Free Range is a creative platform that hosts an annual three-week summer exhibition at the Truman Brewery in East London. The platform is all about showcasing emerging creative talent across art and photography, providing graduates and those in the early stages of their careers a chance to show their work, as well as mentorship and funding. This summer, the Free Range exhibition will run from 18 June-6 July 2020, the first two weeks dedicated to photography, and the final week to art. The photography weeks will have different photographers' work on display, so it will be worth visiting multiple times to see the full scope of the exhibition and to find out who'll be influencing how art and photography look in the future.
London had a taste of what's to come recently, as three award winners from last year's Free Range presentation had their debut solo shows over five days in February. Two photography graduates–Angela Blažanović and Jennifer Forward-Hayter–and one fine art graduate–Christoph Jones–occupied a cubic warehouse space on Dray Walk in Brick Lane.
Having graduated from London Metropolitan University, Angela Blažanović presented Fragments of a River, a series of sculptures, photographs and audio-visual elements made from litter found on mudlarking trips to the banks of the river Thames. Her work transforms detritus into aesthetic ornaments and her compositions influence a new way of seeing the objects we discard. Blažanović’s sculptures are a delicate balance of colour and material. She imitates the moss-covered concrete banks of the Thames and murky waters with immersive sound and muted green walls. Scraps of metal are twisted into ethereal shapes and objects punctuate the design with points of colour: a blue tampon applicator, a white broken mug, glass smoothed by the water, pink wires, fluorescent tennis balls. The artist brings these homeless objects–objects that were once useful and had a purpose–to the fore of our consciousness (and our conscience).
Also recalling history to provoke new ways of thinking, Christoph Jones, a fine art graduate from Oxford Brookes University, staged an assembly of political artworks criticising UK immigration and environmental policies, titled 1000 Kilometres. Jones identifies the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991 as an event once believed to symbolise great progress in peace and freedom. 1000 Kilometres refers in part to the expanse of new borders built in Europe, that far exceed the Berlin Wall's 140km, to give perspective on how the progress that was promised with the fall of the wall is actually playing out today. In line with the protest artworks that write the history of resistance, Jones drapes an oversized protest slogan from the ceiling (in his work, A Refugee Was Drowned Yesterday) and pins a statement to the wall in mock-celebratory gold lettering. Bullets spill out of a glass encasement in Mourning Chorus to emphasise an excess of weaponry. The viewer comes face-to-face with their own ability to respond to the story of a Syrian refugee in Muhammad’s Testimony, with words etched into mirrors that hang on adjacent walls.
Middlesex photography graduate Jennifer Forward-Hayter wasn’t afraid to make noise in her debut People Buy People. The artist built a partition office to house her photographic mockumentary of corporate life, while a live band blared punk rock and disco pop covers of Sex Pistols' Anarchy in the UK and Sweet Transvestite from Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Forward-Hayter photographs networking events, strategy workshops and wealth-management parties, and the series is dominated by photographs of older men wearing suits. Rather than a symbol of power and wealth, the business suit has come to represent the failings of capitalism, synonymous with events like the UK recession of 2008 and similar misconducts that spill into popular culture – a copy of The Wolf of Wall Street is strategically placed on one of the desks. The businessmen belong to a particular environment that the artist recreates with clever references. People Buy People– suitably titled–is a comment on strange paradigms of corporate capitalism.
In her influential book Staying with the Trouble, socio-eco-political theorist Donna Haraway writes, 'Our task is to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quiet places,' and each of these artists makes trouble in their own way. Collectively, the shows are geared towards a call for social change, and certainly, if these shows are any indication to go by, Free Range 2020 should be a potent space for political conversation through creativity. Indeed, platforms like Free Range are important for the diversity and inclusivity of the art world, which in turn contributes to a more diverse and open world. The awards, with its funding and mentorship to guide each artist to their debut show, allows emerging artists to gain momentum after graduation and to take their practice from art school into the wider world.
Free Range is part of the wider graduate season events and programme at the Truman Brewery. For more info, visit their website.