Strand (11/1/14-29/3/14) at Oriel Wrecsam


Strand // Llinyn

11/1/14– 29/3/14

Artists exploring the use and symbolism of hair in contemporary art practice.

Ken Ashton (Deeside)

Jane Copeman (Cheshire)

Marion Michell (London)

Tabitha Moses (Liverpool)

Jeanette Orrell (Denbighshire)

The exhibition is supported by a loan from Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum of hair items including Victorian mourning jewellery, and items from Jeanette Orrell\’s collection of brushes.

We will be holding a seminar day in March looking at mindfulness and creativity. The event will include talks and practical activities relating to how artists balance their practice with health and well-being. Contact the gallery for more information.


The average person, if there is such a thing, has 5 million hairs and we lose somewhere between 20 and 200 every day. Most hairs grow for up to 6 years before they fall out. Hair can be removed by depilation (from the surface) or epilation (removal of the whole strand, including the part that has not yet left the follicle). It can be shaved, waxed, removed by lasers, cut or trimmed.

Hair can act as a barometer of how far we have distanced ourselves from the natural world. Scientifically speaking it is a filament that grows from follicles in the dermis. It is composed of protein, mainly keratin. Melanin colours the fibre; Eumelanin is dominant in dark blond, brown and black hair, while Pheomelanin is dominant in red hair. Blond hair has little pigmentation and grey hair occurs when melanin production decreases or stops. Different cultures have different hair, some is fine, some is coarse, some is sleek, and some is wiry. It can be straight, curly or wavy in its natural form. It can be black, blonde, brown, ginger, auburn, mousey, or just plain mucky coloured. The cuticle of the hair strand is covered with a single molecular layer of lipid that makes the hair repel water. The diameter of human hair varies from 17 – 180 micrometers.

Hair could be seen as a remnant of our animal ancestry. We could consider it as human \”fur\”. The attraction/repulsion of hair/fur is best seen in Meret Oppenheim’s surrealist Object, 1936 (MoMA New York), where a cup, saucer and teaspoon are covered in fur making them familiar and unfamiliar, sexualized and non-functional, captivating and off-putting. Brushes are inanimate objects that are made from wire, hair or bristles. They mimic our own hair, and can act as a vehicle for comment on domestic chores, gender politics, stereotyping and utilitarianism.

Hair has been used as a memento, a keepsake. Queen Victoria was said to be never without a lock of her beloved Prince Albert’s hair. This was the start of a fashion from the 1860s onwards for the collection of hair in lockets, brooches, bracelets and other items of jewellery. These relics formed a tie with a departed relative or loved one, evoking the person. This use of hair allows for the imagination, recollection and memory of time gone by, the lost love and the reflection on relationships both private and public.

In early versions of Rapunzel, when the witch discovers that Rapunzel has been letting a prince climb up her hair she shaves all of her hair off. In Rumplestiltskin the miller’s daughter has to spin straw into gold as fine as human hair. In Melisande an evil fairy curses a princess at her birth, causing her to be bald. Fortunately, the King has a wish that he has been saving, and when she becomes a young woman, he presents it to her. Melisande uses the wish, but she ends up with hair that grows an inch every day and doubles the growth whenever it is cut, resulting in hair that is torturously long.

The author of Melisande (1901), Edith Nesbit, challenged the social norms of her time by cutting her hair short. In the previous century long hair had been seen as wild, untamed and challenging (Pre-Raphaelites). In 1910, at the Slade School of Art, London, as a rebellion against the constraints of convention, the artists (Dora) Carrington and Dorothy Brett cut their hair into the shape of pudding basins and became known as the \”cropheads\”. This act of rebellion against traditional roles for women became increasingly popular with the bobbed style of 1920s flapper girls. Hair can be grown or cut to make a political statement.

Also showing in Wrexham this Spring:


Oriel Sycharth Gallery, Glyndwr University

6/2/14– 14/4/14

A show broadly focusing on fabric, not only in the sense of textiles but also as in the texture of reality and phenomena.

Additional Sources of Information

Interviews with some of the artists featured in the show can be found on our Facebook pages.

Oriel Wrecsam Facebook Page

Strand Pinterest Board

Strand YouTube Playlist

via Strand (11/1/14-29/3/14).


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