Trans_Formations II: Summer exhibition
Trans_Formations II is gallery's Summer Exhibition second instalment. The exhibition refers to the process in art and many of its manifestations.
The exhibition presents contemporary artists in a wide variety of media including embroidery (Jessica Voorsanger), flint sculpture (Drew Edwards), paintings and collage (Lucy Troubridge, Fabio Almeida, Rosalind Davis), ink monotypes and works on paper (Katrina Blannin, Bérénice Mayaux, Ruth E. Rollason), stoneware ceramics (Duncan Cheetham), porcelain (Steven Geddes), paintings (Russell Chater, Robyn Litchfield), and an etching and aquatint by Salvador Dali.
The gallery aims to create a curatorial space in constant motion with a succession of interweaving displays, crossovers, and experiments. Trans_Formations refers to the process of art in many of its manifestations. Contrasts range from textiles in stitched mural compositions to the hardness of flint stone, from glazed ceramic sealed by firing to the ink transfer of monotypes fixed by alcohol and evaporation. The show also includes paintings and collages in a broad range of distinctive processes and techniques.
This exhibition is not a survey but rather a free reflection on fundamentally contrasting media exhibited in parallel within the confined space of the gallery. Most works relate to the loose definition of abstraction, with a few exceptions, such as the painting by Robyn Litchfield, a clear depiction of a wild rainforest in New Zealand. The image is made in an intense blue upon which blood red symbols allude to Maori culture. Photographic archives in etched glass from five generations ago are the source of this contemplative scene, which is a reflection on both the multi-layered complexion of human history and the fragile permanence of Nature.
Other paintings, prints and collages in a salon hang on all the walls are more orientated towards constructivism, modernism, and hard-edge abstraction. They complement each other in both their affinity and their difference. Katrina Blannin has produced an important series of square ink monotypes on paper in several sizes and this exhibition presents three 35 x 35 cm works side by side. This impromptu triptych, although purely abstract, makes references to Edouard Manet. The series is a reflection on the structures of representation. By contrast, and in visual relationship, are the concrete poetry works on paper by Ruth E. Rollason, where words and letters are visual components of the spatial quality of the page. Other nuances come to contain or unleash these letter-objects, splinters of meaning creating a fusion of poetry and image.
The compositions of Fabio Almeida draw deeply on Brazilian modernism. His large works on display are in all evidence near-monumental collages, but also employ multiple interventions - sanding, glazing, treating, stamping - to produce effects of trompe-l'oeil and symbolic as well as rhythmic punctuations. Modernism in art, architecture and more is in the social and cultural DNA of Brazil, and inhabits every part of its identity, from high art to street art, from establishment to revolution. These multiple realities, echoed via Tropicália and graffiti, are all vibrantly upended in the work.
So, if for Almeida the roots are Brazil, what are they for French painter Bérénice Mayaux in her work on paper that seems to echo Malevitch and Sonia Delaunay? Playing with forms and a wealth of experimentation of over a century is not only homage but gratitude to an enduring legacy. The lesson of achieving more with less, with the minimum as a maximalist, is illustrated here in clear and perfect harmony.
Lucy Troubridge expands this voyage around the legacy of abstract art by producing a black sun with a propaganda poster feel and another composition of intermingling transparencies of colours. Hers is also the work of a colourist; rhythms, structures are used with tonal perspectives to their full extent in her collages and unique screen prints.
In the works of Russell Chater, longstanding interests in staging and display, surface and depth are explored. These interests point not only to formal painting concerns, but also to those around transience and autobiography. Works such as 'Washed Out' particularly exemplify these interests. Here, a figure emerges from a deep nocturnal background: an apparition of luminous whitewashed marks. The work is simultaneously graphic and gestural, figurative and abstract, revealing and concealing.
The gallery window presents the contrasts of opposites as a large flint sculpture shares the space with embroidery and ceramics, all produced from totally different and rather incompatible core materials: one from plants, another from earth, and the third from geological stone related to quartz. Carving flint is simply impossible as the stone is brittle when struck yet one of the hardest on earth. But this does not hinder Drew Edwards, who extracts massive flint boulders from a Norfolk mine and is one of the only artists in the world taking on this material. The result is genuinely mesmerising. The stone will not yield to the will of the intervener. Edwards needs to submit to the stone for it to give way. These elaborate sculptures are indefinable. Though contemporary and personal, they also seem to have emerged from thousands of years ago. It's not only because of the artistic references we associate them with, but also because they seem to defy Time itself.
At the other end of the spectrum of core matter is the plant-based textile that Jessica Voorsanger uses for her compositions. Sourcing recycled clothes and vintage fabrics, employing an impressive range of sewing skills, the work is a labyrinth of patterns, whether by the textile samples or the alternating lines bound by threads. In her work, thread is as much compositional as it is functional. Stretched onto the wall with small antique curtain rings, this construction of vintage materials is also a tableau of history and design.
Duncan Cheetham continues his exploration of colour and texture with a new set of stoneware ceramics, in parallel with his other work. This multimedia practitioner uses stoneware for his own personal practice, an extension to his expertise as a textile print designer and colour consultant. Steven Geddes is present in this exhibition with two porcelain vessels paying homage to Joan Miró by referencing the Spanish Surrealist master's naïve outlines through raised lines imbued with dynamic quality.
And last, but not least, a 1981 etching and aquatint by Salvador Dali, another giant of a foregone past. Already affected by Parkinson's disease at the time, Dali faced many fights, as expressed by this later work: Don Quixote, Man of La Mancha, upon a horse appearing to be made of moving stones, on the advance against a mirage figure.
He is in good company.