The exhibition of ‘Every Day Is A New Day’ is available for viewing at Turner Contemporary until the 24th September 2017 and is free admission. A large exhibition that sprawls across most of the upstairs of the gallery, it contains the works of Phyllida Barlow, Michael Armitage, JMW Turner, and the Portfolio and Mask Prize. Combining works of British and African art, the summer season at the gallery suggests an importance of representing different cultures in art.
The exhibition opens on the Portfolio and Mask Prize which features work from the annual Portfolio schools competition with The MASK Prize, an African creativity prize for young people. The works ran with the theme of ‘Making A Change’ and showcased a variety of works and talents by young people. Works explored large amounts of media and styles, such as paint, pen and collage. Subthemes were evident in certain works – gender and culture were two clearly visible themes of young people’s work. I enjoyed this element of the exhibition, particularly seeing how one theme can be developed and explored by an individual. The creativity among the young people was evident and it was interesting how this section of the exhibition explored not only sight but sound too in one particular piece. The encouragement of talented young artists is important – and this section of the exhibition shows why.
A small selection of watercolour paintings by J.M.W. Turner is the first element of Michael Armitage’s ‘Peace Coma’. These four works explore seascapes and musicality, linking to the opposite films of how Armitage’s surface of Lubugo bark is made. These were very beautiful paintings that seemed to explore not only the visual aspects of the sea but the emotions Turner felt towards it. This is then followed by some playful sketches by Armitage, before the North Gallery shows most of his work. This is Michael Armitage’s first solo show and features large amounts of paintings depicting issues in Kenya, where Armitage was born. Two pieces caught my attention the most – ‘#mydressmychoice’ (2015) and ‘Kampala Suburb’ (2014). The first of these pieces depicts a female nude (inspired by Diego Velasquez’s ‘The Rokeby Venus’) that was created after the sexual assault of a woman in Nairobi because they believed she was indecently dressed, leading to the hashtag that the painting is titled. The link between this very male perspective of the female body and the attack on this woman creates an uneasy feeling of how women are presented in art and also in society. A painting that is originally just a beautiful painting of the body suddenly has a whole new meaning – the male shoes at the top of the painting emphasis the masculine control experienced by the victim and links to the attack – making the viewer almost uncomfortable in their position of viewing the art. The second piece depicts two males in an explicit embrace (inspired by ancient Egyptian work) with a background featuring executions of men in Somalia. The combination of this ancient hieroglyph and the execution show a contradictory view of homosexuality between history and the present day, which asks the viewer when society changed and adjusted to create this prejudice. Armitage uses colours to link to the effeminate stereotype of homosexual men through pink, to contrast with the deep blue background, which suggests the way in which homosexual men are outcast from the community. Once again Armitage makes the viewer uneasy in his details with the execution, and asks Western society how that of the East can be so different, and reminds us, perhaps, that there is still a long way to go in terms of equal rights.
British-born Phyllida Barlow’s Artist Room shows two large sculptural works created using everyday (normally recycled) materials to create installations that disrupt the space within the art is placed. Their massive presence certainly takes over the space – and while I didn’t necessarily understand the artwork itself in the way I could with Armitage, I could acknowledge their sheer size and presence as pieces. The inspiration of London is evident– large, massive sculptures that take over the space link to the large skyline that the city possesses, and also shows how sculpture, like architecture, can disrupt a space.
To conclude, ‘Every Day is A New Day’ is an enjoyable exhibition that shows a wide variety of culture – from London, to Kent, to Kenya – and represents how important it is to display art from such places. Michael Armitage represents the importance of progression in our views, while Phyllida Barlow explores how our culture is shaped by architecture, and young people place an emphasis on showcasing young talent from our local area.
Jasmine Bennett from Sir Joseph William’s Mathematical School wrote this review while on work experience at Turner Contemporary