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an exploded drawing of the letter 'A' depicted as a building

'A Letter of the Alphabet' by Jon Adams was on show as part of 'Hidden Desires of the Unforseen' at the Friends Meeting House

Wendy McGowan-Griffin reviews the work of Sally Booth, Colin Hambrook and Jon Adams

Up-stream is showcasing a wide range of contemporary art by disabled and deaf artists this week as part of Brighton Festival: 24-26 May 2011. Exhibitions feature the work of Gary Thomas, Noemi Lakmaier, Juan DelGado, Freewheelers Theatre Company, Project Artworks, Oska Bright Film Festival, Sally Booth, Charlie Swinbourne, Jon Adams, Deaf Men Dancing and Colin Hambrook.

I took a brief look at the works of three artists on view in just a few of the venues around Brighton:

In Pavilion Gardens I encountered an evolving work called ‘Dysarticulate 2’ by Jon Adams. Jon was inviting people to create an individual flag and place it in the ground, thereby creating a ‘field of flags’. He was luckily on-site and gave an explanation of the intention behind the work and his concern that we seek identity through nationality, and that the flags that represent us can also divide us.

By engaging the public as participants he sought to break down some of these barriers. The ‘flags’ were created with pages torn from random books and wooden sticks. Each participant could choose a page from a pile or to be handed one at random. Most people seemed keen to look for something with which they could identify, a meaningful word, a passage from a book they recognised, or simply a blank page.

One of the reasons that Jon said he chose to break open the books and use their pages is that he wished to break down the power of books themselves to divide us – through non-literacy, different languages and through conditions such as dyslexia. Thus they could be transformed into a universal language that marks the action of individuals through a collective project. The entirety of the flags from this and similar sites will be gathered up to be finally assembled in 2012 for the Cultural Olympiad.

Sally Booth also created a work in the Pavilion Gardens called “Pavilion Drawing Tent”, which is exhibited in the Brighton Dome Foyer. It was constructed of a wooden frame and sheer fabric walls, its roof resembling the onion domes of the Pavilion. Whilst it was initially installed in the gardens Sally stood inside it, looking through the transparent walls to the scenes around the six-sided structure, sketching a panorama onto them.

Although it was an interesting idea to capture the fleeting images of figures sitting, walking and picnicking in the garden, somehow the work had lost its potency when viewed inside the building and away from the site of the drawing process.

On stepping inside, it seemed difficult to sense the presence of the artist or inhabit her sensibilities. The intimation of fleeting images that she could have been captured had disappeared, as we gazed through those that she had. The delicate membrane of the tent walls went some way to suggesting the fragility of time, but this was quickly lost in the fixed light of the Foyer.

In the Dome was an impressive collection of ink drawings and related poems, called 100 Houses, by Colin Hambrook, recently been reproduced as a book. The drawings were created with delicate strokes of the pen and innumerable minute dots, creating half-human forms in strange sky and land scapes.

An alien hybrid world emerged betwixt the benign drawing style of Samuel Palmer’s pastorales and the hellish nightmare images of Bosch summoning many of the horror-filled moments that life, love birth and death might bring but infused with a quiet acceptance.

At My Hotel Sally Booth exhibited Bluecoat Windows, a series of photographs of the shadows created by the magnificent windows at the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool (formerly the Bluecoat School), where I first saw them on show. The scale and beauty of the images is truly stunning.

At the Friends Meeting House, Jon Adams, had created an installation called, 'Hidden Desires of the Unforseen'. Objects were arranged in a room as if they were geological/archaeological finds or anthropological displays, each suggesting intense and private experiences were somehow locked within the objects and traces of activity shown.

There were sound pieces – one made by striking a circle of standing stones, and on the floor lay some part-drilled bones that looked like failed musical instruments. In the centre of the room a large circle of overlapping flash cards with a bowl and other objects in the centre suggested some kind of lost ritual.