The Dartboard for Witches and Bitten & Pressed at Aberystwyth Arts Centre

07Sep10

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The Dartboard for Witches is the current exhibition in Gallery 1 at Aberystwyth Arts Centre. It is open until September 18th. The exhibition features work which incorporates or references textiles as a medium and will be available to tour in the Autumn. For me the exhibition is quite confusing and disconnected, for which you could read eclectic and wide-ranging.

Art and Textiles there’s a tricky one. why does there have to be a distinction? This exhibition does not aim to define either and in that way does little to further either. I had hoped that I would enjoy this show, which in itself features some very well established and highly thought of artists and makers. I was disappointed.

I guess the problem I have with it is that had I been curating this show I would have selected less and maybe fewer artists. This is not a criticism of the exhibition but rather a failing on my part for having built up my anticipation for this particular show.

Of the artists selected here I particularly liked Laura Ford’s Localised Weather, a pair of Hunter Wellingtons and a Skirt stand beneath an engulfed cloud for that completely hides the top half of the girl. Natasha Kerr’s work documents the lives of four people in the form of large stitched, printed, painted and written banners. Tabitha Kyoko Moses is represented by a collection of white rosettes “Bride” and black rosettes “Groom”. She also shows a Hair Purse. Naori Priestley shows “Gerda’s Red Shoes”, a pair of beautiful red knitted shoes and an interesting figure placed beneath a glass dome.

These pieces showed sensitivity to subject matter and an interesting exploration of ideas. I felt that they were somewhat lost in a confused and disorientated space. Naori Priestley was squashed in one corner, Laura Ford’s work was dominated by a larger piece by Doug Jones consisting of a circle of hooded people, which somewhat dominated the space. Tabitha Kyoko Moses’ work is presented flat in display cabinets. I was not sure about Caren Garfen’s pieces which reference domestic objects, or Clyde Oliver’s slate works. I was intrigued by Rosalind Wyatt’s embroidery on garments.

There was a lot of work which was directly figurative, much of which I didn’t like, and although I felt there was merit in the work of Becky Knight and Jane McKeating and Lynn Setterington I just didn’t like much of it. I really respect these artists, and in the past have enjoyed seeing their work, I feel that here they sit uncomfortably with the other work.

Strangely for an exhibition featuring artists for whom the tactile experience of making the work is of obvious importance, there is a lack of sensitivity I felt here. The Benjamin metaphor of threads of a story, a story woven etc etc is overplayed here by a body of work by different artists featuring laboured drawing with stitch.

The press release states “in the past (it has) been a struggle to see fabric as a serious medium for artworks”. I felt that some of the work in the exhibition was stuck in the past, in a way that does little to show textiles as a serious medium for contemporary artworks.

I really really really wanted to like this exhibition, but felt bitterly disappointed having seen it.

Bitten & Pressed in Gallery 2 runs until the 4th September before touring to Oriel Theatr Clwyd, Mold, January-March 2011. “An exploration of the diversity of contemporary printmaking” had me hoping for something that might present the audience with a challenge for what printmaking means in the 21st century, and how it is a vital and innovative creative vehicle for ideas. Not at all. What is presented is sadly a display of work that perpetuates the myth that printmaking is basically a technique for illustrators. There are some beautiful individual pieces of work in the show, most notably woodcut artist Roman Klonek, but the rest of the exhibition looks like an edition of the Association of Illustrators yearbook.

I am so pleased to have seen Roman Klonek’s work. According to his website http://www.klonek.de, “Roman Klonek, born in Kattowitz/Poland, have a spot for old fashioned cartoons, especially East European Styles.
In the 90s he studied Graphic Arts in Duesseldorf and discovered a passion for woodcut printing.
Since 10 years now, he do posters with a wide range of whimsical creatures, mostly half animal/half human, preferential in awkward situations.
You will find a bizarre balancing act between propaganda, folklore and pop.
He works together with friends in a studio in Düsseldorf, Germany.”

All this got me thinking about Oriel Mostyn’s opening show which I loved but which I also felt was overhung.

And finally I looked back at the Sylvia Plath poem which is referenced in the title of the Aberystwyth exhibition; “I am lost, I am lost, in the robes of all this light.”

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