Paul Benney ‘Grenfel Tower (the sleep of reason)’ 2017

Lesley Hale, who is involved with the project to invest in community housing in the building that is being used for this show, had the very bright idea of suggesting it to Joseph Clarke of Anima Mundi. He has taken the opportunity to show 19 of his stable of artists in this alternative place, a dilapidated building.
Lesley has largely been left with the unpaid invigilation, in the hopes of raising interest and funds for the housing project.
There was a black and white film showing by Mark Jenkin called Bronco’s House. Unfortunately, the duration was not printed on the catalogue list, which was hard to read its pale, grey, tiny font in dim lighting. Other visitors told me the film was made in the same style as Jenkin’s recently acclaimed Bait. It was rather slow moving and brooding, but conveyed a compelling atmosphere of probable tragedy as a pregnant woman and her partner sought to reclaim a stone–built house somewhere near Newlyn. I left before the end, later finding out that it ran for 44 minutes.
A hole in the shutters revealed a surprising view of Smeaton’s Pier. I thought it was a pity this experience was not consciously incorporated into the show, but maybe most people saw it. It made me think how lovely it might be to live in the building once it is renovated and available as affordable housing.
The 19 artists had not in fact responded to the space or to the housing issue, but the curator had chosen to exhibit works that fitted some possibly political or social agenda, to some extent.
The most starkly current was a large painting by Paul Benney, Grenfell Tower (the sleep of reason), which was said to incorporate ash from the tragic fire that destroyed the block of flats (due to it being clad with highly flammable material). This painting was lit from the floor and looked dramatic and moving.
Equally dramatic was Tim Shaw’s Parliament, which was a room full of ragged, threatening looking rooks, plumage fluttering in the breeze from an open window, with a chattering soundtrack. An obvious satirical swipe.
Carlos Zapata had a sad tall wooden figure holding a tiny piece of inhabited land in his hand. It was made more effective by being shown in a small dimly lit room, all the more poignant.
Then there was a surprising embroidered banner, gorgeously colourful and criss-crossed with political remarks such as, ‘It’s been ingrained into my very being that the Tories are the embodiment of pure human evil.’ The artist was Henry Hussey, whose solo show at Anima Mundi was about to open. St. Ives is used to good taste and seascapes, so this show was a delight.
Anima Mundi is the sort of expensive gallery that can intimidate people who don’t feel part of the art world, but by crossing the road and being alternative I think Joseph Clarke is to be congratulated on creating a way in for those who dare to enter for an art adventure that will make them think.

Mary Fletcher

Volume 34 no 3 January – February 2020 p 23

Anima Mundi at the buildings opposite their gallery in Street an Pol, October – mid November, Tues to Sat, 11-4 daily, free admission

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