The Shock of the Now Issue 61
Featured Exhibition Text
2nd November 2022

Initiated by artists Holly Stevenson and Ingrid Bertham-Moine in response to the deprivation of human connection and the absence of physical art viewing induced by the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns, Hand-Held is, in its essence, an entire exhibition in a box. Inspired in part by South Korean philosopher and cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han’s treatise on the crisis of community ‘The Disappearance of Rituals’, Stevenson and Bertham-Moine have populated the portable gallery space with artworks intentionally activated by physical touch, with the aim to bridge the literal gap between object and observer.

Perusing the assembled artworks feels akin to filming an odd unboxing-meets-ASMR viral video, and the added haptic engagement does indeed imbue the experience with a ritualistic air. Stevenson’s stubby ceramics cradle in one’s palm, their surface cold and smooth, each an allegorical amalgam of the phallic and yonic forms found within Sigmund Freud’s cherished cigar and favoured ovular ashtray. Bertham-Moine’s bodily balloon animal, ‘Triple A’, appears as a pocket-sized pleasure appliance, almost tacky to the touch, rubberised and impersonal, a jumble of genitalia rendered genderless. An antique pair of child’s gloves, madder died and desiccated, become Sharon Kivland’s stiff and spiny ‘raving ones’ that emulate the mythological Maenad women in their state of ecstatic frenzy, ready to uproot entire forests or tear live bull limb from limb to feast upon the raw flesh.

Myth and rumour reappear in Anna Perach‘s two textured textile tondos, each depicting and dispelling an archaic female archetype. Witness the 'osculum infame’ or ‘kiss of shame’, an analingus affectation supposedly employed by witches to summon or greet Satan, and Phyllis humiliating the famed Grecian philosopher Aristotle, a role reversal originally chronicled as a cautionary tale to warn against the seductive female intellect. Elsewhere, the act of touching itself, or of being touched, is investigated. Such as in Emma Cousin‘s pen and watercolour works exploring tactility, sensorial stimulation and the inherent tension therein, or Khaoula Karaweigh’s bedazzled diptych of a physician bearing down upon a patient and, perhaps, that very patient’s open vaginal orifice.

Finally, we find Paul Kindersley’s Raku receptacles, produced in collaboration with celebrated ceramicist Els Bottema. By utilising the traditional Japanese technique - firing at low temperatures before leaving to cool and subsequently submerging in water - the pottery remains semi-porous and blackened by smoke, allowing for the simplest of silhouettes to be scratched into its soft sooty concave.