I Left Kirkbymoorside to drive to Harrogate with Janet on Tuesday, but somehow, being unfamiliar with the route via Sutton Bank, we ended up going via Thirsk, York and Knaresborough - don't ask! It was a lovely day for a drive, and I sort of saw things I'd never seen before, so hey, it was worth it. . .
Mercer Art Gallery is much smaller than I expected, the ladies on the reception desk were lovely and friendly, dealing very well with our garbled request on behalf of Anne Thalheim, to check the fitting of a projector cable.
Anne's work is interesting, intriguing disturbing. This exhibition entitled Encasement, continues to be so. Since I last saw it, the framework for suspending pieces has been swapped for a vastly superior structure, which improved Mr Boldwood's Cache no end. Some of the pieces suspended are exquisite in their delicacy, amazing for work made from industrial and DIY materials really. I would have liked to have seen more made of the shadows created by the works suspended from the shiny new framework, perhaps by having this ensemble further away from the wall with low lights creating shadows higher up the wall. The space is not particularly large however, which is probably why the decision was made to place it where it is although I think that one of the larger floor standing pieces Crinoline, could have been left out of the show to enable the other piece to "breathe" better.
Some of the works on the walls are wonderful, one in particular (I cannot remember what it is called), which reminded me of a religious prayer relic, like an out-sized set of rosary beads with its looping structure with an artifact on the end. I found it very moving somehow. Other pieces on the walls were reminiscent of body armour and were confrontational in their blackness and slightly menacing.
It's an interesting exhibition with its references to the politics of femaleness, the psychology of space and communication and with the use of black red and white that touches upon the use of charcoal, red ochre and chalk; some of the basic pigments available and well documented as used by human beings across time and the globe.
Where Anne's work is confrontational, in contrast, Serena Partridge's intimate pieces for All Dressed Up, draw you in; their soft beautiful colour, smaller scale and protected within their frames, Serena's pieces reveal their meaning only with close scrutiny. New marks in the form of stitch made upon the reclaimed material reflect upon ideas to do with loss, both emotional and physical. Stitch, forming architectural drawings of important buildings within Harrogate and topographical areas redolent with memories are made on beautifully crafted gloves, made from remnants of the same garments that had a previous existence. Delicately stitched flowers on some of the gloves hint at the lives of beauty and leisure lived. Stitched words provide us with the names of the buildings and sometimes with information about things that happened in an area, which leads the viewer into a reverie about a time long gone and a lives lived at a different pace.
Like Anne, Serena is using things that existed for another purpose/in another life; she chooses to recycle garments and the stitching is made with yarns discovered whilst rummaging in junk shops, she re uses paper patterns too, as well as human hair. These choices strengthen the links with history, human lives lived and communities made. The fact that Serena chooses to present her work as if curated by a museum with labels hand written with faded ink reinforces the sense of a time long gone and creates an ambiguity within the work that is intriguing who has curated this work, who has made it?
Both artists are referencing women's clothing as a way of reflecting on women and society and the contrast between the two women's work is considerable but the messages are strong, from each; we are all human, we all have a history.
If you are in the area, these two bodies of work are well worth going to see. I have not included picture of the artists' works, but use the links to see some.