Art to make you think

A newly-formed group of Norfolk artists launches its debut exhibition tomorrow with the aim of getting people to stop and think for a moment. KEIRON PIM finds out more about the artists behind the Slash 07 show in Norwich.

In the modern, multimedia age it can be hard to distinguish the boundaries that once existed - in fact, it can seem as if everything is blurring together. Newspapers now have websites carrying television-style video footage; television channels now instruct you to press a red button for interactive digital coverage. Nothing operates in isolation, and everything seems to be something-slash-something else.

The same goes for the arts and the work by a recently-formed group of eight Norfolk artists reflects this. That is why they call themselves the Slash group, and why their new exhibition in Norwich is called Slash 07.

“It's a bit cheeky and the word has various connotations, but there's a deliberate and serious side to it,” says Kathryn Caswell, who lives in Reepham. “I think it's a good way of exposing the fragmentation of the visual arts now.”

The group formed around 18 months ago. Some members knew each other from the MA course at Norwich School of Art & Design, others were friends formed through the local art scene. Their work is diverse and the idea is not that the group's work has a common theme, more that by meeting regularly they would gain artistic stimulation and critique each other's work.

“Coming together as a group, we play off each other quite well. There's the chance to discuss your work in front of people that reaffirms that you are on the right track,” says Kathryn, whose sculpture brings together found objects with a quirky humour.

“I wanted to see how everyday life fits into art and how art fits into everyday life.

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“The works are serious but, hopefully, they will disarm you with a bit of wit and make you look. Because getting people to really look at anything is really hard.”

There is a good deal of arresting work here, however, that should cause visitors to St Margaret's Church in St Benedict's to pause for thought. Kathryn's object, entitled The Grin, has eyes and leering, bared teeth but it is up to the viewer to decide what kind of creature it represents.

Similarly, Christine Allman's painting implants disturbing thoughts of lost children. Her finely-painted images suggest swaddling clothes bereft of babies. The Norwich-born artist's work is inspired by the experiences of her daughter, whose partner is from Africa. Visiting villages where generations have been wiped out by civil war, there is “an emptiness - you can feel it but not see it”, she says. She will continue working on this painting in situ at the gallery, making it a work of performance art.

Lynda Williams's work is again concerned with subverting our ideas about our everyday surroundings. The mixed-media works take inspiration from the Norfolk countryside, reminding us that while it is beautiful, this is not the same as being a comforting environment. In her work Verge, she takes a rural scene and paints it in bloody shades of red.

“I want people to look at something and then look beyond it, into whatever your thoughts happen to be at that moment,” she says.

“My basis for the work was from a series of photographs taken around where I live, just south of Norwich, on a beautiful sunny day. I like my work to deal with memorial sites, sites of remembrance.”

Missing from this landscape are the ancient hedgerows that formed medieval enclosures. This is emphasised by the real hedgerow branches, again painted red, which will be placed in front of the painting in the gallery.

She, Kathryn and Christine are joined by Trevor Ashwin, Imogen Bardwell, Dennis Caswell, Antonia Soto and Sue White. Each artist has chosen two words that relate to their work, divided by a slash. For instance Christine's are visceral/virtual, Emily's are assemblages/souls, and Linda's are reap/sow.

The motivation to put on the show was not financial but to showcase their thinking and encourage a dialogue with local art enthusiasts. Some works on display will not be on sale.

“We are all exhibiting and selling successfully as independent artists,” says Kathryn, “But this is not a selling exercise, the motivation is not commercial. We are investing our own time and money and effort into doing this so that people can come and see it.

“It was always about art. We want to move our art forward so we decided to fend for ourselves a bit and put together an exhibition.”

t Slash 07 runs until June 23 at St Margaret's Church, St Benedict's, Norwich. The exhibition is open from 11am to 5.30pm.