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1707 - An Inspiration

Rook Lane Chapel, Frome, Somerset, England, 24 November - 7 December 2007

Frome (pronounced Froom), Somerset, in England's west country, was a wool town which developed this industry to full-scale cloth production. In the early 1700s, it was so prosperous that Daniel Defoe said of it that '. . . if their Trade continues to increase. . . it is very likely to be one of the greatest and wealthiest Inland Towns in England'. Rook Lane Chapel was built in 1707 to house the large number of Congregational worshippers in the town. However, as the fortunes of the town declined so did those of the chapel and, by the time we reach the late 20th century, it was in danger of collapse. It was redeveloped by the Nugent Vallis Brierley architectural practice, which occupies the upper floor, in partnership with Mendip District Council. Some elements of the original chapel remain, such as the column shown below left. Looking through the sheer, screen-printed panels produced interesting effects, especially as the designs were often compatible with the objects viewed through them.

Rook Lane 1
Rook Lane 2a
Rook Lane 2b
The gallery space had retained some elements of the chapel, as you can see from this photo, which added interest to this spacious area. The exhibition was an excellent example of the difference a unifying theme can make to the feel of a multi-media display. With exhibits ranging from ceramics, screen-printed textiles and mind-blowing glass to paintings, it was interesting to look for the commonalities and find them in shapes, motifs and colours, all relating to the chapel. The colours were also harmonised, as you can see from this photograph.
Rook Lane 2
The textile element was probably the weakest here but the paintings, ceramics and glass more than made up for it, especially the glass. The exhibition was curated by Carolyn Griffiths who exhibited lovely pieces based on silk pattern books of the period. The work of Shelley James, shown right, also working in glass, was outstanding and I really loved these three glass bricks. Screen printed transfers had been used and trapped inside the outer layers of glass to produce a magical effect. I loved her geological piece.
Rook Lane 3
Rook Lane 4
Fabrizia Bazzo was also producing amazing artefacts in glass. Here, a rusty old found object is mounted above her glass panel, which reflects the rusty elements in a way I had never seen before.
Rook Lane 5
Rook Lane 6
The ceramics were well to the fore too. This 'Articulated Waistcoat' by Steven Jenkins was great fun and certainly provided inspiration for stitchers. His shoe vases were interesting and were selling well.
Rook Lane 7
Rook Lane 8
Three paintings by Sue Conrad dominated their space with strong colours and shapes. One of them is shown below. Other delicate pieces of mixed media paint techniques were among my favourites but the glazing made them impossible to photograph.

Rook Lane 9

The general feel of the exhibition, and the way the space was used, was effective - sheer silk-screened hangings allowed glimpses of patterned window glass. Some areas gave sensations of intimate 'interiors', breaking the floor areas into rooms with good use of furniture and fittings. I enjoyed the exhibition immensely, especially the glass, and the rusted work of Fabrizia will remain with me as an inspiration.

Prism 2008
Mall Gallery, London, 5-9 February 2008

Going to the Prism exhibition is always a joy - seeing the way the artists respond to a given brief and the innovative hanging provides an interest which complements the visual. I was denied this exhibition in the flesh this year owing to a very bad back. They kindly sent me some pics and I thought you would all like to see them.

In this 10th anniversary year, the brief was 'overlay: stitch, print, reveal'. The results were selected with the aim of providing a good variety of work. It was lovely to see the work on CD but I so missed the chance to wander round, peer closely or stand back to view this colourful work. Here are some of my favourites from the CD.

The CD is available at £5.00 from .
Prism 1
Mary Bridgman
Prism 2
Beryl Prichard
Prism 3
Dinah Hutchins

Prism 3
Prinkie Roberts

And. . .

Out of the Ordinary: Spectacular Craft
Victoria & Albert Museum, 13 November 2007 - 17 February 2008

This exhibition brought together the work of eight contemporary artists who use a diverse range of traditional and new technologies which include carving, sewing, welding, animation and laser etching. Working with exceptional skill with these technologies, they use ordinary materials such as paper, thread and nails to make works which are both intricate and large in scale.

I preferred almost everything else to the single example of stitch. Such a good idea - I do think the V&A could have made much more of this exhibition.

Olu Amoda (below left) is a sculptor, a designer and a teacher from Nigeria. He made his body of work for this exhibition from materials salvaged from the scrapyards and streets of Lagos, taking his inspiration from daily life in the city. The components for this door were carefully selected to make a particularly interesting whole.

Lu Shengzhong (below right and bottom pic) is a professor at the China Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing. While studying art in the 1980s, he became interested in how ancient crafts such as paper cutting are integrated into everyday life in rural China. In both the pieces shown, these paper cuts form the main component. In the piece below right, strings of figures, all hand cut, form a paper cascade. You can see the make-up of the figures in the detail at the bottom.

V&A 1
Olu Amoda
V&A 1
Lu Shengzhong
V&A 1
Lu Shengzhong

Have you heard about our sister magazine www.quiltwow.com
More unrestricted exhibition reviews are shown there. The next update will be on March 8.

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