Fiona Crisp's 'Weighting Time' showing across two venues

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Fiona Crisp's 'Weighting Time' showing across two venues
Belvedere (Mowbray Park) 2023. Digital Print on vinyl banner 400 x 500 cm. Image courtesy of the artist and Matt’s Gallery, London.

SUNDERLAND.- Weighting Time is a survey exhibition currently showing across two venues - Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens and Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art - exploring 30 years of work by British artist Fiona Crisp.

From the subterranean world of dark-matter laboratories to the midnight sun of the Nordic summer, Crisp’s work explores how we might connect to spaces and ideas beyond our own lived experience.

Her practice interrogates the ontology of the photographic image – a branch of metaphysics dealing with the nature of being - to reveal new understandings of our changing relationships to space, place and time. Her work also looks at how our world view is directed and framed through the use of photography.

Across the two venues, Weighting Time reconfigures and recontextualizes elements of Crisp’s large-scale installations from the last three decades, using bespoke seating to encourage viewers into a physical encounter with her powerfully sculptural photographic and film objects.

Included are works made in the Early Christian catacombs of Rome; a Second World War underground military hospital in the Channel Islands, and a Dark Matter Laboratory sited deep underneath the bed of the North Sea. Projects undertaken at these and other sites of historic or scientific significance are brought together with a new large-scale public commission made by Crisp for Sunderland’s Mowbray Park.

Belvedere (Mowbray Park) is a 4m by 5m public artwork on display on the side of Sunderland Museum overlooking Mowbray Park. It is a photographic work made at Lanthwaite Hill in the English Lake District where the artist JMW Turner worked a site purchased by the National Trust in 2019 as the first acquisition made by the charity specifically for a view.

Weighting Time at Sunderland Museum opened on April 1 and explores Crisp’s long-term engagement with the construction and framing of a ‘view’ in visual as well as in political and philosophical terms.

Across her large-scale photographic works, we see Crisp’s preoccupation with thresholds – liminal spaces or states where there is tension between public and private, interior and exterior or light and dark.

In her Still Films series from the 1990s, life-sized figures are suspended in action, caught on the thresholds of buildings; within other projects Crisp uses cars, caravans or architectural models as framing devices to mediate our world view - or view of the world - all the time drawing our attention to the camera’s own ‘act of looking’.

By contrast, Weighting Time at Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art, which opened on May 6, brings together several bodies of work created by Crisp within enclosed, hermetic or subterranean spaces.

This collection of still and moving image work made in mines, theatres, laboratories and catacombs form a trope of ‘otherworlds’ or ‘underworlds’ that re-order our coordinates of space, place and time.

Both these worlds come together in the film installation Boulby/Hubble where we experience the intense visual and aural phenomenon of a truck travelling through tunnels underneath the bed of the North Sea. Edited together with an animated simulation taken from the Hubble telescope, the film allows us to reverse time-travel as we fly back through the formation of galaxies towards the moment of the Big Bang.

Fiona Crisp’s work is represented by Matt’s Gallery, London and is held in several national collections including Tate Gallery, The Government Art Collection, The Arts Council Collection, The British Council and The National Trust. Previous solo exhibitions have included Material Sight, Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland and Arts Catalyst, London, 2018; Negative Capability: The Stourhead Cycle, Matt’s Gallery, London, 2012; Subterrania BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, Impressions Gallery, Bradford and Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall, 2009/10; Santa Maria, Aspex Gallery, Portsmouth, 2003; and Still Films, Camerawork, London, 1999. Crisp is currently Professor of Contemporary Art at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

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