Friday, November 2nd, 2012
As tactileBOSCH Gallery & Studios prepares to leave the premises it has occupied for the last twelve years, Curator Neil Jefferies attempts to capture what made it so special.
Dive into an exhibition at tactileBOSCH Gallery & Studios and you become aware, almost instantly, of the two fundamental characteristics that have come to define the gallery’s programme over the last twelve years. The first of these is the venue itself and how it is, in its state of disrepair, bursting with visual stimuli begging for your attention. Sitting at the edge of a small industrial estate, this vast redbrick, slate roofed building has stood facing the river Taff for over two hundred years and has, at one time or another, housed a laundry house, a glass blowing workshop, a screen printers and a contemporary art gallery. Its moisture-discoloured bricks are marked by a countless number of stains of an indiscernible origin. Large, cracked skylights allow huge swathes of natural light to penetrate the dusty interiors. Hidden crevices and corners host the lingering traces of subtle interventions that have outlived the exhibition they were a part of. In addition to this, each of the three main rooms has its own distinct set of visual traits. The top floor is a bright and airy gangway, flanked by vertical struts that support a peaked roof. The cubic central room has a particularly tall ceiling, its height emphasised by the canopy of interlocking beams, each a palimpsest of flaking layers of white paint, balanced above the viewer’s head. The back corridor has a rough concrete floor and crumbling redbrick walls that make it the most reminiscent of the aesthetic of the building’s previous incarnation as an industrial space.
Alongside these three main areas, there are numerous other smaller, sometimes partly hidden, studio spaces and storage rooms that are often pressed into service as exhibition or performance spaces.
The second of these characteristics is that during an exhibition, each of these rooms is bursting with artworks of various media and sizes: video work, projected onto the enormous walls and ceilings; sound pieces and musicians fill the space and intermingle with the noises emanating from the neighbouring workshops; drawn, painted, and sculpted interventions are imprinted onto the fabric of the building itself; performances happen on the unused floor space between the static objects. Nowhere is left unused; every talented and enthusiastic young artist that could be accommodated has been.
Consequently, each exhibition contains an almost confrontational contrast between the diversity and visual abundance of the exhibited artworks and that of the context they inhabit, meaning that as you move from room to room your attention continually oscillates between the two. This unruly and energetic visual richness has subsequently become inherently bound to peoples’ understanding of tactileBOSCH. It’s also how the gallery reflects the artistic mentality of the key driving force that has been behind it from inception through to [blowback], the final exhibition in this special building. This driving force is the artist Kim Fielding who, in 2000, along with recent graduate Simon Mitchell, acquired the building to use as a studio space. Fielding has often received considerable amounts of curatorial and administrative assistance from other Cardiff based artists such as, Sam Aldridge, Jan Bennett, Andrew Cooper, Chris Evans, Geraint Evans, Richard Higlett, Tiff Oben, Jason Pinder, Robert Trigg, and me, as well as from collaborators abroad such as Tereza Arruda and Ivy Brown. Yet, it has always been predominantly his project, his occupation, his hobby, his love child, meaning that it has always been unmistakably impressed with his artistic approach and personality.
Both Fielding’s personality and artistic practice have always veered towards chaotic and intuitive subjectivity and away from the rigours of carefully measured and logically ordered plans and strategies. Consequently, tactileBOSCH’s program reflects this by shunning the urge to create neat and precise exhibitions around the work of a few key artists and a clear curatorial point of cohesion. Instead, it embraces the bulk and diversity of current artistic production. Each exhibition could be understood as simply a convergence, or capturing, of all of the interesting and worthwhile artwork that has caught Fielding’s attention at that point in time. Alongside this, in its unabashed embrace of this particular building and its shabby condition, the exhibitions reflect Fielding’s preference for the dark, dramatic, and mysterious undercurrents that permeate the Welsh romantic tradition over the cleared neutrality of the white wall space that is deployed by most galleries. Through this approach, he has, over a decade, fashioned exhibitions that, while unorthodox and somewhat rough around the edges, radiate an exciting and infectious vigour.
It’s certainly a shame that the Victorian era building that the gallery has occupied for so long is to be turned to rubble at the end of the year, however, as long as Fielding is still going, tactileBOSCH, in some form or another, will undoubtedly keep going too. Something that is important as it has become a conduit for meetings; an affordable studio space; a venue offering unbridled parties during pessimistic times of dwindling cultural funding and a place in which a huge amount of young artists received their first exhibition opportunities.