A little over a week ago ‘Shelf Life’ – my solo exhibition at Gage Gallery, Sheffield – came to an end. I have had a fair few group shows prior to this, but I would say that ‘Shelf Life’ was my first true solo exhibition. As such, it involved a great deal of organising, developing and promoting. There was a sense of relief when everything was sorted and I could just relax and allow others to engage with my work.
Whilst I can be relatively pleased with the effort I went to in order to promote the exhibition, I don’t feel as though the amount of work I did promoting correlates to the overall attendance. Perhaps this is something a lot of artists feel. On reflection though, I suppose that an emerging artist exhibiting in an emerging gallery in the winter is never going to draw hordes of visitors. Plus I believe it pays to never underestimate the unreliably of people. Anyway, let’s not descend into bitterness and instead focus on the positives.
As a personal exercise, what I wanted to achieve from ‘Shelf Life’ was an informed understanding of what elements of my practice are coherent enough to be developed. And that’s exactly what I got. The basic act of getting work up on the walls and looking to see what works and what doesn’t clarifies your approach and allows you to gather the knowledge required in order to progress. There is a certain therapy in ascertaining strong works from weak ones, and developing a greater affinity with your finished works. Perhaps this is especially true of conceptual artists, where it is the idea that takes precedence and as such, allows the actual work to be overlooked. I believe there is a balance to be found between concept and aesthetics and I believe that exhibiting allows this balance to be realised.
So, was the exhibition successful? Well, yes: It was well received by those who did visit and the process allowed me to develop my practice further. As a first solo exhibition, it helped me refine my body of work and, in turn, has potentially enabled me to hold more disciplined and coherent exhibitions in the future. Yes, it would have been nice to have sold more work, and it would have been nice if it was a little better attended, but it was not expected. I am happy with ‘Shelf Life’s’ achievements and it provides a solid marker I can use relative to future exhibitions. Not a bad start.