Arts Reviews Culture

Artes Mundi 5

Artes Mundi is back for its fifth exhibition, this must-see exhibition has been growing in strength since first established in 2004, and this year’s offering is no exception.

Occurring every two years, Artes Mundi is Wales’s biggest and most cutting-edge contemporary art exhibition; a prize praised worldwide for its significance in recognising contemporary artists on an international scale.  The initiative itself has international scope, through striving to celebrate and recognise artists from across the globe. This emphasis on worldwide art provides a rare overview for UK audiences to experience the international art scene.

This year’s exhibition is housed in the National Museum of Art, a highly influential arts venue a short walk away from the Student Union. From over 750 nominations across the globe, seven of the most groundbreaking artists were shortlisted. Artes Mundi is unique in the combination of painting, installations, photography, film and performance that enables audiences to develop a greater understanding of contemporary art. The Artes Mundi nominees are all already well established artists in their home countries and are brought together in the exhibition to offer a diverse range of work. All the shortlisted artists will receive £4,000 each and one overall winner will be selected for a 12 week solo exhibition to be presented in 2014 in the build up to Artes Mundi 6, along with a £40,000 prize. For this reason Artes Mundi is one of the most esteemed and lucrative awards in the UK.

The 2012 nominated artists include; Miriam Bäckström, Tania Bruguera, Phil Collins, Sheela Gowda, Teresa Margolles, Darius Mikšys and Apolonija Šušteršič. The common thread between all these artists is an exploration of social themes in their work. They all tackle a wide range of ideas relating to contemporary life, creating a platform for commentary on the modern day world.  The exhibition deals with subjects as varied as the political nature of urban environments, drug violence in Mexico and reality television.

As a lover of contemporary art I found the exhibition to be highly stimulating through the manipulation of materials that provided a unique perspective on important social themes. On entering the exhibition which in terms of layout is fairly minimalistic, the scale of the pieces overwhelms and each separate piece has many differing angles that excite the eye. For me the standout artists were Miriam Bäckström and Sheela Gowda.

First emerging as a conceptual photographer in the 1990s, Bäckström has increasingly turned her focus to the moving image, theatre and performance. Her work for Artes Mundi explores the nature of history and the process of recreating memory using photography, text, theatre and video.  The piece ‘Smile as if We Have Already Won’ comprises of a large tapestry of cotton, wool, silk and mirror fragments woven together to create a piece that is visually impressive and structurally overpowering.  Gowda is known for her unconventional use of materials that gives her work an evocative element, with the tactile qualities of thread, traditional dye, pattern and weaving creating sensuous pieces.  The developed art practice that inquires into the political and social intricacies of India forms the basis of her Artes Mundi exhibition. Through the contrast between her use of photographs and large scale installation, she is able to highlight the defiance and vulnerability of Indian citizens.

The exhibition as a whole is exciting, and even for those who are not familiar with contemporary art it provides a great introduction to how it channels everyday culture. Not only is Artes Mundi right on your doorstep, it is free entry so there is no excuse not to take one hour out of the day for a dose of artistic enrichment.

 Jess Rayner

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