Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Open Project Gallery Crawl ~ Ikon

Next we paid a visit to Ikon Gallery to explore the two main exhibitions, Tapa - Backcloth paintings from the Pacific on the first floor and François Morellet on the second. Entering Tapa I was surprised to see traditional objects in a contemporary space such as Ikon. The light in the room was soft and the artifacts seemed fragile and raw within the safety of the gallery walls.

Simon Taylor, Head of Learning at Ikon, met with us to discuss what we thought to the show and answer our questions about its curation. He explained that the pieces had been selected from an extensive collection at the University of Cambridge, and that there were specifications for light intensity and room temperature that the gallery needed to adhere to in order to protect them. The group commented on the hanging of the pieces, enjoying that their unique shapes were treated individually; some hung loosely and others close to the wall. Simon revealed that magnets were used to attach the latter, protecting the material yet fastening it securely and also discretely.

Moving upstairs, smiles spread across the faces of the group as links were made between the geometric tapa designs and the repetitive abstraction of Morellet. Despite their geographical and historical differences the connection between the two exhibitions was startling and thrilling; traditional and contemporary art forms feeding off one another to the benefit of both. I think this was an incredibly smart piece of programming, giving us an insight into Morellet's influences as well as encouraging the viewer to create links in order to better understand that which is around us.

[Photograph by Daniel Whitehouse]

The gallery's architecture enhanced the minimal pieces rather than detracting away from them. There was a strong sense of effortless harmony that could only have come from careful planning, with Simon explaining that they adapt many aspects of the gallery drastically to suit different exhibitions, including a 'secret' extra room and the ability to completely fill in windows.

The final thing we discussed was the learning resources at Ikon, including the diverse Resources Room for families and researchers alike. Simon described the gallery's preference for having the interpretation on a sheet of paper for visitors to read in their own time, as well as staying away from the dreaded 'artspeak' to keep exhibitions as accessible to different visitors as possible.

It was a fascinating visit and exploring the shows in details means I will never look around a gallery in quite the same way again. Big thanks to Simon for his time and energy.

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