The UPside of happiness

Art and emotion have always been inextricably linked. Producing different reactions; sadness, confusion, identification, wonder, art is used to shock us, heal us, bring us joy and dismay. So when going to view a new exhibit or piece I find now there is a predisposed expectation for it to make me feel a certain way; in awe, enchanted, disillusioned. But there is always a nervousness of not knowing what this feeling will be until it’s too late.

So when I headed off to check out UPside Exhibition, launched as part of London Design Week at the Medcalf Gallery in Exmouth Market, I am welcomed by the feeling of calm and warmth that I get when I walk in. At first it’s hard to pinpoint where this feeling comes from, but as I begin to explore the latest works by this group of international artists, t’s easy to see why. Being here makes you smile.

All in, they make up the ‘Playroom’ collective, a group of creatives who met at Camberwell College of Art and experiment in design, printmaking, illustration, book arts and digital practices. The exhibition is made up of individual interpretations of fascinations, small joys, curiosities and indulgences, in short, a collection of their reasons to be cheerful. The joys open to public display and fascination span from the intimately personal to the wonders of a happy mind, the simple things that make us happy and the idea of happiness and connectivity in this socially media driven world.

Aine Cassidy’s mounted keepsakes, photographs, objects she has collected or postcards she has found left inside books let us into peoples’ moments of joyful nostalgia and memories, peering out of wooden frames as if we are being allowed to look into the trinket box of strangers, letting us in to these spaces in their lives.

Elli Chortara hangs her frames next door to the gallery in Medcalf’s cosy bar and restaurant where the exhibit continues, she describes her work as ‘more conceptual’. Presenting three illustrations relative to each other she explores ‘the mechanics of happiness’ and how we get there.

Illustrator Paul Shinn and the faces that make him happy.

The images that drew me in the most were the faces in illustrator Arina Orlova’s Network of Happiness. All drawn from real people, the six individual pieces that are all connected explore the contagiousness of happiness and being near those that make you happy, while contrasting with the creation of a network of people and the spread of happiness in a technology driven world. For Arina ‘being happy is not necessarily about laughing or smiling but in the eyes and how you feel.’ So on a cloudy Autumn day go take in little pieces of happiness guaranteed to make you smile.

The UPside Exhibition runs until 7th November 2010 at Medcalf Gallery, 38-40    Exmouth Market Open Mon-Sat 12.00–23.00 and Sunday 12.00–16.00.

Images: courtesy of MATTHEW DALE