A Technicolored Sensory Portal – Pippa Eason’s Funny, blurry and everything hazy


“It’s a thoughtful, meaningful engagement with fun.” Mike Pinnington on Pippa Eason’s meditation on childhood memories and nostalgia…

Arriving in the space at PINK Manchester for the first time, I was almost overwhelmed. It is a sensory explosion of colour, shape, and materials, made up of sculpture, PVC panels and other assorted forms of varying size. It’s a lot to take in. When my eyes eventually settle, it’s on a large pair of stacked objects (below) – pleasing obelisks really – that dwarf everything else in the room. They’re blended yellow, purple, violet, green, grey, and blue. And, despite their imposing stature (standing at almost two thirds the height of the ceiling), what they most evoke – to me at least – is the mangled, multi-coloured amalgam I’d always make of a new pack of plasticine when I was a kid. Here, in the considerably more expert, though no less playful hands of artist Pippa Eason, they make for evocative, solid-looking anchor pieces for her site-specific exhibition Funny, blurry and everything hazy.

Speaking with Eason, she thankfully nods along in recognition at my plasticine observation in a way I suppose very few other artists would. For this show, and her wider artistic oeuvre, is all about conjuring and accessing childhood memories and nostalgia, and reconnecting with play. She tells me that she believes in joy – a word that crops up repeatedly during the course of our conversation, and the enjoyment of playing (were she to write one, I’m sure these things would be prominent in an Eason manifesto). It’s no trick or gimmick, but a thoughtful, meaningful engagement with fun, an expression of “an abstract take on moments (and objects) I’ve clung to,” she tells me.


If proof were needed, letting your eyes wander around the space amply provides it. Running diagonally, alongside those sculptures I mentioned (made not of plasticine, but polystyrene), is a wavy road of pink, blue and white. A chalk pathway of flowing colour, it brings to mind a story Eason recounted to me from her childhood, of the times she and a friend would bash up rocks and stones, to play and experiment with the pigments they’d produce.

The pathway is dotted with an array of small objects. Fashioned out of clay, these range from wiggly worms to unidentified flora and fauna-like shapes, as well as detritus – the remnants of leftover sculpture made for the show. Other pieces float in space, or perhaps that should be beneath the waves, their playful geological forms hinting at Eason’s lifelong fascination with the ocean; the candy-coloured result is transportational. Following the route of the pathway, your eyes meet a screen of PVC strips hanging from a rail; an underwater veil beyond which who knows what might lie…

“I can’t specify with each piece ‘oh, that’s exactly what that is’, and I don’t want to”

The works – as a whole and individually – get the brain fizzing, leaping for references to hang onto and finding many. For the uninitiated, what does it all mean? “I think that each sculpture’s not always directly one memory, or one thing. It’s usually a mix. As time’s gone on, each [of them] has represented a few things at once. It might be a TV show, or an object I had.” This, the artist explains, might then become jumbled up with “someone else’s thought or interpretation of that same object. So I can’t really specify with each piece ‘oh, that’s exactly what that is’, and I don’t want to. I want it to be a bit more abstract – it’s an abstraction of my thoughts and it’s an abstraction of gathered information and archive and streams of consciousness.”

Like breadcrumbs, some floor-based pieces bear clues in the form of dates – in one cluster the 1990s is prominent. This small constellation no doubt paying homage to a significant or formative few years for the artist. Like discovering a time capsule, it sends my own mind wandering to long summers spent playing with friends; treading an unplanned but indelible route from our homes to a park known as Penny’s Pit, and the sweet shop nearby, the one with the arcade machines; until, finally, with night drawing in, we’d reluctantly head home. Speaking of sweets, in a smart bit of innovative exhibition design, Eason hasn’t neglected this essential childhood memory here. Should you visit the show, you’ll be hit with a sweet shop scent that serves to whisk you right back to those hazy days spent agonising over the Pick ‘n’ Mix stand at Woolworths, or in your local shop, whose 10p mix made for a good enough approximation.


Taken together, these solid and more ephemeral features give Funny, blurry and everything hazy a satisfying sense of depth. And, paradoxically, the immediacy with which its effects hit you belies the time and effort spent on the long-term planning and research that went into it. It is the result of a combination of Eason’s own childhood memories with the stories and interpretations of childhood objects, play and materiality from people she has spoken to in the months prior to its installation at PINK. These conversations took place over the course of a two-year research project, which has been supported and guided by curator Mark Devereux whose input, says Eason, has been instrumental. Such dialogues have paid off and provided the exhibition with a sense of universality it could have otherwise lacked – this isn’t an invitation solely into Eason’s world, one of collective if varied touchstones.

As such, “You can be any age from anywhere and engage with it,” Leeds born, and Manchester-based Eason told me in the days before opening. So refreshing at a time in which wonder often seems sorely missing from life and, it follows – necessarily, as artists must address the world as they see it – the gallery. It plays into a perspective of Eason’s that art is, at least should be, for everyone. Funny, blurry, and everything hazy is a space in which audiences can get wonderfully lost without ever feeling alienated (often otherwise a problem with contemporary art). Depending on your own set of references, its palette may put you in mind of the early days of MTV, the vibrant, graphic works of Keith Haring; cartoons including the Rugrats, and other TV shows like Blossom, Saved by the Bell, and Friends, or – bygone Saturday morning favourite – The Snorks.

“Eason’s stock in trade is triggering memories and letting them play out”

Ultimately, then, these works’ apparent simplicity and immediacy are also the things that provide them their rich appeal and depth. In encouraging engagement through recognition found in our own lives, a treasure trove of memories can be accessed, retrieved, and explored by the viewer. This means that, to paraphrase Marcel Duchamp, it’s the audience that completes the artwork, confirming an underlying complexity to all those pleasing, anything-but-superficial, sensory experiences. Eason’s stock in trade is triggering memories and letting them play out: “[The exhibition] creates its own concept as it goes along, as people engage with it…”

It’s important for her that “people [don't] come in and go ‘this is complex sculpture, and I don’t get it.’ They’re [all] based on a universal idea of what toys were like for us, that kind of messy approach to making things and just enjoying things… there are joyous, fun moments that you’ll just never fully get as an adult again.” Despite that sad truth, with Funny, blurry and everything hazy, Pippa Eason has opened up a Technicolored sensory portal for us to explore, even if it is only for a while, delivering a rare meditation on memory, nostalgia, and an unfettered pleasure in looking.

Mike Pinnington

Pippa Eason: Funny, blurry and everything hazy continues at PINK Manchester until 3 October

Images courtesy Jules Lister

Posted on 29/09/2021 by thedoublenegative