaying, multi-coloured piece is 'I Am Here' by Emmanuelle Moureaux. (The more sturdy, bearded, piece in shorts is James ... in case there was any confusion there).

Aesthetica Art Prize Exhibition
What you can't quite see from that distance is that this ombre monolith is made up from 18,000 individual cut-outs of a female figure:
100 Colours Emmanuelle Moureaux
Here's some more info on it:
100 Colours Emmanuelle Moureaux
There was even a sign on the wall that encourages you to spot - in amongst those 18,000 figures - a single cat, and two girls, one with a balloon, one an umbrella, somewhere amid the crowd!! So we gave it a go. We tried. James thought it would be fairly easy.

It was not fairly easy. We did not spot any. We gave up!

Could you fare any better?
Despite that ... it was a fascinating installation that threw up questions of identity and individuality, and our place in a crowd ... not to mention: how on earth do they transport it between locations??? (imagine the tangling!!) And where does Moureaux buy her supplies?!

Because - crafty friends - that's a lot of pizza-box deliveries of coloured cardstock right there, isn't it? A lot. 18,000 silhouettes! 100 colours!

I mean I think it must be close to, I don't know ... what would you say? Close to maybe, almost, 50% of the card stash you've got lurking in your cupboards there ... wouldn't you say?  

And see that outdoor exhibit there? Also by Emmanuelle Moureaux? That's your ribbon collection that is ...

It's another in Moureax's '100 colours' series, this time made from 100 shades of fabric suspended above tatami mats which you can lay on to experience the work from beneath:

(In case this video doesn't display properly - it has been known - I'll put it on my Facebook page and you can see if it works better for you over there!)

Before lying down I had double checked the sign that said it was OK to do and carefully, respectfully curled myself under and began recording. The children who came along once we were done didn't share the same hesitancy ... they were straight in there enjoying the rainbow from the inside! And who can blame them? It's a really simple but magnetic, dreamy, piece  - if you get a chance to, then - no matter your age - go and see it face to face!

Back inside another piece you can experience close-up is Adam Basanta's 'Curtain', which consists of a 3m long curtain of ear buds!

"Looks like the inside of your car" I joked to James when I first saw it and, to be fair, that's not too far from the intention of the piece! It is about the ubiquity of these funny little bobbly creatures in our everyday lives, how they can be used to keep in touch with people ... but also as a sign for others to leave you alone and not speak to you.

They emitted a crackling, white noise, chirruping, sound ..... as if dozens of cicadas were talking to you on hands-free. I really liked this piece ... I'm not quite sure this gent felt the same ...
And here's yet another piece with which you can get up-close-and-personal: 'Shadow Play' by an artist known as breadedEscalope ...
In fact, without you, the viewer, the audience, this is only half a piece. It's not until you place your finger in the centre that the shadows change and the piece becomes a clock. One of my favourite things about this one was the grubby little spot - made by successive fingertips - on the otherwise pristine white walls!

And finally ... my other favourite exhibits were these multi-layered, complex, wooden assemblage structures by Lesley Hilling:
As someone who collects vintage bits and bobs, who picks up flotsam and jetsam, who saves things dug up from the garden ... these were fascinating treasure troves of reclaimed wonder:
I spent a long while in front of these, just scouring for insights into what she'd used. (Gail - if you're reading this - she used lots of wooden school rulers ... so that's what you can do with your collection!)
And - not wishing to take anything away from the artistry in the design, and I'm sure it wasn't her intention - but ... their square shape truly did appeal to my Instagrammer's square eyes! But hey, it can't hurt to be both harmoniously balanced and infinitely Instagrammable at the same time, can it?
So, there you have it, my top picks from the selected pieces form the Aesthetica Art Prize exhibition longlist running in York Art Gallery until September 10th.

If it's colour, texture and interaction you're looking for ... then get yourself there. There were all age ranges in attendance when we went - from the old chap looking sceptically, but thoughtfully, at the pieces, to the half-term tribes clambering amongst the 100 colours, and all the 40-something Instagrammers and smartphone photographers in between! It's a great one to catch and  - if more traditional art is more your thing - the very decorative and romantic Albert Moore exhibition on the ground floor will be a real treat too.


I hope you enjoyed your virtual tour around the exhibition with me ... which bit did you like best?
  • was it the reclaimed wood?
  • the sizzling ear buds?
  • getting to poke a gallery wall leaving behind your mucky fingerprints?
  • was it the glorious swishing and swaying of both of the '100 colours' pieces?
  • or was it ... feeling a little better about your mountain of cardstock after you saw how much Emmanuelle Moureaux can get through?
Now then ... where'd you fancy going next?

As always we can keep in touch either here in the comments or via any of my online homes:

Julie x


Useful links:

Artists mentioned:

*All photos are my own, taken on my Fuji XM1.


  1. thank you for sharing these gorgeous exhibits I love them all, but especially Emmanuelle's colourful wonder!

  2. These photos make me want to go to York to see the exhibition but as I know that won't happen, it's great that you've shared them so I can feel like I've been!


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