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Motion Sickness showcases phenomenal art at Lion Yard




Artist Sarah Strachan: "Phenomenology makes sense of experience but art should go beyond that." Picture: Emily Scialom
Artist Sarah Strachan: "Phenomenology makes sense of experience but art should go beyond that." Picture: Emily Scialom

A Cambridge-based art collective has opened a new exhibition, The Art of Watching Art, at Lion Yard’s community-facing retail premises.

Motion Sickness was formed in defiance of Cambridge’s “infertile art scene” by Denise Kehoe, Ellie Breeze and Arabella Hilfiker. The trio are exploring “a collaborative examination of their position as products of millennial ephemera” in artistic terms.

The group’s new exhibition is on at Petty Cury until January 26. Declaring a “vow to defy sleekness and be human in the age of unreachable expectation”, it consists of work by ten artists including Ana Dias, Sylwia Dylewska, Stepanka Facerova, Beeny Hardwood-Purkiss, Patricia Kelly, Chris Koster, Jessica Leach, Bruna Pereira-Fernandes, Sarah Strachan and Sid White-Jones.

“We’re invigilators for Motion Sickness,” explained curator Stepanka Facerova as guests wandered around. “So it’s an opportunity to exhibit your own work if you work for them.”

Adrian Novac’s At Mirror’s Edge
Adrian Novac’s At Mirror’s Edge

A variety of artworks and themes veered from the poignant to the amusing to the outlandish. Most poignant perhaps is Adrian Novac’s At Mirror’s Edge, featuring a curled-up figure in an abstract landscape, which comes over as a tonal poem in subdued colours. It’s apparently a homage to the 1969 film The Colour of Pomegranites.

Jessica Leach’s Criticisms of Fish
Jessica Leach’s Criticisms of Fish

Jessica Leach’s Criticisms of Fish, a series of cartoons depicting the personalities of fish, is amusingly perceptive. The most outlandish is a 3metre wooden structure, with painted yellow slats, shaped like a rocket: not entirely sure what this was attempting to say but in art, as in life, it takes all sorts.

Inside Motion Sickness at Lion Yard
Inside Motion Sickness at Lion Yard

“It’s about pictures of people watching art,” explained Sarah Strachan helpfully. More on Instagram at #artwatcher and #artofwatchingart. Sarah explains that one of the artists has worked out to age photographs.

“They’ve sort of reverse-engineered digital photography,” she says, “taking pictures from today and recasting them as from 1935.”

Sarah, it turns out, was in marketing but decided a change was needed.

“My mentor told me we work too long to have just one career, so make a change when you think you might want to slow down a bit. You might think you're making progress in your workplace but there comes a point where you think ‘no, I’m getting too far away from the ideals I started off with’. I’m future-proofing what I’m doing for when I’m 60, not for when I’m 45.”

Outside the Art of Watching Art exhibition at 15 Petty Cury
Outside the Art of Watching Art exhibition at 15 Petty Cury

In one of Sarah’s works she’s attempting to express “the phenomenology of wind”. What’s that all about?

“It started when my tutor said ‘you need to embrace the phenomenology’.”

I’m a tad confused and Sarah helpfully explains that I should read Object-oriented ontology: A New Theory of Everything by Graham Harman. OK, but what’s it mean please?

“Phenomenology says we live in a world full of objects and we can’t actually be sure what that object is. What are the things about a chair that we recognise, and how do you know what it’s doing when you’re not looking at it? Phenomenology makes sense of experience but art should go beyond that.”

Indeed it does. Sarah stands in front of one of her paintings and I ask if the paint has been sprayed on.

“It’s brush strokes,” she says, adding:“I paint to music, you might be able to hear it.”

Jessica Leach’s Criticisms of Fish
Jessica Leach’s Criticisms of Fish

Slightly concerned that the conversation has moved from phenomenal to surreal, I confessed I had no idea.

“Poppy Ackroyd,” she says.

I am mute.

“The daughter of Norman Ackroyd?”

I really do feel a rather pitiful creature. I apologise, and explain I am merely a hack.

“The point is I don’t do boundaries,” Sarah continues, “so I like to see how people respond. We’re going to have to work across boundaries - on climate change, for instance.

“We’ve only just recently set up together, now it’s about taking it out to people, it’s about not being elitist. Everyone can enjoy art and making art, and this is for everyone.”

The Art of Watching Art is at 15 Petty Cury, 11am to 4pm Tuesday to Sunday, and Wednesdays between 5pm and 8pm.



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