Siete Ciudades De Oro (2015)
Seven Cities Of Gold
Siete Ciudades De Oro, Fred Hubble, 2015
Celebration, Ally Standing, 2015
Mountain Peaks, Fred Hubble, 2014
Seven Cities Of Gold in Stryx for Warwick Bar Summer Fête 2015 by Fred Hubble and Ally Standing, two emerging artists from Birmingham, presents themes of exploration - themes which though differ in setting, have interesting contextual interrelations and parallels.
Fred Hubble’s 2015 piece Siete Ciudades De Oro shows an image taken by the artist in 2014 near to the Grand Canyon, Nevada. The photographic print is mounted at a slightly lower than usual height, seeming to draw the eye to the horizon, pulling you closer to the picturesque landscape before you. A step too close, however, might be a bad idea: leaning on the wall directly below the image is a garden rake, positioned so as to bring to mind a cartoonesque, slapstick blow to the face with the rake’s handle, should a foot be placed too close. This arrangement is not only humorous, but brims with the sense of distance. The literal denial of close access to a certain environment encapsulates ideas which run through much of Fred’s practice - a conceptual romanticism.
The Grand Canyon and surrounding area shown in the piece was, in September 1540, explored by a party of Spanish soldiers, under direction by conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, to find the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. The existence of these magical cities, which were said to have ‘great and limitless riches’, was a myth which during the 16th century, was beginning to be heard in ‘New Spain’ - or as we now know it, Mexico. Look right from the plains and encounter an image from Ally Standing’s Celebration series, in which we see a typical Mexican Fiesta decoration which has worldwide popularity - a piñata. This vibrant, ‘burro’ (donkey) shaped paper construction hangs in contrast to the dark background behind it. The patterned surface has the appearance of some kind of ancient Mayan or Aztec carving, and the piñata an offering waiting to be sacrificed. In Mayan history, the contents of a broken piñata were an offering to the Gods - however, in Mexican Catholic history, the destruction whilst blindfolded symbolised faith in God. This is interesting when you consider the context of the photograph, which was taken in front of a William Mitchell concrete relief under Hockley Flyover, a fine example of Brutalist Birmingham architecture. 2015 sees the demolition of several Brutalist buildings in the city, and the remaining modernist legacy is something Ally explores within much of her work. The other images in the series show five balloons which appear around some of the subways and flyovers which, despite having given the city the ‘concrete jungle’ tag it has fought so hard to shake off in recent years, offer an insight to past visions of the future. The clean lines, planes and spaces of the architecture appear under grime and graffiti, a palimpsest effect which is typical of the postmodern city. The image of the balloons is cheerful and sad in equal measure, and in some of the photographs, they seem to have a life and will of their own: twisting around fixtures, skidding through subways, seeking higher levels.
Mounted on the wall opposite Siete Ciudades De Oro is Mountain Peaks, one of Fred’s pieces from 2014. We see a series of postcards, mounted at varied heights. The piste map mounted next to the postcards gives sense to the ‘mapping’ of the postcards, which, upon closer inspection, turn out to be digitally reproduced elements of map sections. The visible pixels and colour distortion which can be seen on the postcard images provoke thoughts about the relationship between man and the wilderness in the postmodern world. After producing the postcards, Fred posted them to the tourist office of the location shown on the front, with the words ‘Please return.’ in the relevant language. This layered re-appropriation and re-reproduction of a mountainous vista, before a final return to their origin - as a full circle, it could be said - is both poetic and compelling.
As well as the aforementioned works, there are also other interventions within the space. Near to the wall of postcards, a battleship-type game is set up ready to play: another playful reference to the relationship we have with worldly exploration, and plotting points on a map. In the opposite corner, a copy of Moby Dick stands on the floor; a vast sea of concrete between the battleships and the White whale. This great literary example of Romanticism is another hint at Fred’s interests and prompts a certain perception of the work, as well as a nod to the work in the adjoining room by Tadas Stalyga and Matthew Springer. On the windowsill, the balloons from the Celebration series hang, puckered and deflated; a sad yet comical flash of colour which picks up on other points of colour within the space.
The works presented in Seven Cities Of Gold differ in terms of subject and setting, but all deal with a certain environmental exploration. Ally Standing’s dérives through Birmingham’s concrete jungle are far from Fred Hubble’s reflective voyages to the plains of Nevada and the snowcapped peaks of continental mountain ranges, geographically speaking - but further exploration through historical research reveals interesting links between the two artists’ work. Their approach too, is somewhat similar - the recontextualisation and bringing together of disparate elements, in order to set up dialogues, is key to both of their practices. Seven Cities Of Gold is a semi-collaborative presentation of work between two different artist explorers, which is playful and poignant in equal measures.
Writing and Images Courtesy Of The Artists.