The current exhibition is called a hook but no fish by London based New Zealand artist Sriwhana Spong. The exhibition emerged from the artist’s research into Lingua Ignota, a language invented by Hildegard von Bingen in 12th century Germany. When we arrived, we were greeted warmly by the front of house staff. I was advised that the exhibition was spread out over four floors, and there were no lifts, but there was space to park the pram.
On the ground floor, there’s a little self-directed Project Space where you can explore the themes of the exhibition. The room is set up with a selection interactive items including drawing paper, chalk, a box of carved wooden letters, a bucket full of seashells, plastic bottles and much more besides. In the centre is an arrangement of wooden cubes and a set of little mallets. Clearly, the idea of this space is to experience the exhibition first and then use the room to create your own response to it. I only went in there first as it seemed a good spot to unload Pea and park the pram. Once he was released, he made a beeline for the mallets and had a ball battering them against the cubes and wild horses weren’t going to get him to quit.
We spent some time goofing around with the mallets before trying out some of the other objects. Pea was quite taken with the bucket of seashells, but it started to get a bit violent because currently he really likes throwing things. I tried to interest him in making some marks on paper with the colourful chalk, but again, he mostly wanted to just throw the chalk around (or eat it) so this wasn’t entirely successful. We then had a battle of wills as he refused to surrender the piece of chalk he was clutching. When I finally wrestled it from him I scooped him up and lugged him up the stairs to explore the exhibition properly.
On the first floor there’s a film which forms the centrepiece of the exhibition. There was a couple there, just trying to watch the film but Pea took a liking to the guy and kept sidling up to him, casually resting his hand on the dude’s knee and then cocking his head in my direction and smirking. The dude took this molestation in his stride. However, there’s only so much of this unsolicited attention I feel I can allow so after a few minutes I extracted Pea from the situation and we went up to the next floor. That being the case, I can’t say too much about the film and thus probably missed much of the point of the exhibition. But that’s a risk I know I’m taking every time I take Pea to anything like this but I’ll persevere with these activities until he’s old enough to verbalise his protest.
In any case, Pea had a great time on the next couple of floors, as there was ample space for him to crawl around without either harming himself or destroying a work of art. For my part, I was quite taken by the vibrant yellow sigils on the top floor. Once we’d covered the top two floors we went back downstairs for round two in the Project Space – cue more mallet bashing.
I wasn’t sure how successful this would be with a toddler but we actually had a really good time here, largely due to the Project Space. It also probably helped that we called in at a time quiet and the staff and other visitors were unfazed by an untethered Pea giggling, gurgling and bashing his way around the place.
Pump House Gallery is open Wednesday – Sunday, 11.00am-4pm and admission is free (donations welcomed). As mentioned, there are no lifts and I didn’t spot a baby change facility but I may have just missed that. The current exhibition, a hook but no fish continues until 1st April. On selected Sundays until the exhibition closes there are artist-led family-friendly workshops in the Project Space – these are also free, no need to book and look all kinds of awesome, judging by the gallery’s Instagram stories – I’m feeling disappointed that I’m unlikely to be able to bring Pea along to one of these before our move. The next workshop is Singing Objects on 25th February.