Photos Ben McDade

A Review of Being Present by Mercedes Jaro Paramour

Being Present focuses on four collaborations between artists working with both Bethlem Gallery and Primary, Nottingham.

Most of the communication/making between artists/collaborators during the project was through the virtual, and for most part during Covid lockdowns. Despite this, the exhibition has managed to highlight the individual styles of each artist, as well as there being a concise and complementary nature amongst the pieces of artwork both between the two collaborators as well as the wider group, as if the artists were all working together in a space, yet they have unknowingly managed to achieve this.

We could and should take this as a reminder that even within a society that tells us to prioritise the individual, we have clear commonalities amongst both our immediate communities as well as the wider community. It serves as a reminder that even though at times we feel isolated both in the literal sense as well as mentally, there is community out there. The artists have clearly demonstrated this in works exploring an array of themes, and there was also a reflection of the importance of both positionality and intersectionality and how we may use both to explore themes of identity, memory, gender and history.

To me, the exhibition is an accurate and positive reflection of contemporary ideas of both collaboration and community. Questions around ‘being present’ often come up in our individual lives, so to see artwork in a public space also responding to these themes, shifting the perspective from the individual to a more collective and artistic approach is welcomed. I’m not sure if the decision to work with an arts organisation outside of London was intentional, but either way it was and is appreciated as another way of opening up new, wider and much needed dialogues in the arts.

I left the exhibition feeling so proud of what the artists have achieved as well as getting sense of the clear support that was given by both organisations involved.

Being Present shows at Bethlem Gallery until 13 May 2023. 

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