Review of ‘Ahead of the Curve’ exhibition, on contemporary Chinese ceramics

My review of ‘Ahead of the Curve: new china from China’, a touring exhibition on contemporary Chinese ceramics, is published on a four page spread in the latest ‘Craft Arts International’ magazine, issue no. 94. This exhibition started at The Wilson, Cheltenham’s art gallery and museum, in October 2014 and then moved on to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery, before going to The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent.

Cover page to Crafts Art International, issue no. 95

Cover page to Crafts Art International, issue no. 94

First page of my article in Craft Arts International

First page of my article in Craft Arts International

My review of the ‘Make It Slow’ exhibition in Scarborough is published in Crafts Magazine Jan/Feb 2014

photo copyI was delighted to see my review of the ‘Make It Slow’ exhibition at Woodend Gallery, Scarborough has been published in the Jan/Feb 2014 edition of Crafts Magazine. It has been given a whole page. Crafts is one of my favourite magazines, and one I have read for several years.

The exhibition consisted of a beautifully intricate display of textiles by some of the UK’s top makers. Emphasis was on sustainability of materials and in applying the ‘Slow philosophy’ to craft.

An online copy of the review can be found on the Crafts website, here

Heart Space Studios: For all things textile

Heart Space Studios posterJust off Coldharbour Road, Heart Space Studios offers a unique experience for all those interested in textile art and craft. It hosts a wide range of workshops, which draw upon different textile-inspired techniques including stitching, embellishing, quilting, felting, and beading. Experimentation is always encouraged. This enterprise is still a relatively new phenomenon for Bristol and is well worth exploring.

The Heart Space Studio motto is ‘Making by Hand, Heart and Eye’. This reflects their effort to continue and revive the value of craft by teaching or nurturing practical skills and the confidence in making things with one’s own hand. It is also indicative of the care and love that goes into the making and teaching at the Studios. This motto is obviously getting across, as one eager customer described the Studios as a cheerful, multicoloured heaven or Pandora’s box.  Continue reading

‘Minotaur in a Mirror’ drawing by Sophie Ryder

This is another piece I wrote for the Young Arnolfini blog:

‘Minotaur in a Mirror’ is the largest pencil drawing on display in the RWA’s Monumental exhibition of Sophie Ryder’s work. It depicts a minotaur looking almost anxiously into a mirror, as though trying to ‘see’ himself clearly. The action of ‘seeing’ oneself, to negotiate one’s identity, as well as negotiating interactive spaces and relationships with ‘others’, are key motifs in Ryder’s work. This drawing however is the time she uses a mirror to represent these issues.

Mirrors feature in many feminist literatures, images and artworks in similar ways. For example the inclusion of mirrors is a typical feature of female photographers’ self-portraits in the 1920s. Isle Bing, Florence Henri and Lotte Jacobi come to mind. In terms of literature, ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte, ‘The Well of Loneliness’ by Radclyffe Hall, and ‘The Bloody Chamber’ by Angela Carter all use mirror motifs to negotiate or form a sense of subjectivity and develop knowledge of the ‘self’.

The minotaur’s masculine body is physically powerful. The attention given to the shading round the muscles clearly shows this. Yet, the inclusion of the mirror and attention given to ‘seeing’ suggest the beast has a searching and vulnerable mind. He could almost be looking in the mirror in search of a companion to comfort himself. In this way, there is a discrepancy between the inside and outside, between inward and outward realities. The outside appears strong, but the inside is acutely vulnerable. This dichotomy is emphasized by the inclusion of the mirror in the composition. It makes the minotaur both the subject and the object, a self and an other. He is simultaneously in a passive and powerful position.

The mirror – and the way the minotaur is reflected in it – throws up many questions. Is he looking at his idealised self or a projection of his imagination? Is there even a mirror at all, or is it just a prominent metaphor for his ‘second’ or ‘sub’ conscious? Is the mirror a barrier? Does it mark a division between imagination (or illusion) and reality? Does it suggest the limits and containment of the mind? Is the mirror a stage onto which one can project and ‘re-see’ oneself? The minotaur is turned inwards, suggesting the scene is not theatrical but rather a dramatic projection inwards towards the self.

However the drawing does not depict a clear mirror image because the minotaur’s head is not reflected ‘accurately’ in the mirror. Additionally, both bodies are drawn and represented in the same way – such as using the same amount of shading, depth and solidity. Therefore, it is impossible to tell which minotaur is the reflection and which the ‘real’ body and contemplative audience.

The way the minotaur and the mirror interact is indeed puzzling. There is no central figure to look at. This disrupts the viewer’s gaze, which provokes in the viewer similar feelings of insecurity as the minotaur is shown to feel. We have no mastery over the world, the idea of reality, what we see. Ultimately, we have no mastery over ourselves, and so the self remains unknowable.

This drawing reminds us that we are made up of split, fragmentary selves – and the different parts cannot be accessed all at once. With this in mind, I feel the overarching question this drawing poses is which side of ourselves are we going to see and project today?