Shelfware @ the Line Gallery by Leah Grant

Rather than showcasing a single piece of work, one that has reached its creative conclusion and which the viewer often interprets with little to no contextual history, Shelfware – currently on display at SVA’s Line Gallery – invites visitors to probe through the workbooks and notebooks of a variety of different artists, revealing ideas that are both partially created and wholly concluded.

Guest co-curated by Ed Davenport, James A. Holliday, Edward Lawrenson and Sam Marsh, this fascinating new exhibition presents a diverse array of records in the form of professionally printed and handmade books, sketchpads, folders and even a newspaper, allowing visitors to consider the various methods utilised by artists and writers when creating and showcasing new work.

It’s clear that memory is a factor that the curators are keen to highlight in Shelfware (particularly in the exhibition’s literature, where the filmic work of Alain Resnais is discussed), this has led to the decision to transform Line Gallery into a library, a place where visitors are actively encouraged to remove books from their shelves and read at their leisure. This unique form of presentation stresses the importance of the library as a place of learning; in this particular embodiment, the idea that memories can be extracted and stored for the future reference of their creator as well as a means of discovery for others, also emphasises the significance of the library in terms of collective growth and posterity.    

“The term ‘Shelfware’ is slang for something destined to live on the shelf never to be looked at and is a comment on the social sea change towards the use of the Internet over libraries.” – Sam Marsh

Everyone involved in Shelfware should be applauded for their bravery – an artist’s workbook is extremely personal, a form of experimentation and development that is not often created with public consumption in mind. Like the finished creations that are also on display here (as well as the vast array of artist books pilfered from the curators’ own collections), a large piece of the creator has been exposed and we should treat this as both a rare opportunity to delve deeper into the mind-set of Stroud’s upcoming creative talent as well as a chance to consider our own part in the unfortunate demise of the traditional library in the 21st century.

Shelfware is open on Saturdays 11am - 4pm until the 28th August.

Leah Grant is a writer and photographer with a keen interest in art and literature. On her blog, Bellyful of Art, you can find reviews of exhibitions, installations, dance performances and literary events as well as her own lovingly created pieces of short fiction