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May 07, 2011

In these days of hyper-active paradigm shifts and quantum-paced changes, it’s refreshing to press pause. This type of reflection is happening at the Gallery these days. A trio of complimentary exhibitions ponder the stages of personal development in the life of an artist.

Then & Now is inspired by key works from the permanent collection. In many cases the works are from the late seventies and early eighties. These works are paired with recent studio production from those same artists. I really enjoyed working on this show, since it familiarizes me with the practice of established artists. All six artists are paragons in their field. For those of us working as visual artists, they show something to aspire to: a tenacious devotion to visual production over the decades and a restless curiosity in keeping with contemporary practice. Then & Now tests the boundaries of studio production and how it folds together and/or evolves over the years.

The seductive photographs of Holly McClellan line the walls of the Yourspace Community Gallery. Her images synthesize the investigative impulse of photojournalism combining this with the aesthetics of art photography. McClellan’s lens has consistently focused on ecological concerns. Her current series explores how municipalities process one of our most precious natural resources, water.

A perennial favorite is the year-end DurhamCollege show. Now in its fourth year at Station Gallery, the College’s foundation programme is a one-year “crash course” in the full range of disciplines including drawing, painting, print-based, sculpture, digital and performance. What’s more, this year’s offerings are much more than manual and retinal exercises; they demonstrate a conceptual engagement for both the maker and the viewer. The highlight for me is what has come to be called “The Traditional Exchanging of the Ties,” a ritual that Professor Sean McQuay and I partake in every year. It’s a symbol of how our two institutions are tied together (sometimes with a triple-Windsor knot).    

I can't believe my eyes, it's the "Traditional Exchanging of the Ties!"