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Review: Nothing Like Something Happens Anywhere, Chapter

(August 01, 2012)

Review: Nothing Like Something Happens Anywhere - Chapter, Canton, Cardiff

 Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff


You may be forgiven for thinking Chapter (formerly known as the Chapter Arts Centre) in Canton, Cardiff, is a lively open plan café bar with a cinema attached to one side. Those in the know – largely, those who frequent the café bar area (a proper cup of tea is a bargain 80p, and they have free Wi-Fi too) - also use it as a meeting place. Anything artistic that happens in Cardiff, and to some extent throughout Wales, links back here. Arts organisations are based here, in the surrounding streets and towards the leafy, artistic area of nearby Pontcanna. Only a short trip from Cardiff city centre - about a mile west of Cardiff Castle - Chapter is a great place to catch an art-house movie, see a recording of a stand-up comedy show or hear an artist’s talk, and, if you turn left just past the box-office, you can visit a contemporary art exhibition.

Sarah Lucas, Self-PortraitChapter has always taken art seriously. For decades, they have shown world-renowned artists; sometimes before they hit the big time. I recall seeing Sarah Lucas' famous self-portrait (right) with fried egg on breasts, Self-Portraits 1990–1998 (1999), here in the 1990s. They have a strong curatorial identity and deliver internships for the new generation of curators. If the BBC show The Exhibitionists (the X Factor of the curatorial world) has inspired you, this is where, along with academia, you will find the traditional route into that career.

This latest show brings artists together around the curatorial theme of the meaning of events in our lives, contrasted with our everyday existence. The intimate exhibition space of white-washed walls and parquet flooring feels familiar; like the old school-building it once was. The invigilating team is made up mainly of local artists, who are knowledgeable and approachable.

How we interact with our environment is another theme of the works on show. Ben River's film projection The Coming Race (2006) shows a monochrome, grainy image of people seeming to climb up and down a mountain top. It is reminiscent of Snowdon in high season, with dark rocks and a rabble of mainly unsuitably-dressed casual walkers. However, the image quality and 16mm format makes it seem like an unlabelled archival film and, therefore, somewhat mysterious. He deliberately made the destination and purpose of the crowd's ascension unclear, to make us empathise with the eternal struggle of mankind to conquer a summit.


The Cookham Erratics, Andy HoldenAndy Holden, The Cookham Erratics, installation view, 2012   Photo: Jamie Woodley Courtesy: WORKS|PROJECTS


Andy Holden's Cookham Erratics (2011) is an installation made up of six giant-sized knitted sculptures (made of steel, foam and mixed knitted yarn) of stones found in the churchyard made famous by Stanley Spencer's famous painting, The Resurrection, Cookham. From a distance, and benefiting from expert lighting, they seem like monoliths left over from a glacier's path (the geological term for which is an erratic). The stones play a range of narrative clips, together describing a family story and other diverse topics. They manage to create a warm, familiar mood.

Francis Alys's documentation of his performance piece Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing) (1997) is shown here. We watch him push, what at first appears to be, a heavy, white-wheeled suitcase through the streets of Mexico City. You see the street scenes at a very low level: the trail of damp; the struggle of the artist. You glimpse the faces of nonchalant locals. You see how the ice starts to form into an organic shape and watch it being kicked until, inevitably, it melts into nothing. Here, again, we see human struggle. And this piece provides a counterpoint to how ice shapes an environment.

Maaike Schoorel's range of paintings are all unframed canvases, which at first glance seem to have very little content. The painting on an inky-black ground, Vrienden in Pradines (2011), makes you peer into its darkness to find the forms of several people seemingly sitting at a bar. This provides the key to viewing the other pieces. Peering at the four other pale canvases takes an effort, rewarded by the discovery of exquisitely rendered, representational painting. "Is this the new minimalism?", I wondered.


Stan Denniston, Los soñadores (film still), 9 channel film installation, 2010Stan Denniston, Los soñadores (film still), 9 channel film installation, 2010   Courtesy: Olga Korper Gallery


The exhibition contains other gems, including a nine channel film installation by Stan Denniston, Los soñadores (The dreamers) (2010) and, as a whole, offers a chance to stretch how you view the world. It is engaging; as everyone can relate to its content. And it is satisfying to see such diversity in a small, accessible space. As many of the works on show are in private collections, it would be silly to miss this rare opportunity to view them ... and did I mention the café bar?

Jennifer Pearce, 1 August 2012


The Chapter Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday 10:00am-8:00pm, and Sunday 2:00-8:00pm, admission free.

Further details on


Jennifer Pearce is the founder of Art Club

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     Review: St David’s Hall exhibition space - Triad and Mount Analogue, January 2013
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     Review: Nothing Like Something Happens Anywhere - Chapter Arts Centre, Canton, Cardiff, August 2012
     National Museum of Art, contemporary galleries, March 2012


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