Fitting a new exhibition at firstsite is apparently a little fluttery on the nerves. No sooner have you packed away the previous artwork, there’s then the tight turnaround period in which to put up all the new wonders.
Sorry I’m Late, etc.
Great work then in the Golden Goose getting Hammer Prints put up in time for the Private View on Friday evening.
On time and, well, we presume that the finances of firstsite take care of themselves…
Speaking of time, a nice touch for the season celebrating Nigel Henderson and Eduardo Paolozzi is the timeline that greets you in the main entrance. A common criticism of firstsite is that previous shows have lacked context. The chronological setting out of the Hammer story sets you up for what is to come.
And so why has the Hammer Print workshop found its way to firstsite? And what is so significant about the 1954 starting period for the exhibition?
Sticking with the time theme, this is when Henderson inherited some cottages at Landmere Quay, close to Thorpe Le Soken. His professional print making partnership with Paolozzi relocated from the Whitechapel area out to Essex. The hyperlocal angle for the fifth season at firstsite is yet another nice touch and common criticism addressed.
Once you walk past the timeline and approach the curved wall of firstsite, it is here that you start to see how the structural space at the Golden Goose has been used to great effect. Andrea Hamilton was the first artist to embrace the wonky wall – why tinker with a winning formula?
Stencils of an aquatic theme stretch out all the way along towards MUSA. Where once John Travolta peered at you, fish, crabs and anything else that Landmere Quay could throw up stare down from above.
Making the most of the mosaic space is another conundrum whenever a new exhibition moves into Colchester’s finest. It is almost as if firstsite was constructed to confuse the artist / curator. The four white walls that you find in the hipster East End galleries aren’t a fit for firstsite.
Following the lead set by Andrea Hamilton, scatter cushions have been placed around the old Berryfield Mosaic. Hammer prints cover the cushions. The concept is to bring the Berryfield back to life as a Roman front room fit for the 21st Century.
The main spaces in galleries 1 and 2 are where the real action is for the Hammer Prints season. Trestle tables are lovingly laid out in to give the feel of a live workshop in action. It’s slightly sterile with the protective covering, but it does give the gallery something of a more live feel.
Disappointingly the Coode-Adams space isn’t even half full – strange, seeing as though Hammer Prints covers over two decades of printing production over at Thorpe Le Soken.
Another slight criticism is the lack of narrative once you are past the main timeline in the entrance. Little context is given to the work in the main gallery spaces. The Henderson and Paolozzi story is one that has many angles in which to cover. It wasn’t a continuous relationship of steady productivity. The inclusion of an original order book however does go some way in telling something of the production story.
All sounds a little harsh?
But Hammer Prints is perhaps the best season yet down at the Golden Goose. You needn’t be a contemporary art chin stroker to appreciate the beauty of the works on display. Constructive criticism is good; perhaps an unplanned outcome for firstsite has been that Colchester is learning to look at art in new ways.
And so that’s an overview of Hammer prints. Do pop in; do pick up the latest firstsite brochure.
That’s another blog post to come…