A unique collection of twelve
large-scale prints. Published and for sale
at Paul Stolper Gallery






S N A P _2 0 1 1


SNAP 2011
By Kate Bernard

When Peter Pears first came up with the idea of a ‘modest’ summer festival at Aldeburgh, his co-founders, Benjamin Britten and the writer Eric Crozier, thought to call it the ‘Aldeburgh Festival of Music and Painting’. At the last minute, it was decided that the ‘Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts’ was more fitting. After all, paintings by Constable were being presented in tandem with the work of the celebrated photographer Bill Brandt. When Brandt’s images of the landscape and inhabitants of Aldeburgh appeared in that first Festival programme book of 1948, they made a statement beyond the visual: contemporary art was a welcome, indeed vital, part of the programme.

As his ‘passion for painting’ developed into a serious collection with a particular bent towards the art of his own time, Pears became a true patron, nurturing the talent of emerging artists as he acquired their work. One hopes – even if the art itself might make him giddy – Pears would approve of SNAP, an exhibition of the work of 12 living artists, many internationally acclaimed, others less well known. It’s certainly the Festival’s most ambitious contemporary art project to date, with derelict buildings, the lawns and walkways of Snape Maltings playing host to a wonderfully diverse selection of sculpture, photography, drawing, moving images, sound – and no painting whatsoever.

Music comes first at Aldeburgh and it would be disingenuous to suggest otherwise. But as its contemporary art programme expands, its clientele, already attuned to art as a link to the Britten–Pears legacy, has increasingly encountered acquisitions and loans that exist in their own right. For the last 18 months, visitors to Snape have been stopped in their tracks by Perceval, a monumental painted bronze shire horse and cart laden with giant concrete marrows. Could this sculpture by Sarah Lucas be a 3-D homage to The Haywain, the endless reproduction of which means that it, too, owes as much to English front-parlour ornament as to high art? Lucas’s typically playful challenge epitomizes the movement that has dominated the contemporary art scene for the last 20 years.Young British Artists or YBAs (to lean on the glib collective noun they came to be known by) were originally a loose group of friends who emerged mainly from London art schools with no common artistic style. Freeze, the 1988 show orchestrated by Damien Hirst, featuring work by 16 Goldsmiths College students and recent graduates (including SNAP artists Sarah Lucas, Abigail Lane and Gary Hume), kick-started the new order.

Michael Craig-Martin, artist and Goldsmiths tutor, considered Freeze a show of such interest that he encouraged Norman Rosenthal of the Royal Academy and the Tate’s Nicholas Serota to see it; Charles Saatchi bought a piece by Mat Collishaw and went on to acquire work by many SNAP artists. But by the time the establishment had cottoned on to this conceptual renaissance, the Goldsmiths gang and their contemporaries had already become, by design or default, supreme self-promoters. Because of the YBAs’ ties to each other, their instinct for bravado in life and art, and, in many cases, the impulse to comment on their personal experience through their output, their working and social lives seemed intertwined to point of symbiosis. As careers blossomed, drinks were taken and dramas unfolded, Johnnie Shand Kydd, an emerging photographer who’d previously worked at the Fine Art Society, began to hang out with the group, building a portfolio from their high jinks in the process.

If this energetic bunch shared an ethos beyond the compulsion to bring fresh art to the fore without pomp or ceremony, it was for an ad hoc, DIY approach to staging exhibitions, previously the reserve of the academic curator. Myriad shows, in high-rise flats, disused warehouses, even nightclubs, relied on word of mouth, reminiscent of the raves of the time. Much of the art had a similar quality. It was immediate, obsolescent, throwaway. Like hastily scrawled graffiti, it relayed an instant message that had apparently been forgotten by the so-called cognoscenti: art, however serious its deeper intentions may be, must first entertain. Most of what one saw at the time had a truly comic element, and SNAP delivers a similar sense of fun. Callow youth may be a distant dream for these YBAs, but their attitude and approach to exhibiting work is as down to earth as ever. Abigail Lane, who moved to Suffolk in 2008 in the wake of her occasional collaborator, Sarah Lucas, has organized SNAP in the original spirit of Freeze: decide what you want to achieve and what means you have at your disposal, then do it. SNAP is a group show only in the sense that its common thread is an association with Suffolk or Norfolk. E

very SNAP artist was born, lives and/or works here; some have been inspired by its landscape or local history. In many cases the artists know one other. Sarah Lucas and her dealer Sadie Coles alighted upon Suffolk ten years ago when they noticed that a farmhouse near Eye, which had once belonged to Britten (whose music was a new interest for Lucas at the time) and Pears, was up for sale. Here, as Suffolk slowly became her home and centre of artistic operations, Lucas made contacts and connections by bush telegraph and her local pub, the Low House at Laxfield. Here she met artists including Mark Fuller, who had studied at the Royal College of Art with her friend and sometime collaborator Don Brown.

In 2004 Lucas shared the Sculpture Lawn at Snape with Damien Hirst and Angus Fairhurst. Then in 2009 came Perceval.When observations about how many artists were drawn to the area and the cross-overs of connection between them could no longer be left hanging, and after a conversation with Michael Craig-Martin, Jonathan Reekie discussed the idea of a group show with Sarah Lucas and Sadie Coles, who swiftly suggested bringing Abigail Lane on board. Aside from the sculpture lawns, the setting for SNAP is the antithesis of the urban white cube. At Snape Maltings the walls are mostly exposed brick. Use must be made of foyers, concert halls, ceilings, problematic spaces and disused outbuildings, giving rise to some interesting artistic solutions. Some exhibits physically connect with the Festival’s musical output. In A Part of a Speech Darren Almond has taken two emotive lines by Joseph Brodsky, who was sentenced to five years in the Arctic region of Arkangelsk for writing poetry. Each plaque carries a line and will be displayed on opposite walls of the main concert hall (see above). It acknowledges the audience-viewer’s physical presence, their role in generating the ‘echo’ in the text, the other the live, visual aspect of the performance.

Russell Haswell, who once worked as the Chapman Brothers’ studio assistant, is a multidisciplinary artist who works with sound and is keen to infiltrate the tannoy system. Other artists will consider the landscape, geography and history of the area. Juergen Teller, better known as a fashion and portrait photographer, spends most of his spare time with his wife, Sadie Coles, and children at their Suffolk house.The book he’s made for the show – copies of which will be given away rather than sold to the public – incorporates portraits and Suffolk landscapes that he shot as he walked and grew familiar with his surroundings (he even shot the present Vivienne Westwood campaign here). The rest take no heed of their environment, aside from the exhibition space itself. Abigail Lane’s film, Forever Always Somewhere, the dancing bones of a human skeleton, in a pigeon infested outbuilding, was made with the help of Dominic Young (sound-track) and animator Oleg Veronka. The other derelict building, open to the elements and, like a film set, graced with a wrecked car, will house photographic posters of children by Johnnie Shand Kydd, who was partly brought up in Suffolk. He’s exasperated by the illogical notion that children as subjects must be either mawkish or predatory; the images also remind us of Britten’s involvement with young people through his music and educational projects.

Don Brown and Simon Liddiment met on a foundation course at Great Yarmouth before Liddiment attended Goldsmiths and Brown the Royal College of Art. Both returned to East Anglia to live and work: Liddiment to Norfolk where he has made and shown cut plywood landscapes of ploughed fields and conventional landscape paintings; Brown to the quietude of Suffolk. His studies of his wife Yoko (his most enduring subject) are redolent of classical statuary. Pared down, perfectly finished pieces may start life in Gary Hume’s Suffolk sculpture studio but his whereabouts rarely affect his product. His full-size multi-limbed maquette of a bronze in the making, Liberty Grip, is on the Hepworth Lawn. The inventor of a drawing machine that makes music with maths, Julian Simmons has also been collaborating with Sarah Lucas since 2009. Photographs of him struggling with various unlikely burdens during their recent trip to New Zealand have a biblical air due to subject and setting. Lucas’s rag-doll mobile in the Hoffmann Foyer illustrates her interest in sexual stereotypes and taboos.

Mark Fuller returned to Suffolk after 20 years in Whitstable. His work is science fiction-inspired sculpture and performance.Two solar sculptures capped with ironwork will use the sun to cast shadows over their white surfaces; his half-beard (leaving one side of his face cleanshaven) will be the subject of a competition – guess its length by Midsummer’s Day and win a sculpture – and Walking on the Moon will be an ongoing performance during the opening day of SNAP. There’s a cheerfully haphazard quality at work here. Artists of repute such as Cerith Wyn Evans trickled in to the show without fanfare; many agreed having little or no idea of what to contribute. Lane sees herself not as a curator, but as a busybody with a vision of how things should be, even arranging for a box-set of prints, one by each artist, to be sold in an edition of 50, with the artists generously donating their royalties towards more contemporary art events here in the future. In place of the usual invitation cards there is a flyer and, rather than champagne, Suffolk cider will be drunk on the opening day.

A private view was out of the question: everyone is welcome on the open day. Dispensing with the usual gloss and glamour, SNAP brings the art of town to the country, discovering in the process that what is made here is far from safe, quaint or parochial. Sherlock Holmes mused on a train journey through the countryside, there’s more going on behind the facades of these dear little homesteads than can be imagined in the darkest alleys of the metropolis (‘The Copper Beeches’ from The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes, 1892).