Before last weeks apocalyptic snow fall, which made us never want to venture outside again, we were invited to the preview of Ikon Galleries latest exhibition. Two very different exhibitions by two artists born almost 200 years apart but with one constant theme strongly connecting the two and tying them together as one overall experience and that is the theme of dealing with crime.
In the first floor gallery is the first UK exhibition dedicated to the work of Thomas Bock. This exhibition uses Bocks work to tell the crazy story of his life. Living in Birmingham as an engraver and miniature painter in 1823 he was convicted of some heinous crime and shipped off to colonial prison in Tasmania. Ironically this was probably the making of him as an artist. Here he produced hauntingly lifelike portraits of prisoners before and after execution as well as a series of portraits of the Tasmanian indigenous people. These are full of subtle raw emotions and feel like bocks way of interpreting and dealing with the alien world he found himself in.
There are also some really interesting examples of early photographic process on show created by Bock. These “daguerreotypes” are tiny silver plates capturing some of Bocks subjects.
Upstairs we are met with a much more modern and surrealistic offering. A multimedia extravaganza of works by Edmund Clark. These are the result of Clarks ongoing residency (2014-2018) at Europe’s only therapeutic prison HMP Grendon. This exhibition is completely shaped by the prisons environment and forms into an interactive experience form the viewer leading them through various stages of daily life inside the prison. A series of suspended video screens in a black room put you in the place of inmates and staff moving through various parts of the prison. Another interactive piece focuses on the main creative therapies for inmates called psychodrama where prisoners revisit events from their past under expert supervision. The prisoners and staff are wearing masks to both hid their identity and to also mimic characters from the Greek tragedy Aeschylus’s Oresteia, the video piece is presented on 3 tv monitors in a circle of chairs for the viewer to sit in and become part of the session.
The whole exhibition creates a commentary on modern prison systems highlighting both the good and bad and merging them together in a powerful, artistic and surreal journey worth experiencing.
Written by Tom Godwin.