ARTiculation Ambassador reviews New Art Centre, Roche Court Sculpture Park – Morning Heat


ARTicle by Neave Cunningham, ARTiculation Ambassador (Cardiff University)

The New Art Centre, Roche Court Sculpture Park hosted two South Central Regional Heats of the ARTiculation Prize 2020 on 10 Feb. The morning Heat was not met without challenges, with a storm-related power cut and some nasty weather lingering outside. However, both the Roche Court team, by dint of a generator, and our speakers overcame the odds to deliver six excellent speeches to an audience full of anticipation. Three speakers would move on from each of the day’s Heats, and will present again at the Ashmolean on Mon 9 March.

We heard talks about a wide variety of works, from Nan Goldin to Van Gogh. There was truly something for everyone in this Heat, and in the beautiful setting of Roche Court spirits were high and nerves were conquered.

Cat spoke firstly about Rachel Whiteread’s giant sculpture, ‘House’ (1993), demonstrating to the audience that it was so much more than just the concrete-cast monster it appears to be at first sight. Cat spoke about how we can all relate to ‘House’, and how the very impermanence of the piece, though tragic, made it all the more meaningful.

Macy then gave her talk on ‘Self Portraits’ by Cindy Sherman, showing us how the photographer poses herself as different characters to explore themes of identity, and questioned if the artist can ever truly be separate from the art which they create. Macy also showed us some of her own performance art which explored these themes, which was a joy to watch and highlighted her passion for Sherman’s work. This passion landed her one of the mornings three places going on to the Ashmolean.

We heard Oliver talk about the statue known as ‘Zeus of Artemision’ (c.460 BCE), by an unknown artist. After a brief history of male nude sculptures, Oliver spoke with natural confidence about the mysterious origin of this striking bronze statue. He fascinated the audience with the statue’s history, explaining how it was found in a shipwreck in the 1920s. Oliver also used his quick wit to keep the audience entertained throughout his speech.

Olivia then went on to talk about Nan Goldin’s photography, specifically the photograph titled ‘Misty and Jimmy Paulette in a Taxi’ (1991). Olivia spoke eloquently about the medium of a 35mm film camera and how it gives an element of intimacy and truthfulness to Goldin’s work. She tackled difficult topics such as identity and gender politics with ease and gave a very enjoyable presentation about an artwork which she clearly adores. Olivia is another finalist we will see at the Ashmolean on 9 March.

Finally, Lucy spoke to us about Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Café Terrace at Night’ (1888). Firstly, she analysed the dramatic use of colour in the painting, and then going on to explore its deeper meanings. Lucy discussed the comparison of Van Gogh’s painting and Leonardo’s ‘The Last Supper’ (1495-1498), which was utterly fascinating to hear. She then finished her talk by questioning whether we should, as viewers, always look for hidden meanings in paintings, or whether it is better to simply enjoy a painting for what it is. Her captivating talk made her another deserving winner of this Heat.

Adjudicator Prof. Anita Taylor, having travelled all the way from Scotland to hear these talks, spoke of how delighted and impressed she had been by all of the speakers. Her choices (surely the day’s most difficult task) means that Macy, Olivia and Lucy will present at Ashmolean for the South Central Regional Final on 9 March. Can’t wait.

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