This Way Up was an innovative and thought-provoking exhibition which featured the drawings of Anna Houghton, Charlotte Southall, Ellie Hoskins, Jon Edgley, Luke George, Rory Larbalestier and Sian Cooper. The space was used in a very unusual way, where the walls and ceiling were covered in cardboard, with the drawings being mixed up and (what seemed to be) randomly pinned to the cardboard. The cardboard was literally and figuratively boxing you into the space, bringing about feelings of claustrophobia and creating a strange intimacy between the audience and the work.
Once engulfed by the cardboard box of a space, I felt inclined to focus on the work as a way of distracting myself from the increased feeling of being stuck in a small space with nowhere to go- like a second hand toy at a car boot sale which failed to leave the packing box and go on display. However, once I put attention on the drawings, my unease still continued to grow. The images contained questions such as ‘what if I don’t make it?’ and disturbing images conjuring feelings of isolation, distress and accurate depictions of depression. The images seemed to compliment the feeling of the space around me, and I suddenly realised how apt the exhibition title really was. ‘This Way Up’ didn’t just refer to the stamped lettering on many cardboard boxes, but it also hints at not knowing which way is up your own life is, and not knowing what decisions in your life are the right ones to make. This Way Up tapped into my own fear and uncertainties about what I am going to do next in my life. Knowing these artists feel the same way almost provided some comfort, before I remembered why we need comforting.
Another bizarre layer to the exhibition was the music playing in the background. As music often sets the mood, anyone reading this review will probably be expecting me to comment on the subdued, subtle melodies from Radiohead, tapping into the subconscious of the artists’ mind. But no. The music playing was of course the British pop band ‘Living in a Box’ from the late 80’s, with their best known track ‘Living in a Box’ seemingly on repeat- and loud. As the cardboard box room vibrated around me due to the lively rhythm of the funk song, my mind was completely torn between the images of depression and worry, the cardboard box surround which almost felt as if it was closing in on me, and the lively booming song from ‘Living in a Box’ which was meant to make me want to dance in my Doc Martins whilst back-combing my hair.
Although the bizarre juxtapositions of the exhibition made for a concoction of feelings which soon became uncomfortable to experience, I was overwhelmed by the multitude of layers conveyed in such a small space with just drawings- no fancy digital work, no moody lighting, no impressive installations- just the power of pens and paper. So congratulations to Anna Houghton, Charlotte Southall, Ellie Hoskins, Jon Edgley, Luke George, Rory Larbalestier and Sian Cooper on such an engaging, thought-provoking exhibition.
Featured Image: Close up of some of the drawings, photo curtesy of Sam Dobson.
Photograph 1: Close up of some of the drawings, photo curtesy of Sam Dobson.
Photograph 2: Photo of one full wall, photo curtesy of Sam Dobson.
Photograph 3: Living in a Box, taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=svVaEWQaoSo