Saturday, 31 May 2014

Prism 2014 Code: Decode

I went to see the Prism show at the Mall Galleries today.

I very much enjoyed it, and came home with lots of images and ideas in my head and my notebook. the gallery seems to be a good space for this exhibition, being generally well lit and big enough for a large number of exhibits on the wall. The seating area made me feel welcome and more relaxed than some hushed galleries. The exhibits in the middle of the floor were less well served I think. There was one room which was a bit darker and more cramped-feeling, and another which felt more like an entrance lobby than an exhibition space. There didn't appear to be any pieces which had been made specifically with the venue in mind.

It was good to see such a range of styles and ways of going about making things in textiles, from the point of view of someone who is just starting out. I haven't commented on all of the exhibits - just the ones that particularly piqued my interest.

Molly Williams digitally printed and linocut layers of translucent fabric in perspex were beautiful, and unusual in the feeling it gave, which I will try to describe. The subject matter was more nightmarish than beautiful - people imprisoned in the internet. It was very clean and clinical, but at the same time complex and the shapes were softer than you would expect for something about computers. The shades of grey against white worked well to remind me that this was about what was happening inside a machine. I thought the subject matter was a bit trivial for such a lovely thing.

Julianne Long's piece was a witty surprise - thistle heads made of rusted basketry and paperclips. Fantastic. I wanted to feel the texture of the woven parts, and have the rust come off on my fingers. This one changed the way I look at that kind of seed head for ever. I wasn't so sure about the arrangement of lots of the heads together on a wall. It brought in a dispassionate flavour that I don't think was helpful. Perhaps a more natural arrangement would be better - in a vase? I don't know.

Judith Hammond made dresses of plastic bag lace and shopping receipts. Initially they looked fairly normal but with printed and handwritten writing in various sizes and styles. When I noticed the mundaneness of the materials it had a visceral effect on me (being a woman who is sometimes defined by the mundane). The supermarket receipts printed on linen strips particularly appealed - why? Something about the permanence of a disposable thing. And the reference to the mundane of housewives of the past. I am inspired to try the bag lace.

Consuelo Simpson's split cane receptacles called 'Hedgerows' was beautiful and kept me interested by the intricacy and variety. There is something about repeating the same thing differently over and over again which seems to be fundamentally attractive. And these vase-things have an organic look to them, like nests or clumps of grass or the bellies of the birds themselves. I was a bit confused about the name. I wanted a name to indicate the symbolism.

Willeke Klaasen's sculptures were all intriguingly like my personal images of the bad bits of being a woman. I was hugely impressed by the way she achieved the shape of the sagging (or filling out) blue/green woman, and the skin of the woman changing into (or out of) a trunk of wood. The felted texture was appropriately soft warm and dimpled, with the unreal blue/green colours making it clear that it was not intended to be taken literally.

Bea Sewell's tower of postcodes had presence in the gallery, despite being hidden behind a wall. I was attracted to the regularity and pretty dangling things. I initially thought they represented people, and it took me a while to find out they were parcels with postcodes. Each one different, and presumably relevant to the postcode they represented. I thought the repetition of a shape could be used symbolically to make a point. Or to explore decorative qualities.

Eileen Harrison's 'de profundis' is beautiful, painterly, and way beyond anything I could do myself. The feathery layers of subtly coloured silk on paint. The glow of gold emerging from the darkness is moving and thought provoking. So much so that I forgot I was looking at something sewn. I want to see more.

'Fields bound in lost language' by Celia Bliss was a lovely idea, neatly executed, and made my mind wander to the transience of the people in the ancient landscape of Cornwall.

Charlotte Sewell's 'More to me than meets the eye' was funny, confident, and made the point that what we wear is not what we are, and that people are always more complex than our prejudices.

Jacqui Parkinson made a moving tribute to remember all those girls hidden away. The pieces of worn patchwork quilt with their names embroidered on the back was a simple but effective way of conveying their number, and the poverty of their lives.

Celia Stanleys pieces about the constraints of traditional mens wear were lovely to look at and showed her skill and attention to detail. She used printed, heat treated and stitched tracing paper to convey the dryness and restrictions of wearing a collar. It looked fragile and strong at the same time.

Diana Barretts' stainless steel mesh sculpures used the qualities of the material well, and were well lit to show off the soft textural shine of them. It made me even more want to try what I can make with it.

Julie Harper's cabinet of amulets for protection was lovely to see. Initially I thought it was a collection, but then realised she had made them all in the styles of different cultures. What fun that must have been. They looked right all together like that - colourful and quirky and personal.

'Mendings' by Beverley Ayling Smith was interestingly different - lots of little separate mended splits and tears in fabric, referring to the emotional scars we all have. They were all very neat. And tidily arranged. And securely repaired. And rather neatly cut as well. Begging the question, for me anyway, what about the tears that cannot be repaired? That would be stronger. But then I'm not very good at neat.

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