‘Actions: The Image of the World Can be Different’ is the debut exhibition launching the new and improved Kettle’s Yard extension, having undergone development for the past two and a half years by architects Jamie Fobert. Perhaps with a hint of political agenda from its title, what better way to start KY’s relaunch than with an exhibition that is about the power of art to make change alongside the criticism to those who undervalue it.
As a point of departure, common curatorial reference is made to one of Ede’s friend artists, Naum Gabo as the starting point for the message of ‘Actions’. Staged in two separate openings, Actions I and Actions II have brought together 38 artists past and present, alongside a stunning wall mural by graffiti artist el.Seed as part of ongoing community development work in Arbury.
Despite admiration for bringing together a diverse group of artists around this particular theme it is not easy to say that Part I was wholly complimentary and there was a lack of context with these works in the new space. It would be thought of that the works would show off the new space with its duped ‘corporate gallery’ feel of tall walls and windows but this was not really the case, it was a very standard hang despite good choice of content. Part II on the other hand has a better feel do it; one room has been divided into two and converted to suit the film and photo works of John Akomfrah with its moody red walls and double screen reel. I like a good art film. The second room, windowless but light, has been graced by Caroline Walker’s paintings which are vast and well executed. The scale of her paintings do compliment the space this time, and its the style of painting that evokes an objects’ ‘thingness’ with whimsical attention to detail. Yet, as you step back the painting comes together like a photograph, almost to scale of the actual space she is depicting of refugee women in their unhomely apartments.
Prevalent themes are present here surrounding contemporary migration and its history with raw imagery. Yes, the new space ticks a lot of boxes that spell out ‘ease of accessibility for the public to enjoy contemporary art’ but will Kettle’s Yard go further to challenge its audience and up the ante a little? I doubt it.
Highlights include Rana Begum’s hanging basket installation in St Peter’s Church.