While most artists would frown upon members of the public eating food anywhere near their work, award-winning designer-maker Gareth Neal is actively encouraging members of the public to eat on one of his pieces, Urban Picnic.
The ornately crafted bench, originally designed to bring East London’s ‘jaded city dwellers back to their childhood memories of the quintessential British weekend’, is one of many pieces in Gareth’s new show, Process, Place, People, at Plymouth College of Art.
In 2010, Gareth won the Vauxhall Collective’s annual bursary with an idea centred around ‘The Great British Weekend’, and set about designing a body of playful objects for a series of ‘Urban Picnics’ which popped up in mystery locations in East London. City tarmac and concrete were temporarily transformed into grassy spaces inviting people to meet, mix and consume their picnic under the summer sun. Picnickers were encouraged to enter into an interactive and fantastical space, featuring traditional weekend fare with a contemporary craft twist.
From bat and ball, hula-hoops and egg and spoon races, to logs and benches to sit on, the creations were intended to bring jaded city dwellers back to their childhood memories of thequintessential British weekend.
In the context of the gallery, Neal’s Urban Picnic is a resting and eating place from which to view and contemplate his other works and ideas. The exhibition brings together a number of existing works to explore and draw out the connections that each piece makes to process, place and people.
Another piece on show, The Orkney Chair, is a collaboration between Gareth and traditional Orkney chair maker Kevin Gauld. This beautifully crafted chair is the result of a process concerned with sharing and securing unique skills and techniques, celebrating traditions located to a specific place and supporting the growth and potential rebirth of a dying industry.
Coinciding with the exhibition was the College’s biennial conference, Making Futures, last week, that explores contemporary craft as a ‘change agent’ within 21st century society. Process, Place, People also kicks off Plymouth College of Art’s new contemporary craft season.
‘These shows are really a celebration of the new craft building we have - a fantastic new facility for the college that has just opened,’ says Gallery Co-ordinator Hannah Jones.
‘We’re really happy to have Gareth open the contemporary craft season; his work deals with ideas that are pertinent to the college, that ask questions around traditional skills and themodern world, saving and surviving, and traditional craftsmanship.’
Process, Place, People runs until 26 October with talks and events in between:
Wednesday 23 October / 6-7.30pm
40 under 40: Craft Futures
Wednesday 9 October / 6-7.15pm
Image credit: Dom Moore