Open Open 2017 Exhibition Review

A review of this year's Open Open exhibition from Camden resident and fresh Media & Communications graduate Hattie Upton-Dance


Image credit: Hattie Upton Dance
(c) Hattie Upton-Dance

2017 marks another successful year for the Open Open exhibition in Camden. An exhibition where art pieces from local artists are displayed to local people, a community event exhibiting and celebrating extraordinary talent in our borough. I went along to view the drawings, collages, pottery, paintings and photographs that fill the walls of the Swiss Cottage Gallery this summer.

At first glance the diverse collection of art is similar to neighbouring exhibitions at the nearby Tate, Saatchi or National Portrait Gallery. However, Open Open is an exhibition with a twist. You wouldn’t know it by the professional quality of the artwork, but Open Open is an open access exhibition, opening its walls to all artists of any background, regardless of history, ability or age.

The open call resulted in ninety, beautifully diverse artworks hanging alongside one another at the exhibition.

Exhibition wall 1
(c) Hattie Upton-Dance

Open Open provides a refreshing and open-minded opportunity for artists and the public alike, a chance for art to be viewed equally without preconceived ideas. It is an exhibition shrouded in mystery; no information is displayed on the walls, describing the history of the piece, the artists inspiration, or even the artist's name. The work itself is given a blank slate. I think that the anonymity of the art makes it accessible to all and sends an encouraging message that anyone can be involved in the art world. The character, history and the story of each piece is left to the imagination. However, clues of the artist's journey are present through prompts, for example each frame was provided and handpicked by the artists themselves.

The pieces are placed close together, and the relationship between the art creates even more stories. The first wall is covered in abstract art, showing an unimaginably diverse range of materials, colours and concepts, from a geometric biro drawing on canvas to an expressionistic splash of colours. The second wall exhibits art that recounts location, from a painting of a man contemplating by the side of Camden Lock to a collage of a city skyline. And the third wall is a collection of portraits, portraying all walks of life; nude studies, old photographs, abstract and realistic paintings combine to define this wall of faces.

Exhibition wall 2
(c) Hattie Upton-Dance

Looking at the diversity of artwork it is easy to image the group of artists, equally diverse, with unique stories to tell. As a result, I visited the Love Camden website to find out more about the origin of the artwork, where I was able to watch a series of short films, spotlighting the artists. The films confirmed my impression of the artists, they are all ordinary people, like you and I, members of our community, diverse in their experiences, heritage, and artistic expression. As a young resident of Camden, I feel like this exhibition represents the heritage of the borough; inclusivity, diversity and community is celebrated.

On the 2nd September the Open Open Speaker’s Corner event invites all exhibiting artists to give a presentation sharing their stories - all are welcome.

Click here for an overview of our gallery programme and archive!

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