Monday, 14 February 2011

The Butterfly Rooms, Saltaire 12 February 2011

My friend the ceramicist Lis Holt invited me along to this newly opened gallery space above a sweet little gift shop on Bingley Road in Saltaire. I already have several pieces of her work in my collection so was delighted to see her latest pieces. She is showing her work alongside that of photographer Daniel Shiel and painter David Starley. All three artists had organised a 'meet the artist' afternoon and I spent a pleasant hour in the two sunny, white painted second floor rooms, glass of wine in hand chatting to the artists about their work.

The first room was given over entirely to David Starley's heavily impasto oil paintings. En masse the effect was rather overwhelming especially given the strong smell of drying paint and the vibrant colours of some of the work. The more brightly coloured scenes, for example the poppies in cornfields were not to my taste but the more thoughtful work like the gloomy canalway at the back of Salts Mill or the grey, rain-shined cobbles of Victoria Road in Saltaire suited the weight and mass of the technique.

Daniel Shiel 'Corrugated Iron 2'
The walls of the neighbouring room were more lightly hung with Daniel Shiel's exquisite photographs of both natural and man-made surface textures. The eye was caught by the extraordinarily beautiful patterns formed by the decayed surfaces of peeling paint, bleeding rust and bleached wood. Daniel uses the computer to further point up these patterns by creating collages and mosaics of the photographs. I particuarly loved the work called 'Saltaire iron and stone collage' showing a series of old iron staples set in lead rusting into their stone settings. It came as no surprise that Daniel, like me, trained as an archaeologist, he writes that he  "... considers the rich textures, patterns and colours evident in many everyday objects both natural and artificial: details often unseen and overlooked at first glance. The themes at the centre of my work are associations with the past, decay, destruction and loss."

Lis Holt 'Wave' next to Daniel Shiel collage
Lis Holt pots
It seemed that some of the rusty staining from Daniel's photographs had somehow made their way across into some of Lis Holt's normally mechanically-perfect matte blue glazes. Her Wave forms were all the better for it and all her pieces showed well against Daniel's work. Many of her vessel forms are inspired by those of ancient Aegean pottery and the full-bellied pots and single bowl displayed effectively in a deep recess beside the room's chimney breast looked as if they had been excavated from a sunken trading ship with their mottled or crusted surfaces and simple wave-like repetitive decoration.

The exhibition at The Butterfly Rooms continues until 26 February 2011. Details from their website 

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