Saturday, 23 February 2013

Three works from Sub-ti-tled, a Changing Spaces exhibition

Issam Kourbaj @ sub-ti-tled with bus

We keep seeing exhibitions 'pop up' in abandoned shop fronts and empty stores around Cambridge.  They're organised by Changing Spaces, and their latest show is Sub-ti-tled at 6-16 King Street -- some of you may remember this as the Wallace King furniture shop.

The carpets and parquet flooring of the furniture store are still in evidence, and one living room-style displays recalls the ghosts of former retail.

Issam Kourbaj  @ Sub-ti-tled in situ far
View of gallery with Melina Juergens' photography among furniture, and Issam Kourbaj's work.

Issam Kourbaj

Issam Kourbaj, Farewell My City of Joy
Issam Kourbaj, Farewell My City of Joy, 2003

Hanging right next to the shop window is Issam Kourbaj's strange work.  At first sight, it looks like an abstract painting, made up of painted rectangles.

But it isn't.  It's made up of bits of books.

Issam Kourbaj  @ Sub-ti-tled detail 01

Book covers made of marbled cardboard, book covers torn from their volumes, embossed book covers, book covers encrusted with pigment.

Issam Kourbaj @ Sub-ti-tled detail 02

Issam Kourbaj  @ Sub-ti-tled detail 04.

Issam Kourbaj  @ Sub-ti-tled detail 03

In between, there are also book pages, their printed lines of text struggling to remain visible beneath splotches of paint.

Issam Kourbaj  @ Sub-ti-tled detail 05

And just because we tend to photograph such works from the front which makes them seem flatter (and more 'painting-like') than they really are:  here are some angled views.  See the materiality.  See the depth of the supporting canvas.  See what the foreshortened view does to perception.

Issam Kourbaj  @ Sub-ti-tled detail 06

Issam Kourbaj sideview

Issam Kourbaj is artist-in-residence at Christ's College, and Anne-Claire Morel is one of Christ's Visual Arts' Scholars.  Here are details from her exhibited work:

Anne-Claire Morel

Anne-Claire Morel, Almighty Me 01
Anne-Claire Morel, Almighty Me, 2013, plaster and clay

Anne-Claire Morel, Almighty Me 02

These tiny heads remind me of Anthony Gormley's sculpture installation Field.

Anne-Claire Morel, Almighty Me 03

Mark Box

Photographer Mark Box shows a sample of his large-scale portrait photographs:  floating heads starkly outlined against white backgrounds.  I met Mark in the exhibition, and he told me that the Movember photos took 230 hours to make, from start to finish.

Mark Box
Mark Box, Movember I, 2012, digital giclée print

616 Gallery
View of Gallery 616, King Street, with Mark Box's photographs, Lynne Brown's  pastel works on paper, and Issam Kourbaj's assemblage

616 Gallery with Issam Kourbaj


11 artists in total are showing at the exhibition.  Four of them are Christ's Visual Arts Scholars -- a fantastic initiative within Christ's College!  They have their studios above 1-16 King Street.

Read one art-history student's thoughtful comments on the exhibition:  Review by Robert Hawkins in Varsity.

Rob Hawkins writes:  "Of course, the difference between making art at Cambridge and making it in an art school is the lacking sense of immersion, of constant criticism and subsequent improvement."

What Hawkins perhaps doesn't know is that Cambridge does actually have a thriving art school:  the Cambridge School of Art.  In fact, two Cambridge School of Art graduates are involved with Sub-ti-tled:  Mark Box (exhibiting his photography) and Anji Main (curator of the show and also director of Changing Spaces).  Both are, I'm proud to say, former students of mine.  :-)

Check out Cambridge School of Art exhibitions at my pinterest board!

Last chance to see it!!  The exhibition ends on Sunday, 24 Feb.

Related posts:

Alison Litherland's cows  (another Changing Spaces exhibition)


  1. I love they way art just pops up in Cambridge. I had a look at this installation in the Wallace King Furniture store - it is a shame the space is so 'open plan' - it needs some definition to display the works effectively.

    1. Yes, I see your point -- still, considering, I think they do a good job and it is lovely, I have to say, to have all that open space and all works visible from the street. It's so great that you went to see this!

      Hey, nice to see you here, Irene. I so much enjoyed meeting you last year at the Mill Road Fair!

  2. Thanks very much for the link.
    I'm aware of the Cambridge School of Art - I was trying to focus on the artists of Christ's, who make up the bulk and focus of the show, and their particular situation: as someone who toyed with pursuing a fine art degree and ended up doing a year's foundation, the idea of combining practice with academic study is interesting; it's what I was getting at there.
    Rob Hawkins

    1. O god, don't tell me I got your name wrong... How embarrassing. I apologise and will fix forthwith. I wonder why you ended up doing art history and not art? I've sometimes wondered what would have happened had I pursued a 'creative' studio degree. See you round at the Hoart seminars, perhaps -- Anne-Marie said you go sometimes. :)


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