Review of “Structure, Surface, Stitch”, Bracknell Gallery, May 2014 by Sandra Hurll
I feel privileged and flattered to be asked to write a critique of your current exhibition.
I must preface what I have written by saying that these are my thoughts and opinions, they may be right, may be wrong! Having taught for many years, especially C&G I have often had to refine student’s ideas and encourage them to look critically at their own work. I know personally only too well, that what looks fine at home will take on another persona when placed in a new setting let alone a large white gallery.
I have chosen to write critically in the hope that it may be of use.
A colleague, Ande Treharne, who teaches in this area, has often spoken of the South Hill Park Centre and the exhibiting space, so I was very pleased to finally discover what and where it is.
I was accompanied by Joan Matthews, a past member of Wey Valley, and we both found much to look at, discuss and debate, the right ingredients for a good exhibition.
The centre is large, with a maze of rooms and corridors and it took us several minutes to find the gallery. Some time back I remember visiting Farnham The Maltings, where the exhibitors created an imaginative trail to direct visitors, but perhaps that was not South Hill Park’s ‘ house’ style.
The gallery presented a large white space, almost two rooms with a hidden area adding that element of surprise of what was round the corner.
The work was well spaced and not overcrowded, with 3D work displayed on plinths, in show cases or suspended from the lighting gantry. The work was clearly labelled.
The styles varied from abstract to stylised to figurative to almost conceptual which reflects the membership of the group. The simpler refined design ideas were often the most successful.
Part of the making and exhibiting process requires the question to be asked, ‘what am I trying to say with this piece?’ Is it beautiful to look at, does it have humour and fun, is it evocative of a scene or experience, is it challenging & provocative, inviting discussion and debate. All of these ingredients make for an interesting and enjoyable exhibition.
I noticed that one or two of the lights were not working and felt that this did not show those exhibits to their best advantage. Gallery maintenance is not always easy to negotiate.
The framing and presentation of the work was on the whole appropriate, in a very few cases the pieces were not displayed to their best advantage.
The Group Panel ‘The Continuous Line’ was a very good introduction to the exhibition enabling the viewer to connect the names with the work of the participants, whetting the appetite for identification later.
Well done to Ruth, Lesley, & Denise not an easy job to piece the squares together!
The clever and sensitive use of sheer fabrics was exemplified by Margaret Cartland Glover ‘Distant Birches’ and Ruth Collins ‘A Distillation of Thoughts’. I wondered whether Susan Fletcher ‘Hebridean Inspiration’ could have used less net and sheer fabric and allowed some of the painted surfaces to contrast.
The use of a sheer but edged ‘ribbon’, limited the change of scale for Lesley Barnet, I thought that the piece could have benefited from a variety of scale of sheer fabric strips to contain the delicate and rich fillings
I longed to see the beautiful sheer garments of Anthea Vaal, suspended away from the wall or even from the gantry. Consuelo Simpson ‘Walking’ provided an elaborate and successful system for her hanging, separating the layers.
I liked Ruth Collins screen printed lengths, they provided a contrast in scale and detail but felt that they were under priced.
The felt geometric compositions of Dorle Dawson were both simple and colourful, and the felt Study of Liquid Amber
Leaves by Alvys Sparkes captured the colours but I would like to have seen some contrast in texture with the use of alternative fabrics used with the felt.
The more provocative pieces, for example Marion Glover’s ‘Ouch’, Angela Scolding’s felted scarf ‘Come to the Point’ and Jo Bostock’s ‘But I Don’t Do Pink’ provided the opportunity for much discussion. Cathy Griffiths ‘Seastrands’ showed an evocative use of colour and texture and were sensitively framed’. Anne Wilson ‘Fictional Birds’ effectively boxed and presented with engaging words and characterful illustrations were wonderful, I look forward to the next chapter as the characters evolve into a story book;
Jenny Parker ‘Barcelona I & II’ presented very controlled and managed Gaudi inspired pieces, Anne Middleton ‘Winter Orchard’ showed a very sensitive printed/painted background with simple machine embroidered trees.
The brave, dark and intense composition of Hilary Williams two pieces beautifully framed in recessed box frames allowed the depth of the layers to shimmer.
Joan Bingley ‘Bird Footprints’ was an interesting idea with simple execution but why was the wooden batten not blue?
Juliet Ayer’s 3D ‘Junior Gargoyle’ and Charlotte Darawalla’s ‘Ticking Clock’ were both witty and fun and beautifully made. Does the clock work?
Consuelo Simpson ‘Hidden History’ and ‘Brambles & Briars’ showed interesting structures. Alex Duncan showed uncompromising 3D pieces inspired by fish traps used on the Mekong Delta. I wondered whether the shapes could be more sinuous and curvaceous, or old and battered with use.(artistic licence) Heather Coley’s felted form contained interesting details as did Sue Wood’s Old News basket and string formed pot.
The knitted standard lamp including the cable and plug by Helen Deighan was so well executed that one wonders whether this could set a new trend in up-cycling. Such fun.
Mavis Walker ‘Explorations I & II’ & ‘Resolution I’ demonstrated good ideas for her themed panels with interesting, shaped & manipulated pieces, but I longed to tip the images on their sides and mix them together to form a montage with the lettering linking the images. (I get such itchy fingers in this situation)
Similarly I wanted to group some of the flower heads in ‘Floral Arrangement’ Brenda Fox.
Ruth Collins ‘Painted Boxes’ was very gentle almost magical but I wonder whether the images should be made of something slightly more substantial. ‘The Written Bird’ by Juliet Ayer, I thought was a wonderful idea and execution but I think it would benefit greatly from a more interesting background and presentation.
I congratulate all who contributed to the exhibition, to those who staged and presented it, and hope that you will all continue to use your creativity is every possible way.
The pieces I have written about are those that took my eye on the day, and I do not wish to infer any criticism positive or negative by omission, but have written my opinions for your interest and discussion.