Review of Threads of Meaning Guildford House Gallery, May 2016 by Amarjeet Nandhra
The exhibition entitled Threads of Meaning, displayed a diverse range of work from some members of the Wey Valley Group. The work was hung in several rooms and demonstrated a range of materials, styles and techniques associated with textiles.
Guildford House Gallery is a fascinating 17th century Grade 1 listed town house and retains many of its original features. the gallery was easy to find and once inside you were quickly directed to the exhibition. The first room that visitors enter housed the Comfort Zone Challenge. This was a great way to introduce you to the exhibition. What was also of tremendous help was the informative and enthusiastic briefing with the steward on duty. This was great to see, as so often you visit exhibitions and the stewards are reluctant to engage.
This room was full of exciting little treasures, with fun 3D experiments, energetic drawings in both colour and black and white that filled the wall space. The pieces by Anthea Vaal textile Conversation and Dialogue showed a direct link between drawings and textiles, making them particularly strong pieces.
Ruth Collins’ sketchbook showed the translation from paper collage to textiles. The wonderful use of colour and pattern was translated into stitch using great sensitivity, keeping the interpretation fresh.Many of the little experiments were not named, but demonstrated individuals working outside of their personal comfort zones. It was exciting to see the use of different materials and how individuals responded to 3D form in a stimulating and fun way.The next level displayed the more resolved pieces. Some of these pieces played safe and seemed to lose the spontaneity seen in the smaller work. The initial feeling was that the gallery was rather dark and the wood panelling was not always a flattering backdrop for some of the work, Although others seemed to nestle well within the environment, such as Susan Wood’s lovely indigo piece Tangled Web and Chrissy White’s charming Old and New fabric collage. Having said that, the work was hung well and attention to detail observed.
The endearing amulet dolls by Anne Wilson were delightful, each with their own sweet personality. A strong concept that has great possibilities, although I did wonder if there was a need for the text on the background? Additionally, the wonderful dolls by Mavis Walker were a witty and playful social commentary on human nature.
Mary Gray’s The Path We Trod was a piece that drew you closer to inspect the narrative of the panels. The sheer panels alluding to the layered and multiple journeys made. Would this work have benefitted from a change of scale of some of the figures? Another artist who adopted a narrative approach was Jane McKeown in her piece A Four Mile Walk. The use of flattened perspective worked well along with wonderful illustrative stitching, made this a successful piece.
Juliet Ayers’ wonderful little pieces Recycling Plant I and II, a nod to tradition, but with a contemporary twist, were very exciting. The gorgeous glow of the paper weaving collage Information Breakdown by Wendy Charles felt a little unresolved, but showed a beautiful use of colour. Cathy Griffiths’ Revenant I and II were delicate and revealed subtle shifts in colour, simple and very effective, although these pieces did seem trapped under the glass frame.
Some of the work felt a little restrained, as if they were sample pieces that could have been taken much further. It was refreshing to see the larger works by Jo Bostock and Amanda Schenk, with both pieces commanding attention. With Amanda’s hanging using expressive marks making in a strong and powerful way.
It was evident to see that the work on display showed great skill and technical proficiency. I am however left wondering if the same experimentation and pushing of the boundaries seen in the Comfort Zone Challenge had been adopted whilst working the resolved pieces, would this have resulted in the work being more experimental.