We speak to one of the curators of Mayfair's Sumarria Lunn Gallery ahead of their new exhibition opening
“Curating an exhibition about frustration has become ever more timely” says Will Lunn, who forms one half of the Sumarria Lunn Gallery partnership with Vishal Sumarria, both of whom are behind the show Modern Frustrations which opens next month. “But of course there was no way of knowing that it would follow news of yet another impending economic slump and country wide rioting and looting.” Gloomy context aside, it’s the unresolved stresses we face daily that have driven the four artists Tim Phillips, Ross Jones, Littlewhitehead and Blue Curry to respond. Through drawing, sculpture and instillation they explore frustrations as weighty as power distribution and information overload.
Dazed Digital: What motivated you to curate this exhibition?
Will Lunn: Frustration. It might sound like a joke but that was what initially motivated me. The root of the show concept has been at the back of my mind turning over in one form or another for some time. I find frustration oddly intriguing, not to mention relevant personally. I have had this feeling of frustration my whole life. It’s what drives me forward but it is also rather difficult to manage at times and increasingly difficult to resolve – constantly trying to drive things forward only to never be entirely satisfied is of course rather unhealthy at some level but I am sure there are plenty of people who can empathise.
While my personal experience is what turned my attention to this area, Vishal and I have developed the concept for the final exhibition as a broader consideration of frustration in modern life with a focus on those frustrations that do not drive us forward since they have no obvious resolution.
While the exhibition is very much about ‘now’ in some respects it also touches on more longstanding concerns. For example Tim Phillips’ sculptures draw more heavily on contemporary sources for this exhibition but his broader practice focuses on the longstanding complexities of the relationship between power and visual language.
DD: What is the purpose of the exhibition? Is it meant to criticise? Or offer any solutions?
Will Lunn:It is not specifically about being critical or about offering solutions. Frustration is fascinating – its causes, its effects, its peculiarities. This is what we are trying to present. We hope that the initial accessibility of Modern Frustrations (as concept that everyone can relate to) will allow people a way into the more complex ideas that the artists engage with and open up some further consideration and debate.
When talking about power, control and the media in this context it is hard not to paint a picture of yourself with a T-shirt inscribed ‘Rip the System’ (or something equally crass) but this kind of crazed conspiracy theorising is in fact what we want to avoid.
DD: How did you go about selecting each artist? How do they work alongside each other?
Will Lunn:The exhibition is faceted by each artist’s individual focus but they are united not only by the theme but by the crossing over and interlacing of ideas. As such we could theoretically have expanded the exhibition to include more artists covering different areas but we wanted to maintain a focus. We were consciously aware of presenting a range of responses to the theme that are discrete but interrelate and that draw on a range of aesthetics and media.
Beyond the response to the idea of ‘Modern Frustrations’ and all which that evokes, there are subtle connections between the apparently discrete concerns of each work. To site one example, Ross Jones interest in media bombardment and littlewhitehead’s interest in our fear of the invisible threat both relate to Tim Philips’ concentration on the legitimisation of power. There has been much discussion in the wake of 9/11 on the political use of fear and dissemination of fear through the media. There is no doubt that both fear and the media can have a powerful effect.
DD: You talk about the drawbacks of a society that strives to resolve problems, how do you think this constant need to develop will impact on humanity in the long run?
Will Lunn: While our frustration with problems as a society has driven us to resolve them I would not consider that to necessarily be a drawback in itself. Many of these ‘Modern Frustrations’ are problematic in that they have no obvious resolution and therefore cannot drive us forward. When there is no resolution the frustration remains and it is this that has such a great psychological impact.
DD: What do you want visitors to take from the exhibition?
Will Lunn:There is no nice neat moral message I can give in response to that question. It’s not really that sort of exhibition.