Ciara Phillips is a former Turner Prize nominee and is presenting prints and paintings at Plymouth Arts Centre. The curator on the guided tour informs us that this is a difficult space to work with. We are all gathered in the cafe area of the arts centre, recently disinvested of its Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation status. Locals and onlookers may of course wonder – why withdraw the cash, there’s a Turner Prize nominee on the walls? The question hangs uncomfortably in the ‘difficult space to work with’. There are few answers on this question at a time when Plymouth has seen it’s largest arts investment from national arts resources since the Kurator.org period (back in 2007). The message back to head office at ACE might be to build upon the current investment and renew resources.
The work on the walls has a formal hang with screen-printing equipment laid out as a kind of reveal. At its best, Phillips’ work tends to make use of the repetition and haphazard bill posting method, often filling the gallery walls. In this case the hang sits in a conventional fashion and it is too easy to contextualise it against Warhol’s screen-prints. While the methods hark back to wilfully off-set screen techniques, the slogans are updated to contemporary slang (‘collabor8’, for example). The injection of Ambition for Excellence money from ACE has naturally upped the game for Plymouth as a cultural destination. The city does have momentum now, that it lacked previously, so it will be interesting to see how this plays through in the coming years in terms of investment.