Everything Must Go/Colourcodes, Menier Gallery
Currently showing at the Menier Gallery on Southwark Street, Jeremy Hutchison’s first solo UK show explores language and the ways in which we invest meaning in arbitrary colours and shapes.
The majority of the space is given over to the site-specific installation, Everything Must Go, which sees scraps leftover from high street shop sign creation (try saying that fast) piled high against the walls. This acrylic consumerist wreckage is loosely grouped by colour and creates an incredibly beautiful mess. Visitors are more than welcome to remove pieces of the installation which will be carefully wrapped by smiling ‘shop assistants’.
The gallery notes for Everything Must Go point out that with the art market in crisis, this piece questions value, authority, and the basic gallery relationship. I would say that this is a pretty accurate assessment. The installation as a whole is stunning and vibrant while the plastic shapes themselves are a combination of unintelligible ruin, curious repetition and perfect negative which encourages the visitor to really sift through to find hidden gems. It’s also fun to sneak a sideways look at what everyone else is clutching and what they have found private value in.
In case you were curious, I found myself in a bit of a dilemma regarding taking pieces home: after requesting that my boyfriend downsize his CD collection I could hardly stroll through the door toting an A2 sheet of white plastic with the number 23 cut out in an aesthetically pleasing manner without severely undermining my argument, however the smaller pieces lacked the powerful visual punch which drew me over in the first place… In the end I pocketed a curvaceous gold glittery fragment and some orange perspex with bomb-shaped holes (both of which are still hiding in my handbag).
Trash-becoming-treasure is not a new idea but the execution has created a fresh interpretation replete with fascinating contemporary relevance.
The Colourcode section of the show comprises two works from Hutchison’s artist-in-residence period in the Young People’s Unit in the Cancer Centre at University Hospital Birmingham (the result of winning the Alexandra Reinhardt Memorial Award). In response to this commission the artist created colourcodes.org, an interactive flash website which allows participants (staff as well as patients) to create an autobiographical colour strip inspired by the multicolour ribbon bands awarded to military heroes.
In the first work each individual band and the accompanying explanation is hung on a medical clipboard next to an x-ray light box which displays the bands together as a tapestry. One story is indivisible from the next, revealing the ward to be a community rather than a place of isolated suffering. In the second work each colour code is separated once again from the supercode and used as the labels for 43 pharmaceutical bottles.
The assignation of meaning to colour is vital to this work and reading the explanatory text which accompanies a band forges a sense of the author’s identity. One person’s yellow is the bright and positive future, another’s is the moment of diagnosis. Similarly some futures are positive, others dark, some not even given consideration. A recurring motif amidst this uniqueness and individuality was the schedule of sickness. Often the past was a solid block as was the future, but the present held repetitive bands: cycles of chemotherapy and infection or depression and hope.
Jeremy Hutchison aims to create a new dialogue in hospitals using this simple new media interface. I feel that his residency has been hugely successful in this, uniting a community of individuals and honouring personal courage. It humanises, celebrates, and embraces and given the current heightened media interest in a young person with cancer these works are curiously timely and offer some much needed respect, warmth, and dignity.
Everything Must Go/Colourcodes is at the Menier Gallery until 14th March, 2009.
I strongly recommend you go visit if you can!