This week has seen the opening of The Court of Love – a group art and poetry exhibition examining Valentine’s Day. The exhibition is held at Exchange Place Studios, Sheffield and has been devised and curated by myself.
Initially, the exhibition was driven by purely selfish reasons – over the last two years I have neglected the chance to use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to exhibit Perfume as Practice and I didn’t wish to miss the opportunity for a third year.
However, further research into Valentine’s Day and it’s historical and social contexts saw the exhibition develop into a group show. As I wanted my work to reveal the historical connections between fragrance and medicine, it seemed pertinent to reference within the exhibition the first occurrence of Valentine’s Day; which consisted of a feast, poetry competitions and jousting. Over time I knew that a solo exhibition wouldn’t satisfy these needs.
And so, the exhibition references a Tudor Court both in its design, in its poetry competition and through some of the artists choosing to incorporate the theme in their work. The result is a collection of high quality responses to Valentine’s Day that reference the historical virtues while just being contemporary enough not to be cliched. Indeed, the responses are varied; banquets, saints, dance steps, the zodiac, cartography, graffiti, cosmic ordering, modern culture, sexual orientation and poetry are all cited as sources of inspiration.
From a curatorial perspective, I have afforded space between each work – allowing the audience to contemplate each piece as both an isolated work or within the context of the exhibition. This allows connections to emerge between each piece while simultaneously allowing each piece to exist in it’s own right. This is how I ideally like to curate as I believe it affords an audience richer and multi-faceted engagement. Logistics, or the sheer amount of work received sometimes means I have to curate with restrictions or caveats. Here, I was able to curate how I wanted and the result is a strong and confident exhibition that utilities the immersive properties of colour transform the space thematically – allowing each work to sit with cohesion and coherence beside each other.
The Court of Love once again reinforces Exchange Place Studio’s presence as an arts venue, with the poetry competition inviting a new audience through our doors. It’s important that our programme of events remains varied, supportive and nurturing to both new and established audiences. Not only does this allow us to gather momentum and reputation but the positive virtues of providing a platform for as many sets of people as possible should always be on the agenda.