Monday, 16 July 2012

Review - Pull Everything Out, Corita Kent and Ciara Phillips

Pull Everything Out
Corita Kent and Ciara Phillips
Spike Island, Bristol

Corita Kent 'E eye love' , 1968

Pull Everything Out is an exhibition showing works by the late artist and educator Corita Kent, and Canadian born Ciara Phillips. Corita Kent (1918-1986) is best known for her screen prints from the 1960’s, taking images and text from popular culture. Ciara Philips is a contemporary artist, who like Kent uses print.

Walking into the main gallery space the viewers eyes are greeted with large day-glo prints embellished with slogans and images from magazines with an often political message. It was surprising for me to discover that Corita Kent spent much of her life as a nun. Alongside this work Ciara Phillips has created her own work in reaction to Kent’s, either in the form of prints or by painting directly onto the walls of the gallery. In this manner, therefore, Phillips has entered into a dialogue with the late artist. Phillips work accentuates the older artists work. Much of her work, such as the abstract marks made upon the walls are often visual quotations from the passages within Kent’s prints, and thus also display a connection to language. The main gallery space is joyous with its colour and excubarance. Despite the amount of work on display the space does not appear overcrowded; instead Kent’s work appears to lead, with Phillips dancing alongside, adding flourishes here and there.

For the first month of the exhibition Ciara Phillips has set up a working studio in the front gallery. However, although there was evidence of Phillips working in the space, it seemed almost staged when I visited. The space was too pristine to appear like a true working studio, and I suppose that it did not help that there were original copies of ‘The Bulletin’  placed under glass in the studio space, making the work shop space seem half like a museum. I think it will be interesting to visit the front gallery at the end of the month, to see more evidence of Phillips having worked in the space.

My favourite part of the exhibition was a film showing Corita Kent teaching her students. It was clear from watching the film what an inspirational teacher the nun was. Dressed in her full habit Kent instructed students on a collaborative project involving images and slogans and magazines which were then printed onto boxes with the boxes then placed upon each other. As I watched the film I wanted to take myself back forty five years and join the kohl rimmed, turtle necked students in their project. I wish there were more educators like Corita Kent in art schools today. 

The exhibition runs until the 26th August 

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