Chloe Evans || Sean DIssington || October 20th

Friday was the opening night at The Upstairs Gallery at Entrepreneurs where the colourful collaboration of Joyce Iwaszko and Andy Cooke was ready for all to see. There are some people that you clear your diary for, an old friend coming to town, an artist whose work you admire, a speaker on a subject that you’re interested in, DUST was exactly one of those times.

Cooke, one of the three Hustlers Of Culture behind Entrepreneurs, and Iwaszko, one of Airspace’s Artists have joined forces to bring us a contemporary mixed media touring exhibition inspired by Stoke-On-Trents City of Culture 2021 Bid. One of the pieces being exhibited was featured in the Airspace Gallery’s Misaligned exhibition and the work surrounding it followed the high-set bar that Iwaszko had put for herself and Cooke, the colour scheme ranging from a deep Russet through to Aquatic Blue and Green have meaning to the artists, reminiscent of Jasper ware and the waterways of the city and is followed through onto the rest of the work.

One of the unique parts of this exhibition had to be the collaboration, Cooke’s expert knowledge in street culture and Iwaszko’s contemporary fine art twists came together to create something extraordinary that had the whole gallery buzzing. The works success really came from the uniting of two artists and their difference in specialisms and how you can see the influence each has had on the work. One that stood out the most to me was a large card drop with splashes of coloured dust thrown onto the cream canvas that they had set for themselves, a small lip at the bottom curved delicately onto the floor and gathered the excess that hadn’t clung to the hanging and formed an exquisite runway of colour, forming a pattern similar to that of what you’d find on the edging of a riverbank that has slowly been dried by the summers sun. This piece reminded me of the work of Cy Twombly’s four piece painting collection ‘Quattro Stagioni’, but instead of capturing the seasons they are capturing the regeneration of our city, using dust to represent the old and the colour scheme to represent the new.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was enclosed in a glass case, four piles of coloured dust standing on small white square platforms and one platform with two small vials placed carefully on top. When examining this piece I felt that there was a deep meaning behind the arrangement. Vials are usually the containers for a substance that needs to be carefully stored and kept intact; I feel that the use of these containers is a metaphor for how our city has been confined to a way of working and thinking that we are now breaking free from. The coloured dust again is a symbol for our history, and how we are rewriting a more colourful and prosperous future, with the dust being out of the vials and placed separately on their own platform it almost gives you the idea that they could be monuments of the art and culture of our city and how breaking away from the vial, or the restrains that we have placed on our city, we will become more vibrant and proud of what we have and can achieve.

Looking over the glass case display is an arrangement of canvasses that really gave us the street twist that the Upstairs Gallery never fails to deliver with a bolder black background and even bolder stencil style letters that really gave the whole exhibition a real edge. The response from those who came to visit the show was extraordinary and broke the norm of quiet galleries and made the whole room feel electric, the engagement with the art and the ideas that rose from the people that I spoke to showed how exhibitions like DUST are making such a difference in our community and making people see what we can do when we team together.