ARTicle written by Polina Timina, ARTiculation Ambassador (Durham University)
I arrive at the BALTIC early. This is the first heat I’ve experienced – I am excited to listen, to learn, to be part of someone else’s artistic identity. On the ground floor of BALTIC is Joy Labino’s superb solo exhibition ‘Our histories cling to us.’ I briefly ponder what a poignant example Joy’s work is of intersectional identities that lead us on our journeys into art, and of how I was about to watch these young speakers discuss art in relation to family, cultural background, mediums, interests, and environment.
For the first speaker, Lulu Jowett, this was Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ (2005). A landscape installation that ebbs and flows in meaning as the ocean that it gazes at. The art piece prompted Lulu to consider the way it echoed the environmental and industrial concerns of Liverpool and our planet at large. It was also a deeply personal piece for her, one that she was able to share with her family. Next, Ruby Stuart narrated her journey of understanding and loving Dorothea Tanning’s work ‘Hôtel du Pavot, Chambre 202 (Poppy Hotel, Room 202)’ (1970-73). Ruby showed the audience how to find strength and elegance in a piece that made one feel eerie and uncomfortable. A statement about the memory of spaces and temporality of bodies, and it was masterfully deciphered by Ruby. The brilliant ‘The Gilded Cage’ by Evelyn De Morgan (1919) was presented by Danielle Preston. An intricate, timely, and political exploration of the Pre-Raphaelite piece called into question the struggle of women in patriarchal society from the Classical world to the twentieth century and even to contemporary culture. Danielle expertly stripped away the layers of embellishment to uncover the naked symbolism of the artwork: women’s oppression. Finally, Georgie Walton took the stage to break down and then piece back together Mick Rooney’s ‘The Famous Siren Choir’ (2019). Her examination of symbolic use of colour, animals, and composition created a kaleidoscopic interpretation of the vibrantly dream-like creation. Georgie’s guidance to this imaginative and hypnotic work opened a window into the psychology of human beings.
Each speaker seemed to be one with their piece of choice as they introduced and explained it to the audience, emphasizing their own experiences. Adjudicator Dr Mark Sealy MBE valued this especially in their presentations, as his own work in photography has been directed at reflecting personal stories on film. He highlighted the strengths of each speaker: Lulu’s connection to family and sense of home and belonging; Ruby’s growth from disliking Tanning’s work to fascination to love; Danielle’s immediate attraction to the painting and ability to mirror it onto contemporary society; Georgie’s engagement with symbolism and different points of view. Ultimately, Dr Mark Sealy MBE chose Danielle Preston to move on to the next round. Her strong statement and nuanced analysis will go on to compete at the ARTiculation Grand Final 2020 hosted by Clare College, Cambridge on 13 March.
As we packed up, I wandered up to the gallery floors where an exhibition of American artist Judy Chicago was taking place. Her fierce work, spanning decades and mediums, reminded me of that warm glow one gets inside from seeing art that resonates with something within – exactly what the ARTiculation Prize is about. Danielle’s presentation would have made Judy Chicago proud.