Exhibition news from Beverly Ayling-Smith and Alison Baxter, practice updates from Lois Bellew and Sally de Courcy
This exhibition by textile artist Beverly Ayling-Smith is a collection of new work exploring the idea of emotional barriers through the metaphor of cloth: tearing, staining, mending and stitch.
To put this in context Beverly has kindly shared below content from her PhD exhibition in 2016 'The Language of Grief: cloth as a metaphor for loss'.
The body of studio artwork presented in the exhibition ‘The Language of Grief: cloth as a metaphor for loss’ was created during my PhD research project. The research addressed the question of why cloth is such an important material, treated in different ways, using various processes and manipulations to create artwork that connects with the unresolved mourning of the viewer. The body of studio artwork was accompanied by a written thesis, which not only documented my studio practice, but showed how the studio artwork had been informed by the written research and vice versa.
With these framed and boxed pieces I continue to enjoy constructing my own observations of where our memories might come from. Tiny pieces of seemingly unimportant saved ephemera can momentarily become hugely significant as triggers to past experiences.
Our identities are being formed from birth through both haptic and emotional connections.
These experiences stack up to make us who we are, like it or not.
Excessive material consumption tips the balance 'over the edge' for many of us.
I have taken the opportunity this summer to develop some natural dye colour from the hedgerow around my home. I've shared a few images below. Interestingly however the most successful colours were not from the hedgerows at all but from my own herb garden and pantry! Rosemary from the garden, turmeric chai tea, and walnut ink made from windfalls outside the house gave me the best results. As an ardent environmentalist I choose not to use mordants in any dye bath that are toxic to the environment. Any colour I do get I expect to be softer in shade to those that a chemical laden dyebath would produce. The softness of the tones developing within these natural dyes nudges me to use them to embrace sensitivity in my memory work. I am beginning to enjoy the notion that the colours might fade as memories do.
Dream or Nightmare is an autobiographical work of an immunocompromised medical doctor and artist shielded from society during the pandemic of COVID 19. The work reflects the experience of mixed identity as both observer and participant, as medical practitioner and patient living in social isolation. The work is highly personal, just as the artist has had to rebuild herself piece by piece so the sculpture has evolved by using repeated metaphorical objects that relate to the pandemic.
Human femurs reference human mortality and are combined with driftwood. Although both different, they are both vestigial remains and rendered to look like bone- is it bone or is it driftwood ? Driftwood is symbolic of feeling beached (stranded) and like the virus, returns in waves. When viewed the contextual links are re-assembled to reveal a hidden narrative. The doll-like faces represent feeling depersonalised by the experience of isolation, the hands the inability to embrace, and the bats the vector of Covid 19 invade the sculpture. The work is bound by bandages symbolic of healing, a reference to the artist's medical past and mixed identity as a patient. They also allude to Florence Nightingale and the Nightingale hospitals. The work also has a mixed identity, although deliberately decorative it reveals the darker aspects of the pandemic , creating dissonance. The sum becomes something like a surreal optical puzzle, oscillating between dream and nightmare.
Inspired by the history of South Hill Park, Alison Baxter is responding to the whispers and the fragments of information about the women who called the building their home. In the book Who owned South Hill Park?, written by Diane Collins, the wives are mostly mentioned as an aside, with the focus on the men’s achievements in association with South Hill Park being their home.
Alison is creating a series of miniature vessels delicately made from resin, metal and fabric, that reference the female form and the scale of importance these women’s histories have been given. As a generalisation, women’s histories are not well documented. Theirs is often the supporting role to their husband’s public lives, and until the 20th century these roles have primarily been home makers and mothers. Their lives are often hidden despite the reality of their roles being a vital part of a functioning society.
By Alison Baxter
Exhibition dates: Saturday 21 November 2020 – Sunday 10 January 2021
Preview: Thursday 26 November, 6pm-8pm
Workshop: Saturday 12 December 11am-1pm
Further information about events and the workshop will follow soon.
South Hill Park Arts Centre, South Hill Park, Ringmead, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 7PA