Carving out space at Ruthin Craft Centre


Carving out space

12th January – 10th March 2013
Ruthin Craft Centre Gallery 1, 2 & 3

large forecastOrnithology

Gary Breeze letter forms
Warwick Freeman jewellery
Jim Partridge, Liz Walmsley furniture
David Nash sculpture
Guy Taplin carved birds

Curated by Amanda Game Carving out space brings together six artists and makers who explore intellectual and physical space through the process of carving: all works informed by close working with the materials, and spaces, of particular geographic locations. Works from different formal traditions – sculpture; furniture; letter carving and jewellery – are linked by a sense of human culture, constantly re-shaped by a relationship to the dynamic processes of the natural world. As well as objects, there are photographs of site-specific works and drawings.

This exhibition has some beautiful pieces in it. I am particularly pleased to have the opportunity to see the work of Gary Breeze. The pieces in the show are a quiet celebration of language and words. Breeze skillfully explores Norfolk dialect ornithology and field pattern, boat building and the found 19th century description by a young girl describing a boat leaving a harbour.

“…Words to me are a product of Nature, borne of the necessity to exist; like a bird’s song. Words can be manipulated by clever people into poems and prose, just as stone can be shaped into great art; but for me it is enough to draw attention to these things as they are found.”


“…Breeze works as an ethnographer as much as a carver.… His work is immersed in the particularities of words and voice and culture. He restores language to us through his lettering.”


Born in Essex in 1966, Gary studied Graphic Design at Norwich School of Art followed by an apprenticeship with the letter-carver and sculptor David Holgate. In 1992 he worked as assistant to Richard Kindersley before setting up his own workshop in London a year later.

Early commissions for public sculpture came through Art in Partnership in Scotland, including the Wisdom frieze for Glasgow High Court of Justiciary completed in 1995. Since then Gary has completed a number of major public works in Scotland including lettering at the New Scottish Parliament, Glasgow Caledonian University, and most recently, an oak seating installation at the State Hospital due to open in 2011.

Along with collaborative associations with a numerous architectural practises, Gary has also worked for many years with support from Memorials by Artists, completing two major commissions through them including the Bali Bombing Memorial at Horse Guards Road, London in 2005, project managed and assisted by Martin Cook; and Christ Church Cloister fountain in Oxford completed in 2010. Both projects involved the extensive design and re-landscaping of two important architecturally sensitive sites.

In this exhibition is was mesmerised by two pieces that utilise found pieces of Welsh slate. One uses language that describes field patterns. The words used are presented across the surface defining shapes as they reveal themselves. Fields are often described by their shape or position. The names given are often not to be found in a dictionary. Here Breeze takes the oral tradition and makes it manifest. I also particularly liked the piece which uses Norfolk dialect for birds. Birds names, like field names, describe aspects of the bird’s character.

From his website:
“Some of Gary Breeze’s work is a deliberate commemoration of the fleeting nature of vernacular language and of the rich East Anglian dialect in particular. Of this he has written: ‘ The very nuts and bolts of our native tongue [is] a poem we create afresh everyday… it does not rely on the inventive minds of an educated elite for its evolution. It emerged from the grunts and groans of people struggling for their existence off the land over many centuries. It is at this level that words are most obviously an imaginative expression of the experience of the senses.”

I would particulary recommend this essay by Ewan Clayton from Breeze’s website:

The exhibition also features David Nash who curator Amanda Games describes as having “an interest in the potency of useful things”.

Guy Taplin discovers the beauty in the found. Many will be familiar with his work which expands on the folk art of decoy carving. The interesting thing here is that Taplin celebrates the living whereas the decoy was used to hunt birds.

Jim Partridge and Liz Walmsley are based in Shropshire. They are responsible for much of the furniture at Ruthin Craft Centre. Within this show their work creates a dialogue with the the unsettling brilliance of Nash’s sculpture. Amanda Games has commented on the ease with which these forms appear, in the way that Italo Calvino talks of great things delivered with lightness.

Warwick Freeman is based in New Zealand. His work explores the bicultural tradition of that place. Again he is someone who uses the found, and, in the way that a child does, he converts it into treasure.

I would highly recommend a visit to Ruthin Craft Centre to see this show and buy the catalogue.


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