Alice Woods’s debut solo exhibition Dead Cat Bounce at Light Eye Mind aims to make a statement. She has turned the white-cube style gallery into a bright environment of primary colours and bold symbols. The walls have been draped with large pieces of PVC which look like they belong in a child’s play tent and the space has been filled with educational guides about the euro, decks of cards and a sequence of shapes (ties, bombs and padlocks), which have all been linked together.
The artist, who is in her final year of study of BA Fine Art at Central St Martins is interested in the importance of being economically aware in contemporary society as well as the beneficial impact that art can have on less affluent parts of the country. The context out of which the artwork has been created can be a little dense and I sent some questions to Alice which she has answered here!
Gallery Girl: Hi Alice! I get the sense that you really want to educate people with your work. Is the use of bright colours and simple shapes a way of simplifying some difficult concepts?
Alice Woods:I think the use of a bright, shiny and quite clean-cut aesthetic is a way of enticing people into the work before they realise what it is about. And once they are in, and immersed, they can start to consider the themes and digest the context of the work, start to unpick it and take from it want they would like. So it is sort of a visual trick to get people engaged!
Are the basic shapes and primary colours a way of emphasising something that should be easily understood by all?
It is not so much about emphasising something that should be easily understood, but rather highlighting that it CAN be understood, and as a public we shouldn’t be afraid of trying to unpick financial and economic systems. I think often such topics are portrayed as opaque and bewildering (and maybe that is the intention of the related institutions), hence it puts people off trying to engage and make sense of it all. For me, art, and cultural practices in general, are a great way to understand complex issues that are so easy to subconsciously ignore.
You are so young and much more economically and politically aware than many students, where did this interest come from?
It really came from my own personal journey. I grew up in North East England, and then at age 13 got a government funded place to a music school in the south, so I became a boarder and moved away from home. This particular transition really opened my eyes to different social demographics as I ended up in a totally alien environment from what I was used to. As a youngster, there was a lot or regeneration going on in the North East and lots of new opportunities particularly in the arts – I became involved in a weekend music school at the Sage Gateshead, and this really highlighted to me the impact that these kinds of programs can have on young people, shaping their lives and futures in such positive ways. When the recession hit it was particularly bad up north, and lots of the regeneration programs literally got stopped in their tracks, and this combined with the rise of the Occupy movement, really solidified my interest in economics and trying to get to grips with the nitty gritty of why things happened they way they did in the crash and the real life effects of monetary and fiscal policy.
Keep Me Warm At Night comprises of the negative space of a tie, bomb, floppy disk and a padlock. The title suggests warmth and protection and the press release describes the piece as a blanket, yet it is full of holes as the shapes are not filled in, what are you trying to imply with these symbols?
I see the symbols as bureaucracy, conflict, data and oppression and they are also the suits I chose in the deck of cards about privatisation I produced for the show. The ‘blanket’ reference is really a bit of a dig at our current economic system. We all operate underneath it and it is beginning to serve the few at the expense of the many. So it has the pretence of safeguarding the masses but everyone is starting to realise that many people have just been left out in the cold.
I absolutely love your PVC panels. Your press release describes these as representing the relationships between interconnected power elites and I was wondering if the fact that they are red and blue means that they symbolise certain political parties or policies?
Yes! I chose red and blue as they are traditionally very political colours. If you looks at political parties, flags, stamps, and other national paraphernalia, not just in England but globally as well, red and blue crop up a lot.
You have stated elsewhere that having grown up in the North East, you are concerned with the way in which art can have on less prosperous areas. Have you, or do you have any plans to use your art to improve these areas?
That is definitely something I am working on, given the thematic context of this work I am hoping to also host a version of it in the North East next year so stay tuned! I am also working on a CSR scheme with O2 Think Bigger and a couple of those events and shows might also be situated up north.
My most important question concerns the title! Why Dead Cat Bounce?!
Dead Cat Bounce is financial slang for a temporary recovery in the markets after a substantial fall, and the title for the show reflects my feelings on the current economic global situation. The saying implies that even a dead cat will bounce if dropped from a great height, and I think perhaps that is where we are now. Even though the UK and the US have made some economic recoveries, the eurozone is still largely in crisis and I don’t think we have dealt with the root cause of the recession, and until we do, another crash is just around the corner and we will be forever trapped in a boom and bust cycle.
Dead Cat Bounce is on display at Light Eye Mind until 29 November
Photo Credit Paul Clarke