Contemporary Annual by Gordon Dalton

Contemporary Annual by Gordon Dalton
Feb 2006, p.100. 50 International Emerging Artists.

ISBN 0-9546732-6-3

In the hustle and bustle of the quick-fire contemporary art world, consistency and durability are not the sexiest of buzzwords. Anthony Shapland is a consistent and durable presence in Cardiff and beyond, showing an admirable bloody-mindedness in his multiple roles as curator, gallery owner and, most importantly, as an artist. This juggling of roles could lead to a drop in quality. However, over the past year Shapland has increased his output on all fronts with confident results.
The majority of Shapland’s work exists in transitory moments, most notably between the change from day into night and vice versa. Rise (2003) charts these moments in the wait for a street lamp to flicker into action. While initially bland, the expectancy becomes tense until an initial spark flickers before giving way to an almost celebratory orange glow.

Shapland works with the thresholds of blandness and boredom. These are played out in times and spaces that are generally considered invisible or overlooked. He uses this to his advantage, playing on the expectations of his audience. The lack of apparent action forces the viewer to counter this stillness, adding their own layer of narrative. In Nightworkers (2005) we watch as night porters, nurses and other people who work the night shift sleep through the day; Spectate (2004) shows a darkened cinema’s audience uncomfortably waiting for the film to start.

When any minor action does occur, it is amplified by the preceding expectant wait or is shockingly brutal in its directness. Nocturne (2005) is a document of the early hours after the clubs have closed, in what could be any UK city. A fixed hidden camera reveals sexual encounters, arguing couples, pissing and violence, before the seagulls and a road sweeper come by to wipe away the detritus until it all starts again the next night. A second screen transcribes the action with subtitles. Through the editing, Shapland turns this footage into drama, identifying a lead protagonist, who begins and ends each scene as they enter and leave the frame. These same events are destined to keep on repeating, night after night, turning the activities into a soap opera that never fails to keep your attention through its banality and bluntness.

Shapland has shown steadily in the UK for the past few years in artist-led initiatives and consistently larger group shows in Leeds, London, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Cardiff. He has also been making international inroads in Canada, France, Germany, Lithuania, and the Czech Republic. Through his constant and durable approach to making work, he has now reached an encouraging and exciting stage of his career. I nominated Shapland for this annual simply because Nocturne is my favourite work from 2005. Shown alongside Rise, it was simple, direct and brutal. The sun goes up, the sun goes down, people get up, and people fall down.