Build Up is a collective exhibition at Gallery 23 showcasing the work of nine ECA final-year painting students. Through these snapshots into each artist’s work, the show seeks to demonstrate the diverse methods of creating an image in painting.
There is no tight narrative binding these pieces together. Instead, the broadness of the brief has allowed for real breadth and diversity in the methods, materials and textures included. Space is at a premium in Gallery 23, and though each artist has contributed only one or two pieces there are nine clear and distinct voices.
Pavel Isupov’s moody, restive night-time pieces in oil on linen hang side-by-side with Nancy Nightingale’s shadowy urban duo, which use wax crayon and spray paint respectively. Elizabeth Bevington’s six miniature polaroid-inspired portraits, in warm summer tones contrast with Holly MacDonald’s plaster on canvas piece, ridged like a coral reef. The standard of work is very high; it feels that each artist has fully realised what they set out to achieve.
It is often a struggle in painting exhibitions to find a balance between wall-space filled with vibrant, eye-catching pieces and the emptiness of the floor. Build Up also grapples with this issue, as most of the work it includes is two dimensional. However, several pieces act to combat this and give the set-up some depth.
Sophia Pauley’s sculpture, constructed out of a web of acrylic MDF shapes, suspended in the air as though frozen mid-explosion brings movement and intensity to the exhibition. Yet the proportions of Gallery 23 present other challenges which Build Up does not entirely overcome. Pauley’s second piece, a smaller acrylic on canvas, is isolated and easily overlooked in its position between two doors.
The show’s approach to contextualisation is minimalistic. Each artwork is presented on its own, without any label beyond the exhibition brochure. Were the works not so distinctive and individualised this would be confusing, yet here their absence preserves Build Up’s clarity. The artworks themselves, furthermore, are not named. The brochure provides only the artists’ names, the materials used and the dimensions. This omission effectively reinforces the show’s focus onto the artists themselves. Each piece is only a glimpse into each artist’s work and we are left hungry to see more.
However, it is at this point that Build Up falls short. If the intention of the show is to give the talent here exposure, little detail about them is provided, beyond their names and the contact details of a few. It seems a shame to deliver so much and then fail to raise the awareness they perhaps intended to.
Build Up is a show of great maturity, freshness and depth. Unfortunately, its run has now ended, but the work of the participating artists will be available to see at ECA at exhibitions throughout the year.
Photo credit: Nancy Nightingale