Reading seems to be revelling in its year of culture. The town is overflowing with art and culture at the moment, with heritage open days in full swing this week and the new Artangel exhibition at the old prison building.
Adeliza, Rosemary and I met up at Blake’s Lock yesterday afternoon where we marvelled at the variety of work on show at the current exhibition there (a multi-artist show for RG Spaces that focuses on Reading and its rivers and is part of the Heritage Open Days scheme). The exhibition almost suffers from too much variety – cute painted puppies jostle with intriguing microscopic river creatures, printed large on a fabric hanging; solid graphite weir-water hangs in opposition to a sunny scene of leisure boaters; broad strokes and fine pen work sit alongside embroidered panels and stained glasswork; gloriously complex textile art and collage counter bold linocuts.
Rosemary suggested that we head over to the now defunct Reading Gaol to see Artangel’s Inside. With big name artists and a sombre flavour (not to mention a large dash of Oscar Wilde in serious mode), this was an entirely different show. All three of us found the setting disturbing. The artwork – a mixture of painting and other 2d work, installation and writing – had evidently been chosen to reflect the dual themes of incarceration and alternative sexuality, albeit with variable success (this Guardian article summarises the hits and misses far better than I could). Much of the artwork was ensconced in the cells, often one painting at a time. It was an unusual way to encounter art.
It was a relief (no doubt shared by many others in the past) to leave the prison buildings, but the exhibition had weight and was very moving.
RG Spaces / Reading and its Rivers is on at the Turbine House, Blake’s Lock, Reading until Sunday 11 September and is free to visit.
Artangel / Inside is on at HMP Reading until Sunday 30 October, £9/£7 admission
Artikinesis at Blake’s Lock is on at the Turbine House, Blake’s Lock, Reading from Saturday 17 September until Saturday 1 October and is free to visit.


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