Written by Gwen Hedley
17th October 2013
One Church Street is a wonderfully light and airy gallery, affording an intimate space that is entirely right for this exhibition of contemporary miniature works. The selectors sought to cross the boundaries of artistic practice, by including a diversity of material, technique or process. This they have done admirably, and the fifty-five works shown are rich and varied. The common denominator is that none is more than 20x20x20 cms.
The scale of the works is beguiling – each piece demands close inspection, and benefits from being devoid of any frame and glazing that could detract or create a barrier between viewer and exhibit. The works sit well within their generous spaces, whether wall-hung, or freestanding on plinths set at various heights.
Familiar traditional textile techniques are employed, but by their execution and the underpinning concepts of the works, the exhibition is entirely contemporary. In addition to the time-honoured textile materials of cloth and yarn, there is ample evidence of sensitively-used non-traditional materials, including lead, steel and concrete.
Ann Goddard’s mixed media sculptures reflect her concern regarding ecological issues and the impact of human activity on biodiversity. ‘Encroaching’ depicts a soft cotton, bristled form’ embedded within a small tortuous concrete mass – is it emerging or burrowing? The viewer must decide. The second piece entitled ‘Remains’ is constructed with cotton fabric, thread, wax and wire, and sits firmly and strongly alongside its companion sculpture. Manipulated cloth shapes are speared onto wires that protrude into space. These sculptures are tiny in scale, but powerful and strong in message and presence.
‘Cone’ is stunning in its simple directness, and beauty of mark. Referencing physical traces of history within cloth, Ali Holloway has immersed a full cone of thread in dye, before unravelling the thread, resulting in an empty cardboard cone that bears the dyed marks and herringbone-like patterning of the previously wound thread. The marks and historical traces leave an intriguing ghostly presence.
Emma Blackburn’s work has a historical basis, involving the staining and decomposition of ancient cloth that bears traces of human life. ‘ Without You’ 1 and 2 is a pair of child’s gloves, in which cloth and stitch are dominant. The gloves lie casually arranged, as if recently removed. They are faded and worn, heavily stitched with a variety of threads, and evoke images of poverty and labour, but also of love, through constant repair with robust utilitarian stitches. They call out to be handled.
Crux 1, an intriguing wall hung piece by Sarah Burgess, is concerned with repair and renewal, and a consideration of inherent beauty within imperfection. A bold twig with its sinuous tendril incompletely wrapped in fine scarlet thread, extends beyond and stands proud of the ground, on which a sensitively printed offset shadow gives great visual depth. In contrast to the delicate tendril, two robust ceramic shards, held on with thread appear to be slipping from the lower edge of the work. This thoughtful piece speaks of strength, fragility, repair and renewal, and makes for compulsive viewing.
Repair also features in ‘Darn’ and ‘Fragment’ by Stella Adams-Schofield – works that make for contemplative viewing. Her work is rooted in British textile craft, and these stop-animation pieces capture the time element in the making and mending of textiles. I had several viewings, and relished the somewhat mesmeric stitch rhythms, being fully engaged and feeling the artist’s total involvement with her practice.
Standing with a simple elegance upon a tall plinth is Gizella Warburton’s ‘Ritual Form’. A slab of weathered oak with three adjacent loosely wrapped bindings provides the base on which at one end, stands a beautifully pure bowl form. Three raised lines within the inside rim of the bowl echo those on the oak support. In contrast to its smooth interior the bowl’s exterior surface features the painted texture of very loosely woven cloth. Dark on the undersides, the colour gradually pales to white at its stiffly ragged rim. Reminiscent of natural forms, I had to resist the urge to gently cup it in my hands.
Altogether different feelings are evoked by Sue Stone’s ‘The Universal Child’. The artist’s work on recycled linen, reminds us of the senseless futility of on-going religious and sectarian wars, and especially of the physical and emotional damage done to children. Machine stitched graffiti and hand stitched figures are poignant, and the messages moving. Every stitch symbolises thousands of lost lives, whilst the cross stitches in particular represent kisses that will never be received. This is a powerful piece of work, perhaps made even more so, by the fact that its unsettling message is conveyed through the cosy and comforting medium of old linen and basic domestic stitch to which we can readily relate.
Space does not permit a written appreciation of each exhibit, yet to have selected a few does not really do justice to the exhibition, for Pinpoint is a cohesive body of work in which each piece is an important part of the whole. It is extremely well presented, elegant, thoughtful and spacious, exemplifying the phrase ‘less is more’.
This excellent exhibition dances on the ground that is the delicate divide between fine art and fine craft, and does so in resounding style.
Gwen Hedley is a member of the Textile Study Group and the Society of Designer Craftsmen. She is a freelance lecturer, tutor and artist working in the UK, Sweden, France, Germany, Ireland and Japan. Her work is in public and private collections and she is the author of publications, including ‘Drawn to Stitch’ and ‘Surfaces for Stitch’.