THERE are paintings on the walls of the Site Gallery - a rare sight at the venue with an international reputation for photographic and digital images.
The immediate reason is that it is co-hosting with nearby S1 Artspace the prestigious Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2011 exhibition which comprises work by 40 emerging artists from around the UK across a range of media.
New Contemporaries is an important and highly regarded annual initiative that gives art students and recent graduates a boost at a crucial stage in their development and offers the viewer a rare opportunity to spot the next trends in contemporary art.
Among the 40 exhibitors selected from more than 4,000 nationwide is a Sheffield artist, Sarah Brown, who grew up on the Manor and is a recent graduate from Sheffield Hallam.
Her pencil drawings of doors and cupboards convey “a sense of anxiety and uncertainty in mundane life,“ commented the judges, and “beg the question: how much is real and how much is imagined”.
The artist herself conceded: “Not the most exciting of subjects, perhaps - but there’s hidden meaning in the sketches.
“They’re inspired by Alfred Hitchcock film, The Birds, or stuff like The Shining,” said the former Myrtle Springs School pupil. “I wanted to create a feeling where you start to wonder what’s behind the door, like what’s hiding round the corner, what’s waiting for you?”
The New Contemporaries show was last in Sheffield in 1993 - two years before S1 Artspace was founded. “It’s very exciting thsat the exhibition is returning to Sheffield after almost 20 years,” said Louise Hutchinson, artistic director of S1. “Having the opportunity to host such a significant exhibition for emerging artists in S1’s newly opened studios and gallery space is fantastic.”
The director of Site, Laura Sillars, said: “At this point in time as art schools and artists are under increasing pressure we are delighted to be part of the creative team bringing this important show to Sheffield.”
Site has just celebrated its 30th year and has shifted its emphasis from media-specific work to working across diverse platforms, being in the vanguard of new technological advances, particularly in the digital field.
Since the arrival of Sillars there has been a move to widen its artistic scope and accommodating New Contemporaries is a sign of that.
Pulp frontman, award-winning radio DJ and inveterate champion of his home city, Jarvis Cocker is a patron of Site and turned up for the launch of New Contemporaries. He said: “I’ve noticed over the last few years it seems to have stepped up a gear. I think the New Contemporaries is part of Site establishing its own personality.”
He admitted that as a student at St Martin’s in London he was not aware of the New Contemporaries opportunity. “But then I was probably doing other things.”
Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2011 is on show at S1 Artspace and Site Gallery until November 5. On Friday at the Library Theatre, Surrey Street, there will be a symposium bringing together past and present Bloomberg New Contemporaries artists and selectors to discuss the broad themes and concerns coming through this year’s exhibition and their personal practices.
Sheffield-based artist and former selector Julie Westerman will be in the chair and the panel will include Bloomberg New Contemporaries Chair Sacha Craddock, Sheffield based artists and New Contemporaries almuni Haroon Mirza and Paul Morrison and one of this year’s exhibiting artists, Yelena Popova.