It was curiosity that led me to the private viewing of Bobby Sayers; Primary Colours held at Primary Studios on Wednesday evening. A long day travelling meant that all I really wanted was to get back home and into bed, but as I got off the train, I decided to walk the uphill struggle of Derby road and onto Primary Studios. I’d visited the space before and was intrigued to see more of it. The former DouglasPrimary School newly reformed in 2011, provides studio spaces in classroom settings which are spacious with high ceilings; the spaces are shared or used individually.
In the shared space of Craig Fisher and Debra Swan Mrs Rick’s Cupboard is to be found. Bobby Sayer’s work was intriguingly being presented by the mysterious Mrs Rick and her Cupboard. I wondered what this meant in terms of the work. How could a cupboard be used in an art work? What was in the cupboard to see? I’d hoped for an explorative experience into the cupboards content and I wasn’t disappointed.
Mrs Rick’s Cupboard is an artist led project initiated by Craig Fisher whereby he invites “emerging and established contemporary artists to develop and present artwork in innovative exhibitions and events within an unconventional gallery setting.” The cupboard, situated in the left corner of the studio space, is an original fixture of the classroom, thought to have been used as a stationary cupboard. To give you a sense of size, I would compare it to a spacious changing room in a department store. Once inside the cupboard you are greeted with wooden walls and wooden shelving; a completely different platform than the typical white cube. What surrounded you was the work of Primary Colours, the shelves presented colourful sculptural shapes coated in thick plaster, and pinned to the walls where square images on white A4 paper capturing snippets of everyday objects.
I have often overlooked the work of Bobby Sayers. I have previously only seen his work housed in a white gallery setting, whereby on reflection it seems to get lost in its environment, just something to glance over. In Mrs Rick’s Cupboard it was a whole different story. The one on one experience meant I really explored the piece. You really had to go in and spend time with the work. Exploring its content and examining the shelves, reading the cupboard as a museum box and the shelving acting as its corridors.
The use of photography was a huge leap in Bobby’s work for me. The images provide what I felt was the missing link between the sculptural objects and the small drawings he inputs surrounding the sculptures. These cartoonlike drawings act as descriptive sketches for the work often involving arrows and text. These vinyl drawings are fast becoming the trade mark of Bobby Sayers. He derives them from his sketch books and inputs them onto the gallery walls or in this case the cupboard walls. These drawings reinforce Bobby’s interrogation of the “digital and the physical.” From the digital photographs Bobby picks out particular shapes/negative spaces, he then sketches this shape which transforms it into a physical 2D drawing. The physically is then extended to a greater extent when the drawings become 3D objects in their sculptural form. The objects do full circle. Changing from their original bodily form to a flat photographic image, then selected and drawn, then as sculptures they return to being something that has a physical attribute, something to touch and that occupies a space.
Talking to the artist himself he explained the photographs and his use of the widely available technology: Instagram. As the press release says “Sayer’s considers the relevance of these methods in relation to how we record and perceive the world around us.” Bobby invites the viewer to see beyond the everyday and unpick the puzzle to find the sculptural shapes within the photographs. By using the smart phone app Instagram to modify these images he furthers the notion of seeing beauty in the everyday. The app is widely used to take photographs of the mundane and by using photographic filters they obtain a form of beauty.
For many who stepped into the space unravelling the puzzle became an important part of the work. Once the first piece of the puzzle was deciphered you then immediately wanted to work out the rest. Each image contained a clue which linked the sculptural shapes to the surrounding images. Sometimes the colours coincided with the sculptures which helped. The brainteaser almost felt like a task sheet for children whereby you draw a line between the two matching items on the sheet. Given the setting of the work this was an endearing quality of the piece.
In Mrs Rick’s cupboard, surrounded by the work of Primary Colours, you really do get lost in the everyday. I wonder if the real Mrs Rick teaching her class of youngsters ever took a minute in the cupboard to explore the everyday?