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Pump House & After Image Launch at Nottingham Contemporary

Article/review for Creative Quarter/Nottingham Contemporary.
Michael Beutler and Yelena Popova spill over the canvas at Nottingham Contemporary.
On loan from his native Berlin, Michael Beutler has brought his first solo show in the UK, though the nature of the project meant his was given a few pairs of helping hands. The exhibition sees arts spaces transformed by into a playground of temporary sculptures, created in collaboration with a team of artist builders. The only club rules in operation during the installation were that Beutler decided what materials were to be scrapped and that he reparied all the tools himself.
Pump House is an exhibition of two parts; phase one was held at Bristol’s Spike Island, which was redeveloped by the same Caruso St John architects behind the Nottingham Contemporary. The two locations were purposefully matched to show how the same exhibition adapts to a new environment, or as the artist himself puts it: ‘to build different objects out of the same bricks.’
Beutler works in situ, building his tactile structures around the gallery space that contains them. For example, in the Spike Island show, there were giant teabag shapes to honour the building’s tea-packing past. In the Contemporary, this is much less literal, but there is something seamless about they way the whole thing has been fitted together; the different sections of the construction form an intuitive new layout, with layers cleverly placed to overlap or leave gaps that create natural viewpoints out through the windows.
Made up mostly of paper, Pump House is industriously engineered. As I worked my way around, it felt comfortingly like being amongst the contents of a school craft cupboard, only with cathedral-esque proportions.
The building process is as much a part of Pump House as the finished article is. Put together using handmade tools, much of the evidence of the installation remains untidied away – gluesticks, sketches, matchstick models and spare paper all remain at the feet of the towers, strewn on surfaces or displayed conveniently on stockroom shelves.
As if part of the toolkit, Beutler himself could be found wandering around on the night, channelling the DIY co-operative spirit of the whole project.
Nottingham based Yelena Popova’s work is divided between Galleries 1 & 2. Stepping out of Beutlers den and into the cool, muted rooms brought quite a sombre mood change.
After Image uses the contexts of Minimalism and Rusian Constructivism to translate histories of materialisation and abstraction into art. In an attempt to get outside of the pretedermined response we have to objects through our social conditions, Popova experiments with ‘painting outside of the frame’ and works in various mediums, from ceramics to video. In a world saturated with images, you are made to pick out the more subtle sensory components of her work; the deliberate placement of pieces on the walls and faintness of the colour palette.
Pump House and After Image run at Nottingham Contemporary until 25th September from 10am – 6pm, Tuesday – Saturday.

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