INTERVIEW: Cover Versions | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Buttress O’Kneel, Audiobok. Sound work

Cover Versions is the latest exhibition curated by artists Graham and Anthony Dolphin. On display at Sunderland’s Abject Gallery from Friday 1st April-Sunday 1st May, the collection presents work from national and international contemporary artists in celebration of the subjective notions of originality, ownership and authenticity.

Cover Versions will feature numerous acclaimed artists, musicians and film-makers in an eclectic mix of styles and skills. Each explores how old materials can be reworked and reclaimed to make new creations. Prominent works include Audiobok by Buttress O’Kneel, a sound work which uses audiobooks as its source, cuts them up and puts them back together to create new narratives. Similarly, People Like Us (UK) [aka, artist Vicki Bennett] is exhibiting her film, The Mirror, which repurposes pre-existing footage to craft audio and video collages with a dark and witty take on popular culture. The film is spliced together with unique, sample-based music. “For me, they are more interesting than the original source.” Graham said about the piece, “By pulling them apart it highlights the oddness and staging of actors reading aloud from now obscured literature.” 

The term Cover Versions is more associated with music, there isn’t really an equivalent in art

Whether the source is image, film, sound or objects, each artist has shifted the ‘original’ to create new meanings and dialogues. It is certainly a concept which the curators, as featured artists themselves, have explored and absorbed since their teenage years. “My brother and I would tape records borrowed from our library and spend hours making covers for them, fastidiously writing down all the names and details from the record covers,” Graham told me. “The tape was only ever a copy but now it was our copy.” 

Anthony spoke about his fascination with films as a child. “I loved the studio portraits of stars and the pristine stills of films. They looked more beautiful and interesting than the real world.” His piece for Cover Versions is a selection of film and pop star studio portraits, torn up and replaced to form a paper collage. “I think my primary attraction to these photos of actors and musicians comes from a kind of fandom and its attendant perversions of adoration and veneration and the fetishistic acts of looking and possessing.” 

The exhibition explores themes of authenticity and fandom in the works of a lot of the artists from a musical perspective. The talents of Andrew Tift, who specialises in realistic drawings and paintings, exhibits three paintings from his Doppelganger Series, in which he has reproduced identically in painting the visual appearance of three record covers, complete with scuffs and marks. In contrast with this, contemporary painter Steve Keene takes an LP cover which is quickly copied and rendered in broad brush strokes. The next is a copy of the one before, a copy of a copy. When seen in series, the familiarity of the original image is changed and reclaimed by the artist. He says of his work: “I want buying my paintings to be like buying a CD: it’s cheap, it’s art, and it changes your life, but the object has no status.”

Graham expands on this theme: “The term Cover Versions is more associated with music, there isn’t really an equivalent in art.” Copying, reusing and reclaiming are common aspects to music creation, and so the exhibition ties this perspective to visual and sound art, allowing each artist to look to old materials for inspiration, allowing greater scope for exploration and experimentation. The exhibition celebrates the idea that reworking objects and materials enables us gain a better understanding of the world around us. 

Cover Versions is exhibited at Abject Gallery at The Athanaeum, Sunderland from Friday 1st April-Sunday 1st May.

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