5th March 2011, An Art Fair Remember, W.I. Hall, Falmouth.
The first in The Living Room Series was held at an art fair run by the MA Curatorial Practices students from University College Falmouth.
There were some great responses to this first exhibition. People commented how the living room environment felt less restrictive than a normal gallery and many visitors stayed and chatted to Christopher for a long time. Parents with children particularly felt at ease (children could be as noisy as they wanted and there weren’t many precious things to break!) and the homely, familiar atmosphere meant that people were more comfortable spending time looking at all the artwork.
Below are some thoughts from Christopher, which will be taken into consideration when we are planning the next exhibition:
Q. In general how do you think the first show in the series went?
A. Swimmingly and all in the right direction, in fact better than I expected! My original thoughts were that the space would look empty, this was not the case. The set up of the furniture and the general atmosphere of the space gave the whole show a togetherness.
Prior the show, I was a little uncertain about my role as the artist. In reality, when placed in the space, surrounded by my work, I felt completely at ease, and I put this down to the feel of the show in the space. The work and the space complimented each other perfectly.
Q. How do you think people reacted to having you in the space? Were people who didn’t know you intimidated? If so, how could it be made into an even more informal and welcoming space?
A. Generally I don’t think anybody felt intimidated, and if they did it wasn’t due to a lack of informality or feeling unwelcome, but more so I believe due to a lack of understanding as to their role. For some reason I felt a certain responsibility to explain what the show was about, as people entered the space. I haven’t yet decided if this was a good or a bad thing but for the next show I think we need to consider how we make people more aware of what is going on. I was very pleased with the press release although I think we need to make it more clear that it is a press release and it is for people to take and read. Another idea for the next show would be to send out invitations or a press release, put posters up etc. with a brief explanation included so that there is generally more awareness of what is happening. I think a small number of people were confused about why I was there.
Q. What was people’s reaction to your work and how it was exhibited?
A. I had a lot of interest, both in my framed work hanged on the wall and my sketchbooks out on the coffee table. People appeared more comfortable with looking at the framed work hanged. When it came to people looking through my sketchbooks, a few felt they had to clarify with me that they were allowed to touch them. I thought we had made it obvious that the viewer was welcome to look through the sketchbooks, but as we know too well, when it comes to art, we are part of a world that has made work so inaccessible to the touch, that to suddenly be allowed to root through an artist’s sketchbook is something of a novelty. People had to come to terms with the books being on display out of a glass box.
Q. What were the best parts of this first exhibition?
A. It was generally very successful. I was particularly pleased with the homely atmosphere that came of the space and the furniture working together. The frames also suited the show tremendously. One of the best and most pleasing aspects of the show was how the presence of the viewers in the space really made the show. I felt the show would work as an exhibition without my presence, but not without the viewer. Having said that, during the day, I realised that the ongoing dialogue between the viewer and myself brought not only a life to the space, but a life to the work on display. It brought extra warmth in the space, added informality that naturally contributed to the feeling that we wanted to achieve. Breaking the usual silence of a white-walled gallery was very refreshing and made the show more fun, more accessible.
Q. Are there any negative sides to the display/techniques/situation?
A. As a first show, I think it worked great. I think the fact that the show was a small part of a bigger fair within the building, gave the viewer an opportunity to stay out of the ‘living room‘environment. I think to do the show in a place especially for the exhibition would mean the viewer would have to come into the space and be a part of it. There would be no option to stand outside the space and make a decision whether to be a part of the show by entering what was the stage. Other than that, perfect.