For many, we meander through life like a river; searching for traces of past stories to add meaning to current narratives: rarely is this a linear process. A graduate's journey post-university, and a residency too, is riddled with curving pathways, misdirections and meanderings. Charlotte Dawson's first solo show, Set in Sediment, tussles between an intrinsic want for stability and continuity through memory and a desire to loosen the archetypal clasp placed around objects, heritage and culture. In many ways, Set in Sediment is an apt metaphor for the manner in which we excavate former lifelines in a bid to formulate our own identity: we sink, slowly, into a bed of historical debris, accompanied by materials demoted and now deemed “too lowly for show.”
In the space of five decades, Dublin has experienced a significant wave of artist-led initiatives and studios – beginning in the 1960s with Project Arts Centre (a then three-week festival, now turned multidisciplinary venue) and later, in the 1980s, Temple Bar Gallery + Studios. The city has a diverse and dynamic artist-led narrative – one which is seemingly evermore important in 2019, when there is, today, a deficit in studio space, or even space to create. As a fleeting visitor to Dublin, I can only reflect upon the conversations which I had and observations that I made during my stay.
Trekking down Temple Bar, past the crowded pubs advertising live folk music nights, I approach Temple Bar Gallery + Studios (TBG+S). The custom-designed structure sits boldly amongst a bustling row of shorter, squat, red-brick buildings. Its white-rendered walls and top-heavy appearance spark comparisons with the likes of the Bauhaus and a Cubist aesthetic. In reading through TBG+S's history, I learn of its transition from a disused shirt factory into a purpose-built gallery and studio-complex.
It's difficult to determine how much of its original DIY ethic is still in place: still, it's worth remembering that TBG+S has been running since 1983 and has been fortunate in the consistency and determination of its members. Currently, it is housed in this building under a “Cultural Use Agreement” and maintains a fair rent clause with Temple Bar Properties.
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Number Nine Guildhall Road is an arresting four storey building, poised in the middle of Northampton's Cultural Quarter. It's red-brick exterior houses a Gallery, a Project Space, Artist Studios and an artistic community under the umbrella name of NN Contemporary Art Northampton (NN). As part of AirSpace Gallery's Organisational Development, I visited NN to learn about its development and transition from artist-led to NPO.
This was my first journey to Northampton – located between Rugby and Milton Keynes it's an hour and a half train journey from Stoke-on-Trent. Admittedly, I knew very little about its history or narrative, but I'm quickly informed by the NN team that it's known for its shoemaking and leather industries heritage. In speaking with Emer, Laura and Freddy, I learn that Northampton is not so dissimilar to Stoke-on-Trent – a place which also grabbles with narratives of industrial nostalgia. Like Stoke-on-Trent, Northampton exists in proximity to larger conurbations – notably, its big-city neighbour, London.
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