March 20, 2016 Anna Lowe

People Looking at Art: Bartlett and Marra at Transition Gallery

30/30 Mike Bartlett & Enzo Marra

This week our team visited a new exhibition at Transition Gallery: 30/30 by Mike Bartlett & Enzo Marra. The artists visited exhibitions across London and recorded their observations – the people, galleries and paintings themselves. The results are works which explore the the relationship between artist and audience; viewer and viewed; and how people connect with art.

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Mike Bartlett, The Man in the High Castle and Greeting from Earth, Transition Gallery, 2015, oil on board, 36x28cm.

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Mike Bartlett, Joshua at White Cube, 2015, oil on board, 20 x 15cm.

What we loved

Transition Gallery is tucked away inside a large studio complex beside Hackney’s Regent’s Canal. Given that this part of London is buzzing with creativity, it seems a fitting location for a reflection on the act of visiting a gallery. The show presents images of the private view Instagram ‘gallerinas’, families, couples, lone wanderers and the artists Bartlett and Marra themselves, who paint portraits of each other.

The single room show is a taught, tempting snapshot of the varied responses art provokes. While some subjects stand to face the artist – consciously performing and becoming as much as part of the gallery as the paintings on the walls, others climb, sit, photograph and wander. The exhibition suggests the gallery space is still unclear for many people. What to do and how to act is a lot less easily defined than in a theatre or football stadium. 30/30 depicts varying responses; people lost in what researchers call the ‘curatorial moment’ (when we truly connect with an artwork), as well as those reading the press release while looking, trying to find a way in. (You can read my suggestions about how to visit an art museum HERE).

The Artists

Although sharing the same subject matter, Bartlett and Marra paint in very different styles. Marra restricts his colour to pinks and browns while applying the paint in thick, textured. This brings a sense of movement but also focuses on the gallery as a physical space and the mood it creates. Meanwhile Bartlett’s expressive style and richly coloured works look more at the people occupying the space, their active journey and curiosity.

What SMARTIFY learnt

At SMARTIFY we’re constantly thinking about why people visit museums and what they do when they get there. This exhibition of acutely observed postures and audience behaviours reminded us that the act of seeing is as varied and personal as the act of creating. The respect Bartlett and Marra show for the ‘audience’ as individuals inspires us continue building SMARTIFY as platform that encourages free expression and interaction with art.

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Mike Bartlett, Four Figures RA, Ai Wei Wei, 2016, oil on board, 36x28cm

by Anna Lowe

30/30 is open until 16 April 2016 at Transition Gallery. The Gallery is closed on 25 & 26 March.


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