Thursday, 24 October 2013

Jennifer Tetlow: The Museum as Muse

Jennifer has spent a year exploring the Harrison Collection, now housed in the museum, as the inspiration for new work.  Having previously visited her workshop during an open studios event, I am familiar with her soft, lyrical carving.  Jennifer’s sculpture is honed from close observation of her rural surroundings and the creatures within it.  The stone she usually selects is local Yorkshire sandstone for its ability to withstand the elements because most of her work is designed to be displayed outdoors.

I was intrigued, then, to see that this exhibition consists of sculptures carved from a variety of different types of stone, displaying tactility of surface and reflecting the light in different ways.  The white walls and ceiling of the gallery, combined with the whites and neutral shades of the stone punctuated by an occasional black piece creates a satisfyingly unified exhibition.

Only one major sculpture, Glow Worm, (male), is carved from the local Yorkshire sandstone that Jennifer usually employs; it is a satisfying slab of a piece and contrasts beautifully with its more curvaceous female counterpart, Glow Worm, (female), placed diagonally across the gallery from it and carved in a beautiful white Bath stone.  The quality of the Bath stone pieces set on the white painted plinths were rather bleached out by the harsh lighting, which is a shame because this made it difficult to see the more subtle aspects of the carving.  (On my second visit, this had been rectified to a certain extent by turning off the overhead flood lighting).  “Vessel” is a piece, carved in Bath stone and inspired by a whale’s blow hole, satisfyingly solid, with beautiful curves and subtle folds carved into it, that would have benefited from more sensitive lighting.  I did like the contrast between the quality of the stone and the painted plinths and it set me to wondering what the pieces may look like if they were placed on natural wood or other types of supports; it may be something that Jennifer will consider as she develops this line of enquiry in her work.

However, I will not dwell on this; the exhibition is testament to Jennifer’s engagement with the Harrison Collection.  The small black carved “Magpie” smoothed and curved yet still capturing the essence of the bird in its pose is a piece that forms a link between Jennifer’s usual way of working and the new, vibrant and tactile pieces in this exhibition.  There is a variety of scale; down the wall on the left a series of shelves displays small maquettes to which I was drawn time and again, their carving intriguing, satisfying.  Jennifer talked about the carving of the spoons of various sizes being comfortable and warm in her hand and how she relished the connection between these responses to the spoons she studied in the Harrison Collection, the ones she has carved and the silver spoon found in the thatch of the Manor House on site in the museum.  In fact, she talked with great passion about different connections that unfolded as her study of the collection developed, things such as the beautiful and rare Alabaster stone she decided to use because it catches the light becoming a metaphorical reaction to bringing the objects within the collection from the dark of storage boxes into the light.  She learned with delight that Alabaster is traditionally finished with whale oil, creating yet another connection with the scrimshaw pieces in the collection.


Along the right hand wall there is a series of three boxes containing small pieces that are really anthropomorphic reminding me of ancient works made by our early ancestors; tiny as they are, they have a really strong presence.  A group of tiles depicting simple silhouettes of domestic items create interesting still lifes and illustrate Jennifer’s eye for composition and tone.
One of the small pieces that I found very appealing and satisfying features in the publicity photographs; it is a smooth polished piece of alabaster held within a coronet of Bath stone inspired by a pipe lighter in the collection.  The contrast between the two types of stone and the way they have been finished is utterly beautiful.

The large butterfly piece with its accompanying inscribed tablet, both placed on the end wall of the gallery lacks the animation of the other pieces in the show and tends to dominate the space; I think they would have been better placed on one of the side walls. 

All artists bring to their work their eclectic life experiences; the touch of their hand is what makes a piece of work their own.  I was fascinated when Jennifer talked about “the ease of the curve”, meaning how her own body naturally makes a curve in one direction much more easily than in another.  Jennifer discussed during her talk how collecting is a natural instinct in all of us, (again, the magpie surfaced in her consciousness), the Noah’s ark in the Harrison Collection held resonances with her own childhood and memories of fables and moralistic tales; we all crave objects of desire.

Jennifer has responded to the pieces within the Harrison collection with the eye and touch of a real craftsman; she admires and relates to the craftsmanship of the individual items, enjoying the connection of hands that make and hands that use.  Things such as jelly moulds, pipes, sticks, traps and vessels of all kinds provided her with a rich source of enquiry.  Her sculptures have provided us with an incredibly thoughtful link between old objects, craftsmanship and contemporary art practice.

Sue Gough, October 2013

Jennifer's exhibition is in The Gallery, Ryedale Folk Museum, Hutton le Hole, North Yorkshire and runs until November 3rd

Content copyright Sue Gough all rights reserved  
My images of Jennifer's work used with permission of Jennifer Tetlow

This review will appear in December's edition of Valley News.  Thank you to Jennifer Tetlow for her time and to Nicola Chalton of Valley News for the opportunity to be published.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

a-n Artists Talking Blog and a Very Old Drawing

I have been very caught up in domestic issues of late; building work at home is about to resume, family members are sick and a dear friend has been re-hospitalised.  Add to this the glut of apples and pears awaiting conversion to various chutneys and recipes and you will have a good idea of what I'm on about.  

Since my solo show at Easter there has not been much time to make new work and I talk about this in my a-n Artists Talking blog:
If you read it please feel free to leave a comment either here or on the a-n site, it is always nice to receive feedback.

Meanwhile I found this drawing, done in 1970 when I was fifteen!

I had forgotten the monogram I used to use (my maiden name is Walden); nice comment from my teacher, Val Tierney:

I remember the brief was to draw our face, exploring the spatial difference between our features using different qualities of line.  I took it seriously and did this drawing, no mean feat in our house of 5 kids and no where to work;  I think I had to hold the mirror in one hand, hence the low viewpoint and draw with the other.  It caused quite a titter from some of the other class members, who brought in pretty pictures of themselves but I was always an artist and genuinely fascinated by the brief and the outcome!

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Underpass Mural in Basingstoke 2003/4

When I was in Basingstoke recently for the opening of SKETCH 2013, I took the time to visit Pallant House Gallery in Chichester (see previous blogs) and on the way back, being on the right side of the town, I took a detour to the underpass in Cliddesden Road, close to the entrance to Queen Mary's College, where I used to work so that I could take some photographs of the mural that students and staff worked on together.  I am pleased to say that the mural has withstood the test of time really well; it has lost some of its finer details due to the constant cleaning by the council to remove the regular graffiti but on the whole, it still looks good.

It's a shame the council forget to keep the plaque clean!

The brief was to use colour and shape relating to the theme of the seasons to produce a design that flowed along the walls of the underpass.  There was a lot of prep work done during three tutor's teaching sessions, this work was then simplified and reduced to the final design. Looking at these photos, it seems that we produced one design that was painted onto both walls but obviously, because the walls were opposite one another the design reversed, keeping the overall effect lively.

The design work was also shown to residents so that their feedback could be taken into consideration.  We used a combination of collage, painting, print making and drawing combined with colour studies to explore the theme.  I seemed to be walking around college with several very long pieces of artwork that constitued the final designs under my arm for weeks running up to the completion of the project, because I was terrified of losing them!

I did take quite a lot of photos at the time, of students painting the underpass, but I have no idea what happened to them.  As we gradually sort out all the stuff that's been in store for years, they may turn up.  I remember it was a specialist paint used that is fairly resistant to graffiti.  I also remember the great fun the students all had producing the final piece.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

AN Artists Talking

My blog on AN's Artists Talking web site is about my development as a re-emerging artist and what I am doing in that role and as Chair of Ryedale ArtWorks: