It’s no secret that I do like to visit exhibitions and that very often I find those that showcase the work of ‘ordinary’ people more interesting than the well publicised ‘blockbuster’ shows which are the regular fare of the larger Art Institutions. I think that one of the reasons for this is that at a smaller, more localised exhibition you get to see what is really going on, and not the carefully selected (and sometimes over-curated) ideas of a particular academic or other “person-in-the-know”. Of course the standard of work varies, as does interpretation of a given theme, but this equally applies to the output of the ‘big guns’ in the art world, it’s just that we mere mortals don’t get to see it!
Today I took some time to drive over the East Grinstead and visit the Stitched Up Textiles Group exhibition at the Chequermead Community Arts Centre.
The group were working around a theme of “Journeys” and had produced a varied exhibition with interpretations ranging from the more literal renditions of places and postcards to thought provoking narratives about presence and absence and the passage of time.
I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time chatting to a couple of the group members exhibiting, who explained that they were a group of stitchers who met while studying for City and Guilds Embroidery at a local collage and when the course had finished they decided to form the exhibiting group. They meet monthly – and this is the bizarre bit, in the village hall of the village I live in, and try to exhibit as a group bi-annually.
While I found some of the work on the walls absolutely fascinating, it was the display in one corner of suitcases which really caught my eye and interest. Called “left Luggage” this group of carefully made , what can only really be described as ‘Art Cases’ formed a mini exhibition within and exhibition. Each member of the group had taken a suitcase and transformed it through various means including stitch, paint, collage, applique, quilting etc to make a mini narrative on the theme of Journeys and also about themselves. I found this display so absorbing that it was really a shame that the decision had been taken to push it into a corner when the exhibition space was so large, it could easily have been shown in the middle of the room and not distracted from the other work on show. This would also have made it more interesting for the viewer as each case could then have been seen in the round, which is clearly how they were meant to be seen. It still made for interesting viewing, and is a very good idea to draw a group exhibition together.
The ‘Left Luggage’ corner
As I had paid a £1 for a photography permit it would be a shame not to share some of the photographs I took of the work which particularly caught my eye…
Two pieces by Heather Shopland
Left: “Journey’s Beginning”, machine embroidered wall hanging on sheer fabric depicting the fleeting presence of boatmen on the landscape.
Right: “Journeys End 1”, felted wool and machine embroidery depicting an abandoned boat
Left: Denise Watson, “Amazing Journey”, a mosaic pattern constructed from a map of the local area, cotton and linen fabric, hand and machine embroidery
Right: Jennie Gorbold, “Journey into Packaging”; quirky exploration of the packaging and things found in a box from 1953 stored in an attic. The stitched tape details newspaper headlines and items found in the box.
Angela Goodwin “Who Needs a Guidebook?”
1950’s style sun dress made from decorators weight cotton fabric with machine embroidered names of Italian tourist spots as well as English/Italian phrases