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29 October 2014

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One of Matthew Wood's oils at the exhibition
Garnished with a Matthew Wood painting

Empty, Swept & Garnished

From 29th July - 13th August there's a rare chance for Shrewsbury visitors to see contemporary art in a contemporary setting. We went along to a very rough and ready Market Hall.

Shrewsbury has two Market Halls and now both are being used as arts venues. Confusing isn't it?

Sue Challis barrel
Sue Challis barrel

Those who regularly buy their fruit, veg and any number of other bits and pieces from the Shrewsbury market might be surprised to discover the true size of the building, which extends well beyond the main food hall. In private ownership, much of this 1960s, town centre structure has lain dormant for years, gathering dust.

Now the dust has been swept away from 512m2 of the second floor and the empty concrete innards provide the backdrop for what promises to be an engaging and fun contemporary art exhibition. The present state of the venue seems to be well summed up by the title, Empty, Swept & Garnished, though it's originally a quote drawn from the Bible (Matthew Ch 12, v 44).

Before the artists arrived this was simply an empty, concrete space (with the occasional hole in the walls and ceiling), and when they leave it will be returned to its dormancy. In the meantime it has become cultural capital, a room awakened from its slumber for an all too short fortnight.

Peering inside Robin Heap and Hugh Sanders's model
Peering inside Heap and Sanders's model

This is as far you can get from the traditional, clean, white space usually associated with art. Here the exhibits interact with the exhibition space, and visitors get a chance to interact with both... often simultaneously.

Shrewsbury-based artist and organiser Rebecca Dearden has gathered together nine artists from Shrewsbury and further afield (as far as Brighton and London) to display a series of contemporary art exhibits - everything from video and audio installations to paintings and models. Whatever the medium, you're encouraged to look up, down, inside and all around you.

Empty, Swept & Garnished
Empty, Swept & Garnished

Many, like Matthew Wood's oils, were created specifically for this exhibition and this venue. Wood more often paints landscapes, based at the Shropshire Hills. However, this series of interiors (often painted where they now hang) is wonderful, if sometimes a little disorientating. Some of his small, frameless canvases hang mid-air and depict exactly what falls into your peripheral vision.

One of the more familiar, local names on offer is Sue Challis, whose rusting steel barrel invites you to peer into its depths. Challis is also exhibiting a number of video and audio installations.

Empty, Swept & Garnished
Empty, Swept & Garnished

The derelict venue feels very casual and if you've ever been put off seeing other art exhibitions because they seem too formal, make sure you visit this one - you'll not only be relaxed, but also intrigued, impressed and entertained.

Empty, Swept & Garnished is at the Market Hall above Blacks outdoor shop in Shrewsbury until 13th August; 10.30am-5.30pm.

Access the exhibition from the market's Claremont Street entrance (at the back of Blacks) and take the stairs or lift to the second floor.

last updated: 30/07/05
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