Back in 2013 I visited the bi-annual embroidery and textile art exhibition at Ramster Gardens in Surrey. Yesterday I visited the 2015 exhibition. I seem to remember having mixed feelings about the 2013 show and this year’s exhibition only served to mix these up again. The venue at Ramster is an odd one, part of a country house which hosts weddings and has a woodland estate garden open to the public for about 6 weeks during the spring each year. As a stark contrast to other exhibition spaces the room at Ramster is very dark and poorly lit and exhibits are hung on free standing panels. This is not a display method I like or would recommend, as I feel it does not do the artwork any favours. Still, each to their own.
Exhibition Rooms at Ramster
On entering the main exhibition room the first thing that struck me was that there seemed to be less exhibits than at the previous show. The programme proclaims there are over 300 pieces of work, but I think that this figure must include browser work and items for sale through the exhibition shop. I cannot believe there were 300 pieces of work hanging on the panels. This is a well established exhibition and it seems that many visitors travel long distances to visit.
There is a mix of well known textile artists including Carol Waddle and Iona Mackenzie-Laycock showing work alongside lesser or unknown embroiderers from local clubs or guilds. Inevitably this means that the overall standard of the exhibition can suffer and I think that this was evident. What disappointed me most of all was that there was a significant number of pieces included which had been shown at the 2013 exhibition. I know this for three reasons:
1. I recognised the pieces
2. I photographed them and compared them with images from the 2013 show.
3. I heard a group of other visitors making the same comment.
I think this is bad practice and also sloppy curatorship. Gosh, I am sounding very negative! I do think that all shows of this type; whether annual or bi-annual should be strict about only allowing new work for the main exhibition. Older pieces may be included as shop or browser work, but a new exhibition should really showcase new work.
Below are some of the more interesting pieces of work on show this year:
Summer is a comin’ in by Carol Waddle
View of Ben Hope through a window by Iona Mackenzie-Laycock
Until I Return Again by Iona Mackenzie-Laycock
New Zealand scrapbook by Linda Walsh
New Zealand Scrapbook detail
Red, Black and Yellow 1 by Shirley Weston
So all in all, I still have mixed feelings about the exhibition. It is nice to see so much textile work in one place, but it would also be good to see more innovative and imaginative work on show. The images above I think captured the best of what was on show, much of the other work is very traditional and ‘safe’. I think also, that having a definite theme would help enormously to draw the work together and make for a far more interesting and cohesive exhibition.