First off, a big huge thank you to York Contemporary Art Walk! Art walks are always fun, informative and inspiring, if you have a regular one in your town I would recommend joining in!
Lead by Jennifer Alexander, Assistant Curator at York Art Gallery, the October installment of York's Art Walk began at St Mary's with the Bruce Nauman exhibition. Made possible by Artist Rooms touring work of several influential contemporary artists collected by Anthony d'Offay across the UK, the exhibition presents an eclectic mix of Nauman's art spanning three decades of his career. The work on show includes his neon, videos, sculptures and installations all given alternate context being installed in a church turned art gallery.
Since the closure of York Art Gallery for refurbishment in 2012 (due to re-open in 2015) St Mary's has been thrust into the front line of Art in York. Whilst full of commercial galleries, there are few (If any other) free art galleries to explore in York.
Also on the art walk agenda was the pop up gallery that had sprung up in Amnesty For Books on Goodramgate and curated by students from York College. Working with the York Museums Trust they set out to create a response to the Nauman exhibition and featured the talents of practicing artists Poppy Whatmore, Yvonne Carmichael, Bonnie Powell and Charlotte Salt as well as St Mary's home grown artists Chris House and Hannah Savage.
The exhibition itself had an interesting range of work crossing mediums from sculpture and print to performance and installation. There was definitely a Nauman-like aura to it, much of the work allowing the viewer to discern their own meaning from it.
The art walk then led us nicely onto the Spark commissions for Illuminating York, in particular Ritchard Allaway's Experiential Consumption. Allaway's installed florescent tube lighting strategically placed in and around the tree in Duncombe Place Memorial Gardens. He addressed the commission's theme for this year, "Tree of Life", rather splendidly. Utilising light, colour and mirror he illustrated Nidhug the dragon feasting on the third root of Yggdrasill and consuming any and all life that crosses his path.
After the art walk I got the chance to explore the rest of Illuminating York. This is where the night got very exciting!
Similar to Allaway's installation was Thor's Oak: A York Thing by Same Sky that was situated on Parliament Street. Not part of the Spark commission but a supporting piece, Thor's Oak is a sculpted oak tree infusing traditional willow work with high-tech active lighting. This piece drew upon the 'Thing'; the Thing was an early form of Viking parliament, this making use of York's rich Viking heritage and possibly hinting towards its history with Guy Fawkes and the British parliament.
Hoping back on the Spark trail, another thoroughly enjoyable piece was by Viaperfomance in the Treasurer's House gardens. Sunset Dance - Small Gods was an up close experience to see into the world of the lesser Viking Gods.
Viapeformance area contemporary theatre company based in York and run by Kiran Tanna and Rich Wade. Their work is focused on sound, moment and dance. The performance itself was an exotic portrayal of Asgard, the world of the Viking Gods. It certainly was combination of sound, movement and proximity creating quite the phantasmal atmosphere. Sunset Dance - Small Gods sounds as though it was a firm favourite, boasting audiences of 10,000 over the entire festival.
Highlight of the festival was one of the main projections, The Storyteller, a narrative film and animation depicting the tale of Eric Bloodaxe - a great Viking king - projected onto the front of the York Museum. The film seemed to last only 10 minutes and although I was expecting something longer, what was shown in that time was truly amazing. Seeing such a fantastic projection up close was the best of Illuminating York I have ever seen! Created by Immersive, who have worked on the 2012 London Olympics and on live shows with bands such as The Script, collaborating with Gaia Nova. The only bad thing about it was all the tall people that seemed to insist on standing in front of me.
Illuminating York is one of the best annual festival the city hosts and seems to improve every year. I am already excited to see how they can better themselves for 2014!
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