From tins of paint to a piracy library, The Bluecoat's current exhibition, RESOURCE, brings together a host of divergent practices offering audiences a glimpse into the working life of the UK's oldest art centre.
The show is inspired by the organisation’s own history: The Bluecoat's founding manifesto from 1927 states that it was set up to promote not only the arts, but also the “diffusion of useful knowledge,” which presented an interesting point of departure for curator Marie-Anne McQuay. The result is an exhibition that provides a platform to artists whose work suggests or subverts a practical purpose, exploring and playing with notions of what is useful.
RESOURCE is a substantial exhibition spread across all of The Bluecoat's gallery spaces. The ground floor's Vide is occupied by the work of Anne Harild and Bluecoat's own Blue Room – a group of artists with learning disabilities who practice at the Bluecoat weekly. Along with a series of delicate collages titled Dwellings, audiences can also view model prototype shelters, all of which highlight the many collaborations and ways of working taking place at the Bluecoat.
Daniel Eatock's Leftover Paint Canned produces a wry smile. Tins of paint are stacked in front of a wall painted in a questionable hue of purple. Upon closer inspection, the purple paint was mixed from all of the leftover paint found in the Bluecoat from previous exhibitions, so, all considered, it's a rather nice shade. You can bag yourself a tin for the mere price of a photo – that is, a photo of said paint on your walls at home. We’re sure the artist’s tongue remains firmly in cheek, however, we’re left perplexed about what previous Bluecoat exhibitions featured red and blue walls.
The standout work is The Piracy Project, by Eva Weinmayr and Andrea Francke. This international project collects publications in which the originals have been altered in someway, the changes signposted by green index cards. For example, in a perspex case on the table is a bible with all of the letters except S, O, R and Y Tippexed out, aptly titled Sorry Bible by Willum Geerts.
One reservation about RESOURCE is that there needs to bemore information provided about some works to help audiences. While the seasoned gallery-goer may be comfortable in its abstract nature, others may be glad of a little more context to really engage. Striking the balance between explaining and spoon-feeding is tricky, and some pieces in RESOURCE do it better than others. That said, there is something new and fresh about this exhibition. With a new head of programmes, curator and rebranding to boot, perhaps RESOURCE signals a new direction for the Bluecoat, while cleverly giving a nod to its unique and valuable history.