Title: ArtSway’s New Forest Pavilion
Artists: Hew Locke, Christopher Orr, Mike Marshall, Gayle Chong Kwan, Dave Lewis, Sophy Rickett
Venue: Palazzo Zenobio, Dorsoduro 2596 (Fondamenta del Soccorso)
Artsway’s New Forest Pavilion is a mixed exhibition, featuring the work of six artists specifically selected for the Venice Biennale – and unsurprisingly the work varies much in terms of style and subject matter. The surreal beauty of Mike Marshall’s video, A Prism Splits Light is immediately seductive, pressing the viewer to linger in the mystery of the scene. Yet across the hall lies the work of Dave Lewis, whose conceptual backstory – the retracing of steps taken by his ancestors – feeds into the photographs on display.
Elsewhere Gayle Chong-Kwan’s The Obsidian Isle has an altogether more mystical, fantastic atmosphere, as huge-scale digital prints portray panoramas of an imaginary island. The Obsidian Isle is the resting place for the destroyed buildings of Scotland, and indeed these images have an apocalyptic feel, with the gothic colouring and dramatic angles. Sophy Rickett’s video To the River has a related atmosphere; displayed in a darkened setting, figures emerge to discuss the rise of the Severn Bore, transporting one into the spectators’ sphere – yet never revealing the event one is there to see.
Painting also is represented by Christopher Orr, with dark and murky hues recalling the banks of the Venetian canals. Finally, a full-scale installation by Hew Locke, Starchitect, manages to round off the selection of artistic media, albeit in a rather garish and unusual manner. Plywood and cardboard constructions at first appear adorned with precious materials, but on closer inspection appear to be cheap knick-knacks, undermining the viewer’s acceptance of the scene at face-value. While indeed a diverse selection of works, there is in fact something for all tastes at this year’s ArtSway pavilion.