A collection of designers in Bristol and the Bristol School of Art, Media and Design launch an exhibition this week that they hope will be the precursor to a fully-fledged design festival for the city.
The exhibition, entitled Bridge, is part of the city’s bicentenary celebrations of the birth of one of its most famous design progeny, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, creator of the city’s Clifton Suspension Bridge. Organisers hope the exhibition will generate enough public and civic interest to merit a broader celebration of design in the city, possibly on an annual basis in the future.
‘We’re hoping the exhibition will prove that there is a genuine interest in design in the city,’ says Home managing director Emma Collins, the principal organiser of the event. According to Collins, the hope is that the exhibition will ‘create enough momentum to enable us to hold a festival here’, though she believes any festival format is likely to be substantially different to this one-off event.
The exhibition features the work of 13 local design groups and 13 artists. It hopes to raise awareness of the depth of the local design scene among both the business community and general public, says Collins.
‘It’s not a trade show, it’s an art exhibition showing design,’ she explains. ‘It’s public-facing and the criteria for work was that it should be of interest to the local public, which generally means high-profile brands. The idea is that it will showcase [work] that people are aware of, but didn’t know was designed in Bristol,’ Collins adds.
Exhibitors include Dutton Merrifield, which will show its work for Sky; Kinneir Dufort showcasing its Scholl plasters; Charlie Caffyn exhibiting the Mothercare highchair; and Oakwood DC showing its Girls Aloud Barbie Dolls.
Exhibits are displayed as canvasses or installation pieces to add interest and deliberately concentrate on the work, rather than the consultancy involved. This approach sees Reach displaying oversized versions of its Covent Garden Soup packaging in shopping trolleys and Home enlarging its work for Royal Mail onto 90cm square canvases.
Along with these projects, 13 artists from the Bristol School of Art, Media and Design will exhibit work, also under the heading Bridge. Each piece is a collaboration and includes The Longest Bridge in Bristol, a drawing made by local artists and children.
Other joint efforts – such as Patrick Daw’s work with physicist Dr Fritjof Körber on a piece that investigates objects falling from a bridge – extend well beyond the art world.
According to Collins, the Bridge theme of the exhibition has several levels beyond the literal connection to Brunel’s creation. ‘On the design side, we want to show how to bridge the gap between the college and the commercial world and show how it is possible to apply creativity within a commercial structure and to a brief. On the art side, it is very much a case of artists working in tandem.’
Promotional material and logos for the event were designed by Home, which also supplied exhibition management. Brunel 200, a partnership project managed by the Bristol Cultural Development Partnership, provided funding for print elements, which include A6 postcards and flyers.
Bridges and Brunel:
• The bicentenary of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s birth takes place on 8 April with a series of events in Bristol
• Bridge runs at the Royal West of England Academy, Queen’s Road, Bristol from 2 to 29 April
• Up to 6000 visitors are expected