Sitting Show @ East Bristol Contemporary ★★★★


By Will Maddrell, Arts Digital Editor

Sitting on, to be sat on, about seating. These were the ideas which informed the title for the latest show at East Bristol Contemporary. The second exhibition in a series of four, 'Sitting Show' saw artists explore concepts about the everyday act of sitting down through pre-existing and proposed artworks.

Based at the Trinity Centre, artist-led gallery welcomed four UK artists whose work incorporated sitting in some way. A seemingly mundane and commonplace act became the source of inspiration and experimentation for artworks as well as a physical site of reflection.

Just like any opening night, guests mingled between themselves, discussing the art being exhibited. In this show, however, the artworks were not just passive objects to be discussed but were instead active contributors to the conversation. Sculptures served as sitting areas and mixed-media pieces served as rugs.  ‌‌

The gallery space was consequently rendered homely by the artwork it contained, welcoming simultaneously the decorative and functional as well as the opportunity to really stop and take a moment to reflect.

Alexander Glass, one of the exhibiting artists, spoke to me about his work ‘I Could Never Blame Anyone But Myself’ (2019). It is a replica of a bench from his school’s changing room.

Its glossy clean surfaces are inviting, seductive and sexy, the changing room an in-between space of awkward desire. But the bench’s sharp edges and dense body are somehow intrusive, revealing and terrifying, and for Glass, also symbolic of a traumatic childhood experience. Only remembering his peers screaming, he must have fallen and banged his head.

‌‌Nevertheless, on opening night, the bench was the most popular place to sit.

Accompanying the work of the chosen artists was a text by Ellen Wilkinson. As the open call states, works could be “benches or chairs, but also might not take the form of a formal piece of furniture”.

The theme of sitting in Ellen's text emerges through a child’s resourcefulness and their imagining of a treehouse:

“a solid chunk of hardwood, pulled from a skip, cut in a few strategic places by my dad and wedged between the branches to create a platform that I could climb up and sit on.” - Ellen Wilkson

The treehouse serves as a point of departure from which the narrative voice looks back on their childhood adventures and considers their growing maturity. The “lump of timber” was removed years before the tree blows down in a storm and after a few touch-ups, it lives on “as solid as ever… it had not aged at all”.

The four exhibiting artists and Co-Director Jack Lewdjaw | EBC / Karanjit Panesar

The exhibition encouraged visitors to reconsider what sitting means. When I got home and sat on the sofa in our living room, I couldn't stop thinking about how I was sitting, what I was sitting on and how much time I spend sitting.

Featured: EBC / Karanjit Panesar

The next show at East Bristol Contemporary ‌‌will open on Friday 6th December 2019. Will you be attending?