Aarght for art’s sake

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Aarght!
various artists
The Marmalade GalleryThe Marmalade Gallery pretty much fulfils any expectations that one might have of a small backstreet gallery. Unusual name? Check. Whitewashed walls with the occasional exotic pot plant? Check. Beat music playing softly in the background? Check. Gold painted radiator? Obviously. Okay, so the building isn’t exactly breaking any barriers in art decor, nor is the gallery itself going to leave sufferers of agoraphobia struggling to remain calm but there exists within all of this genuine arty charm. Was it the fact that none of the cafe’s chairs matched and boho-chic is just so appealing? Probably, but the real reason was that the place felt like one of Oxford’s best kept secrets. Adjacent to the gallery is a spacious cafe area, and though the menu seems a little preoccupied with all things marmalade, it appears the perfect place to work, read or just ponder the surrounding art.
The Aarght! Exhibition currently running at the Marmalade celebrates the promotion of the new Arts and Development Company of the same name whose aim it is to promote new artists. It is truly in keeping with the very ethos of the gallery itself. The Marmalade prides itself on two things, namely its close ties with local young artists, and its easygoing attitude towards theme, style and content.
When one first hears of the setup, natural reactions may tend towards snobbery, and to a certain extent they are justfied. Some of the pieces are rather pedestrian. While a few of the exhibits are lacking in real technique, what is even more striking is that they are also limited in focus and disciplined thought. Many will find the idea of separate pieces, with little thematic direction, rather too lax, and in some cases confusing. Conversely, the atmosphere of unrestrained and new ideas will invigorate others. Aarght! is ultmately about the duality of embracing disorder or shying away from it.
One cannot help but admire the courage of both the gallery and Aarght! in supporting these new artists. There is the occasional piece which displays a twinkling of potential, a diamond in the rough. And perhaps this is what makes the Marmalade Gallery, and Aarght! in particular, so appealing. They are willing to offer opportunities, often at little or no expense to themselves, to artists first setting out.
For those willing to drudge past remedial still lives and collages that mimic the texture of Moroccan rugs and to find hidden originality, there awaits the smug sense of satisfaction that can only come from knowing something others do not.ARCHIVE: 0th week MT 2005

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