Adjust, Adjust, Amend 2022 – Review By Jan Beany and Jean Littlejohn
We were delighted to be asked to view this exhibition and we would like to congratulate the Group on their longevity when so many others have folded. This shows a commitment, purpose and enthusiasm which was reflected in the work on show.
It is very difficult to put together a cohesive exhibition with such a diverse and multi-disciplined group of artists and initial impressions were of a well hung and sensitively positioned show.
The first item at the forefront was a book of samples assembled by Mavis Walker to honour a bequest to the group. This was carefully constructed to showcase the samples and allowed them to be viewed thus adding to our historic legacy. At first glance the most powerful pieces such as the Fantasy Fish by Heather Coley, grab the attention and it requires more detailed scrutiny to find the little gems such as ‘Golden Cherry’ by Jane Cobbett and other small pieces sprinkled throughout the show.
We were keen to see how the group responded to this very topical and appropriate brief and it was particularly evident in the wide range of materials used including plastics, old ties, umbrella fabric, household items and even a washing machine. The little wire bowl by Jenny Parker was a well thought out use of the material and Lucy Poland’s Thicket was an unusual and interesting response. ‘Thicket’ Haberdashery, buttons, cotton reels, tableware and an antimacassar used in imaginative configurations evoked a sense of the past and our heritage of ‘make do and mend’.
In a mixed exhibition it is good to have a refreshing change of pace with several artists showing more than one piece thus giving the viewer an opportunity to follow a developing chain of thought. Hillary Williams sensitively realised and executed pieces Diaspora 1 and 2 were thoughtful and understated with a quiet authority.
Mary Gray has pared down her water observations and executed them in simple forms exploiting line and pattern. In contrast Angela Scolding’s neckpieces and scarf exuded flamboyance and energy, particularly the Medusa piece. Pene Murgatroyd demonstrated how a wide range of unpromising materials may be forged into simple but effective arrangements and forms.
We are pleased to note that hand stitch continues to thrive within the group. Into the Blue 1,2 and 3 by Chris White are simple but pleasing forms that show free and liberated hand stitch in contrast to Jean Hodges small but beautifully stitched ‘Atacama Desert’ championing the French knot.
In an exhibition celebrating recycling we expected to find piecing, patching and quilting and this was indeed the case. There were many examples of well thought out and technically impressive pieces. It was Wildflowers -Surrey Hills with it’s gentle colour scheme and sensitively placed stitching that particularly drew our attention.
The small but informative catalogue was clear and helped the viewer understand which pieces were created afresh and those that had been repurposed and there were some impressive transformations including the waistcoat by Betty Lardner adapted from a Chinese table cover.
Displaying wearables in an art exhibition can be tricky as can all forms of textile presentation which is one of the most difficult aspects of an artist’s work. How do we display the work to it’s best advantage? There is no absolute, but a simple guideline is the simpler the better to allow the work to shine.
One or two of the framed wall hung pieces had the string or hanging device visible, which should be avoided. Poles or rods need to enhance and not overwhelm. It should not be the first thing you notice. A witty use of a hanging device was used in Under the Weather by Gill Denyer as it was an integral part of the concept.
Some pieces were isolated, textured and stitched shapes on a plain fabric background which did not show the textures to best advantage. Background spaces and shapes are equally as important as motifs and several pieces would show better when close mounted.
We should mention the stitching on Vera Gilbert’s Bog Coat which was a ‘tour de force’ but the construction of the coat did not show it off to it’s best advantage.
We struggle to find the best ways of presenting our work and fashions change so we do not understate how problematic it is.
The main point is that in an exhibition the whole piece and it’s presentation should occupy it’s space and encourage you to stand and contemplate, pause and examine and this exhibition certainly contained pieces that did exactly that. Well done Wey Valley Workshop.