Art galleries come in many different sizes, but none as dinky as the Merston Gallery in (oddly enough) Merston near Chichester.
Originally a Victorian School room belonging to Merston Church (which sits behind it) this lovely stone building sits in a tranquil rural setting and has been sympathetically transformed into a contemporary white cube exhibition space by artists and co-founders Paul and Sylvia Kopecek, and opened in summer 2011.
This years’ exhibition programme opened with “The Shape of Touch” featuring the work of textile artist Alice Kettle. Currently Senior Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University and a Visiting Professor at the Centre for Real World Learning the University of Winchester, Kettle’s work is held in collections around the globe, including at The Crafts Council, London and the Whitworth Gallery, Manchester.
Kettle’s work uses the medium of thread in tiny stitches built up to form painterly swathes of colour through which single lines of thread trace out figurative imagery. The work on display at Merston featured two enormous panels Ormopethesis and Orothopendorosis which the artist created using an early twentieth century Schiffli industrial embroidery machine, which has 86 needles and stitches across a 2 metre wide piece of cloth. The resulting works show depth in layers formed from a rich variety of thread.
Kettle’s work often references artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Abstract Expressionism while being influenced by events taking place in the real world; the works Ruko and Mio which were inspired by the recent earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan.
I really enjoyed this show, which although small had on display a real variety of Kettle’s output. This show was stimulating both visually and intellectually and I came away full of ideas and inspiration for my own work.