Most of us have probably owned – or still own – a bicycle, whether it be for fun, sports, fitness, part of our daily working routine (or even a requirement to work) or simply an alternative means of getting out and about and enjoying the countryside / local sights. We can lavish care and attention on them to keep them in tip-top condition, or we can simply regard them as a utility and replace them when they get too old or break. But are they art?
Well, yes they can be – as the July / August 2018 exhibition at DiXmiX Gallery demonstrates. Entitled Bicycles, it is a slight departure from the more usual run of exhibitions at the gallery, in that it takes up all three halls as a single display of themed art, featuring images by 25 Second Life photographers.
Taking part in the event are: Calypso Applewhyte, Ornella Batriani, Skippy Beresford, Bliss Bookham, Jimmy Boots, A.DeLauren, Mareea Farrasco, Carisa Franizzi, Gaus, Huckleberry Hax, Kimeu Korg, Loverdag, Mich Michabo, Key Monk, Tutsy Navarathna, Mr Noboby, Randonee Noel, Karen Oliven, Anu Papp, Melusina Parkin, Megan Prumier, Grace Rotunno, Dixmix Source, Twain, and Jonda Zabaleta, with each artist submitting one or two images.
The pieces vary in style and presentation. In some, it is not unfair to say that the bicycles might be considered incidental to the overall image; they were simply a part of the landscape or setting when the picture was taken. Equally, some appear to have been use to frame an image intended to convey a broader emotional response than a focus on the bike itself. Then there also those where the bicycle is clearly the intended focus, bit it being ridden, standing on its own, lying broken, or images just in part. Thus, we get to view the bicycle in numerous ways, whether central to an image or not.
Which is to say this is a richly diverse exhibition in which the subject matter is more broadly presented than one might think. All of the images are captivating in one way or another, be it the way in which they are offered, the narrative they encapsulate, the use of colour and tone – or the various combinations of these factors. Presentation is also a significant part of the images and their presentation: the collection of monochrome pictures on the upper level of the Grey Gallery, for example, offers a power contrast to the majority use of colour images through the rest of the exhibition, while the considered placement of Cloudy Day by Gaus and Bicycle 3 by Key Monk also providing a contrasts with their surrounding images, and thus capturing the eye. Meanwhile, the two large format images in the foyer area of the Grey Gallery demonstrate how humble velo can be an icon of pop art.
The emotional content of the images is equally as broad as the colours, tones and subjects offered through the pictures. But there is one emotion often associated with bicycles that within this exhibition is conspicuous by its almost total absence: joy.
Yes, bicycles can be props to frame moods and offer a sense of depth and feeling, be it with someone leaning moodily back against their bike, or walking it gently over terrain unsuitable for riding, or in the sight of a machine lying broken or bent. But bikes are also fun. Riding one can give a wonderful sense of freedom, a liberating sensation of speed and escape. It is for this reason I fairly leapt at Skippy Beresford’s Last Day of School (seen above). Yes, it’s not unfair to say the bicycle is in some ways incidental to the broader idea of escape from the routine a rigours of the school week – but it’s equally fair to say the sense of exuberance and excitement exuded by the picture perfectly encapsulated the sheer sense of joyful freedom a bicycle can offer.
Which is not to detract from any of the other images displayed here; all do have something to say, and all are fine examples of the subject and the artistry of the photographers. Why not take a ride to DiXmiX yourself and have a look?
- DiXmiX Galley (Bay Port, rated: Moderate)