Friday, 10 December 2010

'STILL' Recent Photographs by Graham Hardy

I know Graham from his work as a video maker so I was intrigued to be invited to the preview of this show of his still photos at Seven Art Centre in Chapel Allerton, Leeds this week (Wed 8 December). The preview was a very relaxed affair in this obviously well-used cafe bar type community venue. Graham's discreetly framed works were grouped around the room and there was a little awkwardness involved in having to lean over chattering customers to look at them. He was also showing a series of location based shots digitally projected onto a wall which were easier to view.

The framed colour photos fell into two groups, both still lifes, but one set referencing a trip to New Orleans with musical instruments and cheap Mardi Gras trinkets, the other, natural objects like shells, stones and feathers either singly or in carefully placed associations.

Graham writes, one assumes, of these latter works, " work leads to another, a hanging stone is joined by two others, and then a feather,which hovers over a bone, then salt somehow enters the stage and so it goes on...I think issues of death are in the photos, about the ordinary becoming extraordinary".

The objects from this latter set float in profoundly inky black spaces apparently without support. I saw in these works a type of memento mori with the bones and sheep's skull and particularly the shot of a long piece of pale fabric knotted in the middle and hanging quietly like a shroud.

The Mardi Gras photos might at first glance be seen as quite the opposite being memories of celebration and joy, however Graham's projected photos contained many images of post Katrina dereliction in New Orleans. The beads, mask and abandoned trumpet took on a much more melancholic hue as a result, symbols of the Big Easy as it once was but may never be again.

Considering the small number of framed works, this exhibition made quite an impact with the contrast of the artistic still lifes with the photojournalistic projected images of seedy urban spaces both in the north of England and the US. Some editing of the latter to make the 'story' clearer might have helped. The shots of New Orlean's deserted ninth district provided a superb foil to the still life memento mori on their own.

Graham Hardy's website can be found at

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Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Knitting & Stitching Show, Harrogate 2010

We sadly had a rather shorter visit than normal to this crafter's cornucopia thanks to a snow storm that swept in mid afternoon and sent us scurrying home. Poor Angie Wyman from the University of Cumbria stand was forced to overnight in Harrogate it was so bad. I managed just a few of the exhibitions so here follows just a taster of what was on offer. Follow the links for images and more information on the artists.

smallCHAT 'Power of Ten'
I have a soft spot for this group as they are based in one of my favourite villages in Essex, Thaxted. I first came across them doing a group show at Wimpole Hall, Cambs and was particularly impressed at the time by Helen O'Leary's creepy, ghostly hanging wedding 'shrouds'. This time around she has gone mad for rust-staining. Various embroidered rust-stained fabric frames surrounded sepia photos of World War I soldiers and brides, none very convincing, possibly if she'd used the original photos rather than grainy scans I might have liked them better. More interesting was the rusty bride's veil hanging on a scrubbed pine door, raising memories of Miss Havisham and her tattered wedding outfit. Sue Walton's work evoked similar memories of the Victorian era with her bizarre embroidered felt fantasies housed under glass bell jars. They obviously referenced the silk & paper flowers and other odd creations made by middle class Victorian women with time on their hands but had an odd rather surreal feel to them as if they were living creatures found at the bottom of the sea.

Elizabeth Tarr 'Out of Indigo'
I absolutely love indigo dyed textiles and Elizabeth's stitched narrative images didn't disappoint. The majority closely referenced images from the works of Velasquez. Some of the pieces on the face of it were crude and primitive in style but the indigo added a remarkable depth and texture which quite transformed them. For me the most successful were the pieces with silhouetted images, for example 'Infanta Series: Dog' where the shadowy dark blue dog is set against a creased blurry background, or a pair of shadowy Infanta images with gilded sentences "I carry the sun in a golden cup" and "...the moon in a silver bag". Less effective were the images with crudely painted faces and hands superimposed onto the blue shadowy figures.

Gizella K Warburton
Rather pleased to come across something a bit more conceptual at last. Gizella's ripped, monochrome stitched pieces were like a breath of fresh air. They were gnarly, scrubbed, painted, fraying and scribbled on in pencil. Squares of cloth or slate had applied thread, paper yarn or wire circles and other scraps of fabric overlaid on them.

Clyde Olliver 'Kirkby Roundhead'

'Large Slate'
 Clyde Olliver
Another soothing selection of monochrome imagery amongst the chaos and bling of the rest of the show. Clyde also uses slate and stitch but his work is more solid than Gizella's with thick tough yarn threaded through drilled holes. The little arrow and triangular shaped stitches looked like a code on 'Kirkby Roundhead' and contrasted the fine hair-like threads used on 'Large Slate'. The latter was very grungy with dirty looking thread plus dried patches of lichen.

Sadly at that point the snow started falling and we had to tear ourselves away from the next display, a wonderful selection from Manchester Met University's textile archive called 'Machine Stitch Perspectives', a show put together to celebrate the publication of the book of the same name by Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating. Tantalising glimpses of work by Maxine Bristow  and Michael Brennand-Wood were briefly seen!

More about what I missed can be found on the Knitting and Stitching Show website

Sunday, 14 November 2010

South Square Salon Show 2010

I love the South Square Centre's quirky gallery spaces and was really looking forward to their new salon show although I was soon kicking myself for forgetting to submit my own work. When we arrived we found the venue already bursting at the seams and there was such a squash in the upstairs gallery where the salon was taking place that I only managed to make the briefest of notes as we shuffled round.

The hang was really impressive, floor to ceiling just like a proper salon exhibition. The work was thoughtfully displayed and I was left pondering how on earth they managed to cram it all in with no spaces. Given that the show was entirely unselected I was immediately impressed by the overall high standard of most of the work. Sadly there was no information with the works other than the name of the artist so some of this blog is based on guesswork!

For me there were several real highlights and these were in no particular order:
Gillian Holt Porcelain vases with photos and documents on their surfaces. They were sepia-toned, old stuff which looked like the result of family or local history research. The bone-white porcelain contrasted the poignant crumbling, faded photos and words, documenting long past lives.

Onile Onile The piece that caught my eye by this artist was a wall hung shallow open wooden box. Inside it was painted or rather encrusted with viridian green paint, several wooden partitions criss-crossed the interior and there were fragments of ceramic or flint placed randomly within. One, formed into a pebble imprinted with something indecipherable was placed on the top, like a visitor's rock placed on top of a jewish tombstone.

Ann Rutherford 'Brown Earth' A deceptively simple print of a curving sweep of ploughed field. It brought back powerful memories of the heavy clay fields of my childhood in Essex - a frozen sea of turned soil. It even reminded me of the smell of the freshly cut and turned earth.

Janet Molelland The work I liked by this artist was an abstract acrylic, mostly in grey in which I saw a stormy seascape, full of movement and power. It was a little like the work of the fabulous Katy Moran whose work I saw at MIMA a couple of years ago.

David Thomas This was the first artist whose work I knew. The piece that caught my eye was a grey acrylic study of pebbles in a white-washed corner- slightly unfocussed and soft. Lovely range of greys, and flaky whites.

Madelaine Burt She had a couple of square wall mounted pieces which may have been enamel on metal or glaze on a ceramic tile, I couldn't tell [checking her website I find it's neither! A resin-based medium it turns out, read more on her website]. Anyhow, the piece I loved had a gorgeous coppery-red surface with lots of subtle texure and depth, to one side was a fine white painted outline of what looked like a bird skeleton, I was reminded of Rozanne Hawksley's mummified birds or of a Pictish stone carving of some magical beast.

All in all a great show and we all enjoyed the veggie pie and peas and parkin and not forgetting the burning of the cardboard phoenix along with everyone's hopes and wishes for the coming year.

The show finishes on 23 December 2010. Opening times and details of other shows on in the same building at

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Craven Contemporary Christmas 2010

This annual show at the Craven Museum and Art Gallery in Skipton opened with a packed preview evening last night (20 Oct 2010). I didn't get a chance to see everything because there were so many people milling about but it seemed to be the usual mix of purely decorative with a few notable exceptions.

The latter included Carine Brosse's ceramic and mixed media boxes based on fairy stories. Little creatures and people disport themselves on top of rectangular boxes which are vehicles for scraps of words, quotes and impressed letters. Blood red acrylic is smeared and splattered everywhere in a very dark and disturbing fashion. Learn more about Carine's work at

Textile artist Jaki Bogg has been a favourite of mine for a while now. She had two stitched pictures showing empty chairs in quiet corners of apparently empty rooms. Done in muted natural colours with a hint of blue and the stitched threads left trailing in an unfinished careless style which only added to the slightly unsettling mood the works provoked.

Joan Newell is another favourite and I have a much-used digitally printed waxed cotton needle case by her. This collection seemed somehow slicker and more designed as part of a group than previous work I'd seen. She'd also done some interesting black and white prints with hints of red which were uncomfortably similar to recent work by Dionne Swift I'm afraid to say.

Anna Tosney's distinctive drypoint monoprints were as lovely as ever, the chunky duck was a particular favourite, see more at her Wordpress blog

David Cook's prints were not so much to my taste though others in my group loved them. I was drawn to his 'Feather and 3 Stones' mixed media drawing. Faint, misty monochrome images which nevertheless had great power.

Anna Lambert's ceramics come more under the decorative heading but I love their naive style and earthy colourfulness. There were some new (to me) more abstract vessel shapes with interesting organic surface decoration eg 'Vase with Gorse and Buzzard' - the gorse represented by yellow writhing abstract shapes.

On the completely decorative front, I liked Carolyn Hird-Rogers' digital prints of flowers and seed heads on hand made paper - very pretty- and Margaret Swift's naturalistic pastel pencil cat studies, perfectly capturing 'catness'!

The less said about Kitty North's monstrous yellow daub the better!

The show continues until 22 December see for opening times.

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Saturday, 16 October 2010

Light Night Leeds

We didn't manage to get round as much of the events as we wanted this year because there were so many people and long queues. Highlights were again in the Town Hall and the gloomy St John's Church. In the latter The Beads of light by Michelle Buckley didn't deliver the glittering punch imagined but Terry Wragg's installation Fingerlit was glorious - pairs of delicate white gloves lit from within glowed eerily in the darkness, folded in prayer or gripping the edges of the pews like the spirits of the dead whose monolithic tombstones lined the path through the graveyard.

Down underneath the Town Hall the ceiling of the Bridewell Corridor twinkled with a thousand paper origami cranes by Kirsty Ware called Light at the End of the Tunnel. Fragile and pure pieces of beauty. Sean Best's glowing installation Small Lighthouses was also effective although their meaning re-museums and their collections was obscure. Fun moments were coming across the owls outside the library with their little knitted scarves and the modest bronze nymphs with their knitted bras!

Flickr Light Night Leeds photoset

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Tuesday, 12 October 2010


A blog just for me? Very unexpected, I wonder what I will fill it with? At the moment I think it will be gallery reviews