Press the Yes Yes Yes

Previews, Private Views, whatever you call them, are curious affairs. For Commercial Galleries, they’re a means of seducing buyers with a sneak look at the goods, conferring an exclusivity on the patron, further seducing the buyers. Some Public Galleries use the PV for similar ends, to raise donations from patrons who’ve made the guest list. The PV is about cache. But. When the gallery isn’t likely to indulged by the wallets and purses of the so-called ‘great and good’ (the rich and powerful) – when a gallery’s finances are dependent on the Arts Council, Local Government and grant applications – there aren’t the numbers to justify exclusivity, plus grant funders want to see inclusivity, to see the exhibitions visited by the ‘great unwashed’ (the public); so what purpose do PVs serve? As Art Students, the PV is a celebration of achievement (the artists’, the galleries’) – colleagues, friends, family, funders and contacts get together for a get together, a hurrah! There’s plenty of flesh-pressing, hype and introducing going on amid the drinking, nibbling and chattering largesse – yet, really, it’s a celebration of Art, that it continues despite. PVs remind me of the Cheever short story ‘The Swimmer’ – I have read it, as well as watched the movie, starring Burt Lancaster – where the eponymous character decides to swim every pool on his route home – except the pools aren’t headed anywhere, or they lead where they lead, but the route goes on, pool after pool.

Last Friday’s swimmers were the artists exhibited in Emergency 5, and they seemed adept, athletic even at crossing the aspex pool. Because of the competition nature of the show, there must’ve been butterflies in the artists’ bellies – who wouldn’t want to emerge victorious. I know it was the most difficult Emergency there’s been to judge – to select a winner from. All manner of criteria were examined, compared, looking for an advantage. The prize is a solo show, that’s important, potent – it has to be solo, so suggestion of co-winners was dismissed, it would dilute the fairly unique prize aspex offers. So, Charlie Tweed wins. Deservedly. But, it would’ve been a deserved win if any of the others had been chosen the winner. The overall winner must be aspex, to be honest. We get a show from Charlie, and we’ve been introduced to work by ten other artists, all of them worth following. I’m certain we’ll see more of these artists at aspex, funding willing. Then, there’s the People’s Choice. Now, that’ll be interesting. I haven’t had an opportunity to listen through the symposium on ‘Winners and Losers’, I’m hoping it’ll guide me through the difficulties I have with such competitions. As a poet, I refuse to enter the many professional competitions for poetry there are, yet I’ve been nominated for prizes (such as the Forward Prize, by Poetry Wales) – and, every sub to a magazine or publisher is competitive and rewarded. It’s a quandary. It’s not as if I’m not competitive, I right competitive.

Whatever, it is a tight show, full of thought-provoking work. If you’re an Art Student based within reach of Portsmouth, you’ve no excuse not to visit Emergency 5. I don’t understand why Pompey students don’t visit us in numbers – they must know we’re here (a little hidden, but far from unfindable), if they don’t know about aspex then their tutors are letting them down. If you’re a Portsmouth Art Student and you’re not visiting every show, well, I’m going to doubt your commitment. You’ve got to keep looking, reading visual art in the flesh, even the stuff you assume you dislike, disagree with, or dismiss, or you’re isolated (isolation makes for weak art, insubstantial work). And talk to us. We are busy, we’re all doing the job of, at least, two people – but we believe in Art, in the effect it can have in so many ways on people. We’re not public servants (aspex receives grants from Government agency, as well as private ones – but we’re not owned by anyone, we’re independent), so don’t come demanding we listen or for a show: make an appointment, email us, facebook us, ask us what you want to know. We will reply (eventually). Some day, you’ll be applying for Emergency 5, and you’ll kick yourself if you missed out on the opportunity to discover what presses aspex’s yes yes yes buttons.

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