Children's Exhibition @ Tramway

The Children's Exhibition at Tramway is an exciting proposition, but falters in its execution

Review by Adam Benmakhlouf | 02 Aug 2018
  • Children's Exhibition

For its Children’s Exhibition, Tramway has commissioned several artists to create a series of sculptures, videos and projection works that are intended specifically for 3-8 year olds.

On the way in, there’s a work with coloured perspex tiles on an overhead projector. Two children are sliding them around happily, and they show geometric abstractions in orange and yellow on the wall.

The decoration of the walls inside also quote unfamiliar educational methods, and are pasted with some images of wet-on-wet techniques. This painting technique, per the exhibition information, is used in Steiner schools to encourage abstract thinking. It makes for a soft decoration and contrasts with the geometric pattern of the multicoloured floor tiles.

There are also many cushions in abstract blob shapes that are covered in differently textured fabrics. Nearby, piles of playdough are displayed on a bespoke structure that doesn’t give much space for the children to sculpt and play with the material, which is presumably not meant to be taken elsewhere in the room

At the back of the room, three monitors display a single word each: ‘sound’, ‘move’ and ‘touch’, with video footage to illustrate each of the terms. A fourth shows kaleidoscopic, cellular-looking microscopic abstraction with sounds of children making noise in the background.

Three to eight may ultimately be too large a gap for pitching an age-specific exhibition (hanging height alone changes by at least a foot in this time). This might be the reason for an over-reliance on obvious solutions (playdough, soft sculpture and lots of colour). These cumulatively short-circuit a thoughtful consideration of the nuanced and exciting question of what might constitute an exhibition that challenges and engages kids, without underestimating their often boundless receptivity to all kinds of artwork – multicoloured or not.

Children's Exhibition, Tramway, until 26 Aug, free