Phillip Gurrey | Responding to the Beeston Series | March 2012

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Keeping the Aspidistra Flying

And so it is that on a warm sunny morning in late March, with the smell of oil paint and turps hanging on the air, BasementArtsProject turns a corner and enters a new phase in its existence. ‘Responding to the Beeston Series’ is an exhibition by artist Philip Gurrey looking at the development of his practice via a series of paintings produced in 2008. ‘The Beeston Series’ is a set of portraits depicting members of the Beeston community; the series came about as a response to the negative press that the area received after the London bombings of 2007. Gurrey’s motivation for this project was not political, but was in fact about the desire to depict a less biased account of this community than in the media.

‘Responding to the Beeston Series’ was an idea that Gurrey brought to BasementArtsProject as a potential project. Gurrey’s interest in this type of portraiture had come from a love of 17th Century Dutch painters such as Frans Hals, Rubens, Rembrandt and Van Dyck and the Beeston series came out of a desire to capture people in a very particular way. As with many basement projects of the last year the locus of activity was divided between the basement and the house itself, only here the intention was less to do with practicality than it was to do with the deployment of an aesthetic.

With the exhibition occurring in a home that behaves like a gallery a dilemma occurs in how the work is positioned; do you approach it in a gallery manner with a mean average eye level as the default position or the home display, that being slightly higher, taking into consideration the size of the rooms and the height of the ceilings? In the end a compromise between the two ensures a solution that refers to the gallery intention whilst acknowledging and highlighting the necessary sensitivity of their actual surroundings.

Every evening upon arriving home from work I find that various artworks have been re-arranged on the living room wall, some removed completely with just the hangings left behind. Venturing downstairs into the basement I find the same thing occurring, only here there are new works emerging next to the original pieces presented to the public only four days ago. These new works display all of the energy and vigour of Gurrey’s enthusiastic style of working, and it is at this point that the fairy tale concerning the elves and the shoemaker springs to mind, or maybe even the practical jokes of the central character in the film Amelie.

With Saturday night’s opening event out of the way, the door between kitchen and Basement now stands open, and will do for the remainder of these two weeks, as Gurrey re-visits these older pieces in order to create new work during his residency at BasementArtsProject.

We at BasementArtsProject would like to thank Philip Gurrey for his involvement with our project

Bruce Davies | April 2013