The Responsive Stitch 2018 – Review By Jill Flower
Thank you for inviting me to your exhibition ‘The Responsive Stitch’.
Denbies is a modern barn style building set amongst the grape vines that roll down this section of the North Downs. It is on the outskirts of Dorking, on the A24, and a very popular venue with locals and visitors as it naturally, offers wine tours, a local craft beer shop, Café, restaurant, a farm shop, a small art gallery and holds many events such as lectures, fairs, conferences and weddings. Whilst it is a very busy location it, nevertheless, has ample parking and has suitable disabled access with lifts and ramps.
The exhibiting space is an open first floor mezzanine galleried area looking down to the main entrance and reception accessible either by staircase or lift. Two fixed picture rails run parallel around the square area, which, from experience, is not the easiest space to hang, especially for textiles.
Nevertheless, the Wey Valley hanging team produced a pleasing arrangement choosing a flow of colour co-ordination around the room with plenty of space between the sections.
The ladies on the Wey Valley reception were charming, welcoming visitors and happy to assist. They were very informative and cheerful despite the heat of the summer and the busy conference events down below on the ground floor.
Not surprisingly for a large group, the work was diverse and had varied styles. A complete assortment of media had been used with the use of canvas, bark, plastic, photographs, printed papers, but not forgetting, of course, fabric and thread!
There were 32 artists exhibiting at Denbies making a mention of all by name would be impossible, but particular highlights for me included the contemporary work from Ruth Collins “Deforestation” and Mollie Fiddler “Consequences” which were lively and gave a real sense of experimental freedom. Cathy Griffiths “Unsettled Threads 1,2&3” were subtle, harmonious and professionally mounted and displayed.
I enjoyed the work of Elaine Izod “Night Harbour1&2”. They had a definite moody quality using rich deep colours and there was a sense of depth and thought behind the pieces.
Nina O’Connor “Stitched Impressions” and “A Rusty Response” was a delight showing off a ‘rusty’ looking technique.
“Traces” by Sue Wood was a clever use of natural materials standing up well with a pleasing slender shape.
Sadly, due to the nature of the room with low tables butted up along the railings over looking the foyer and insufficient lighting, the 3D work could not be fully appreciated. If only there had been some white plinths and target lighting, the work would have shone!
In some cases, the work was fabulously detailed having had many hours of stitching but they were let down by the final presentation. Care and attention to the final mounting and framing is such an integral part of the work as a whole and it is so important to take the time on this aspect of show pieces.
It had been explained to me that from a couple of group workshops the title “The Responsive Stitch” became the theme. There was a collection of inspirational sketchbooks, full of exciting ideas and samples but as I travelled around the room, I felt that some of the artists had lost the original momentum and, perhaps, returned to the safety of their own known ways of working. Also, perhaps, a little more explanation on the labels for the viewer to read would help to understand the work, and for the artists to justify and interpret their pieces relating it to the title of the project.
Having said all this, I am sure the general public would be surprised and pleased to view the full range of embroidery techniques and expressions on show, some traditional, some with a modern twist others minimalist and contemporary and with the use of unusual mediums.