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One of the most famous jokes in Douglas Adams's The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy occurs when a computer is programmed to find the meaning to "life, the universe, and everything", and comes up with the number 42. This answer, as apparently definitive as it is unhelpful, provides the springboard for this thought-provoking exhibition.

Curated by Sarah Sparkes, the show brings together 42 artists working in a wide variety of media, from oil on canvas to video. One of the most striking works is Michael Sinclair's Us - a totemic pillar of lime-wood edged with black velvet, and acrylic, beneath which tiny cars ascend and descend the slope of a motorway by night.

It is flanked by two crisply geometrical works. Pete Mountford has plotted the co-ordinates 42 degrees north by 42 degrees east on a map to locate, between red wool gunsights, the town of Martivili in the secession-torn ex-Soviet republic of Georgia, while Rowland Smith's Harmony of the Bee superimposes a naturalistic acrylic of a bumblebee - an insect whose ability to fly defies the laws of physics - on a geometrical frame in the manner of Leonardo's Vitruvian man.

The German artist Jennifer Baumeister's video installation Thinking About... deploys two screens, one showing the artist's head wired to an EEG, eyelids flickering, the other showing a jerky succession of images - athletes, catwalk models, babies, religious rites, a plane hitting the World Trade Center.


Robert Currie's three-part installation 42 Minutes consists of a spool of 42 minutes' worth of audio tape, the same length of tape jumbled in a spaghetti-like heap, and a meticulous construction of tape stretched across a chicken-wire frame to form a shimmering cube of light and shadow.

Sparkes's own installation You Are Here consists of a coffin - made to fit the artist - resting on two trestles. In the end is a peephole. The viewer must kneel to get a glimpse of a tunnel of lights that seems to invoke our arrival into this world, or our departure from it. Geraldine Swayne's film-noirish Funny Lady is a sombre oil in which a woman cowers before something that casts a shadow on the wall behind her. It's a haunting image to take away from a show that blends the playful and the serious.

To 26 November (

Copyright 2006 Independent Newspapers UK Limited
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