Review: Aesthetica Art Prize

was left spell bound by the work of the Aesthetica Art Prize finalists

Rating: ★★★★★

Some people argue that art is dead because it’s all been done. Some ask what is left to do? Looking around the Aesthetica Art Prize 2014 exhibition these contemporary works prove art is still inspirational and certainly not dead.

Walking into York St Mary’s it was clear that this was a very different gallery experience. No boring white walls, no modern angles or ‘posed’ spaces. In this deconsecrated church, the atmosphere was buzzing. The old church and these contemporary works were juxtaposed to create an interesting tension, reinventing the space and giving it a new lease of life. Looking down across the exhibition, this was an event to be excited about: installations, some hanging from the ceiling, incredible portraits, bees in glass bottles and strange sounds coming from Harriet Lewars’ Frustum Super Planum Cum Filia Lyrae.

The work which took my eye was Deb Covell’s Black and White Wall Paintings. Covell’s work showed how intriguing the effect of paint upon stretched plastic can be. This work was about experimenting with shape and reality. Admitting herself that she avoided working with symbolism or pictorial references, Cowell’s geometrical paintings were fascinating especially when she let me feel the different layers of paint. It was astonishing how the layers affected the thickness and way the plastic fell and the creases they created. What made Cowells’ work so eye catching was that although they are classed as paintings, they are also sculptures.

Talking to Ingrid Hu, whose Longplayer dominated the centre of the room, you can see her work was inspired by her stagecraft background. Based on a larger installation, in the Lighthouse at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London, this smaller installation is constructed of many small singing bowls which will eventually develop into a thousand year-long composition. This was not the only musical work in the room, for when using a bow upon the strings of Leward’s Frustrum, this work became a dramatic and musical demonstration of geometric sculpture.

Inés Molina Navea’s digital portraits were utterly stunning. At first glance this series of portraits, 541 días, look like an individual face, however, Navea has used five different faces to create a photograph of a person who is not real, linking to the idea of “social control” and abuse. These deep and dark portraits were beautifully crafted, the soft focus of the camera showing the vulnerability of certain groups in society. The way their eyes stare directly at you is intensely moving.

However, there could be only one winner and that was Sybille Neumeyer’s Song for the Last Queen. A piece exploring the endangerment of bees, her bio scientific approach to art was a sight to behold underneath the windows of York St Mary’s, as small bottles of thousands of bees were illuminated. Her first time exhibiting in England, Neumeyer was overwhelmed by her prize saying she had never expected it and explaining how her work began whilst working in the USA, Japan and Germany with beekeepers and researching ecosystems. It is a vivid piece which she points out looks at “absence and presence at the same time”, as bees continue to be threatened. She definitely succeeded in “posing a contemporary question in a new way”. Her work demonstrated a new and scientific approach to art that is inspirational.

Overall, the Aesthetica Art Prize 2014 exhibition is definitely something to go and see. No matter what your taste, there is something for everyone. An array of media including painting, film, photography, installation and sculpture, this is a must see exhibition.

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