A Tale of Two Galleries

Arts Ambassador Molly Ellis shares her experience of attending two contrasting art exhibition launches in one week. Private views of Resist: be modern (again) at John Hansard Gallery (JHG) and Banana Split at the Alfred Arcade.

In my time as an Arts Ambassador I’ve come to find that Southampton is such a hub of arts and creative activity but sometimes it’s easy to forget (or not know about!) what’s beyond the surface. There’s a whole host of different venues and experiences around the city just waiting to be discovered!

To beat the exam blues of the past few weeks I took a trip to the opening events of two different art exhibitions in two very different locations in the city: Resist: be modern again at JHG and Banana Split organised by ‘a space arts’ at the Alfred Arcade.

JHG, part of University of Southampton, sits in the heart of Southampton’s Cultural Quarter at Studio 144. I’ve regularly passed this arts complex – which includes Nuffield Southampton Theatres and City Eye that opened in 2018 – on my way to the city. I’m ashamed to say that it’s only in the last few months that I’ve become a regular visitor.

Resist: be modern (again) exhibition
John Hansard Gallery

My trip to JHG this time was for the preview of Resist: be modern again and it was great to see the venue so busy! The exhibit explores and celebrates pioneering women throughout history in contemporary art and my eyes were instantly drawn to a huge network of historical female artists and pioneers situated on a huge wall as you entered the gallery. Although the exhibit dealt with history it felt so poignant and relevant; this wasn’t the isolated past but the movement which led to both the art we see and how we live our lives today. It’s exciting that this is all practically on our doorstep at JHG!

Where JHG feels like a ‘traditional’ art gallery experience, Banana Split was located in a comparatively more modest building. The Alfred Arcade, situated on a street of Victorian-esque shopfronts, felt very far removed from the noise and metropolitan bustle around JHG. Perhaps this location best represented the nature of the exhibition, developed by artist-run organisation ‘a space arts’, and the work of ‘The Bananas’: four Southampton based artists producing ‘home grown’ art on themes personal to each of them. Chatting to Mandy Smith (one of the artists/Bananas) she revealed that she recycled a tent as part of her work: the poles used to support her sculptures and the canvas made the bunting outside!

Sculpture by Mandy Smith,
shown at Banana Split, Alfred Arcade

The exhibition itself was situated in a series of small beige rooms. The complete opposite of what you might expect of a pristine modern gallery. This however only added to the authentic and inviting feel: wandering around small unremarkable rooms, each housing a different and exciting artistic presence (with a slice of banana bread in hand!) allowed it all to seem more accessible and inviting.

The striking similarity between both exhibitions was how the space came alive. Both venues were packed out like I’d never seen before and albeit very different in size and feel, both championed art and exciting new work. That’s what art spaces should be like: alive and celebratory!

It’s clear to see there’s a whole host of artistic spaces in Southampton. Sometimes you just have to keep your eyes open and look a little beyond the surface!

Resist: be modern (again) at John Hansard Gallery
25 May 2019 – 17 August 2019

Banana Split exhibition with ‘a space arts’ at Alfred Arcade
31 May 2019 – 2 June 2019

Molly Ellis is an Arts Ambassador and BA Music Student at the University of Southampton

Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.

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Arts at University of Southampton

Whether you’re a student, staff or from our wider community, there are plenty of exciting cultural opportunities for everyone through Arts at University of Southampton.

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