New touring exhibition Tainted Love positions itself somewhere between group show and group therapy. Twelve artists have produced work with the theme of obsessive, one-sided love. At least they will now have company.
“We’ve transformed the gallery with these partitions,” says artist and curator Corinna Spencer, speaking on the phone midway through the installation at Transition Gallery.
“So everyone’s got their own dedicated space to make their shrine. It isn’t a white box space. We’ve filled it with plywood. Loads of plywood.”
It is an ambitious project for a first time curator, especially given the touring element. After a stint in London the show moves on to Meter Room (Coventry) and Down Stairs gallery at Brampton House (Herefordshire).
“That is amazing,” says Spencer excitedly. “Because it’s an old mansion which is now a really gorgeous hotel and it’s in amazing grounds, so that will be quite an event”.
Obsessional love can take many forms and the show reflects that. Notes Spencer: “It goes from really simple small paintings by me and Annabel [Dover] to people who have installed work and completely filled the space. That was the range I wanted to go for, from really intense to really delicate.”
Visitors can also expect a range of detachment in treating attachment. “Quite a few people have gone for quite personal stories,” adds Spencer, “but other people have taken themselves out of it, like I have, and talked about someone else’s obsession”.
One of the more remarkable things about the show in east London is that what brought the participants together was not so much geography as virtual proximity in social networks like Facebook and Twitter.
“Three of the artists I didn’t know personally, so I was really, really chuffed when they said yes. I sent them an email saying ‘Will you be in my show?’” laughs Spencer. “They sent back emails saying ‘Yes, of course‘.”
This will not surprise anyone who has come across the affable artist and Twitter user online: “Several people I only met through social networking. I found out about their shows through the network and that’s how I met them.”
Nevertheless, Tainted Love is also reaching out to people in real life. Spencer hopes to engage art-loving teenagers and hopes to work with local schools during the Coventry leg of the show.
“The show in general is quite relevant to the allure of celebrity and that kind of thing is relevant at the moment,” she comments.
“Certainly teenagers will know about becoming an obsessional superfan of something or someone. I think a lot of people have been through that.”
Her own work is in the show and it was a series inspired by 2007 film The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford which gave rise to the new show’s theme.
“That particular film I really loved and got really drawn into the relation between Jesse and Robert,” says Spencer. “Because it was kind of a love story and it turned really quite horrible.”
She recaps the tale of youthful idolatry and eventual murder and points out: “I thought that was a great starting point for paintings about that kind of obsession.”
Narrative and worship are two aspects to which Spencer’s intimate, icon-like works on postcards are ideally suited. And she tells me there are distinct advantages to making art on such a modest scale.
“Sometimes lo-fi stuff is more immediate because you can get it out there quicker and sometimes that’s a bit more interesting,” she notes. Remarkable what you can do with some plywood and a Twitter account.
Along with Spencer and Dover, the full list of Tainted Love contributors includes Alice Anderson, Kirsty Buchanan, Georgie Flood, Andrea Hannon, Paul Kindersley, Hayley Lock, Cathy Lomax, Alli Sharma, Mark Scott Wood. and Jessica Voorsanger.
Tainted Love is funded by Arts Council England and can be found at Transition Gallery until May 27. See gallery website for more details.