Review: Patterns in Poetry Exhibition at Unity Theatre

Wendy Williams. 'Bound for your distant home'. paper installation
Wendy Williams. 'Bound for your distant home'. paper installation

Patterns in Poetry
at Unity TheatreWednesday 13 January – Saturday 13 February 2016.

Words by Patrick Kirk-Smith. Photographs courtesy the artists.

Patterns in Poetry is an exploration of poetry with some poetic license on the word ‘poem’. It takes events, scenarios and themes that the artists deem to be poetic and moulds them into works of art that strive to show us the narratives they have already found. Whether it is travel, religion or the intricate and coaxing lines thrown up by sheet music, the work in this exhibition leads us down the wall in rhythmic sets.

It is perhaps more Poetry in Patterns, than Patterns in Poetry, but it’s along the same lines as the chicken and the egg. Only these artists appear to know what came first, and that asks a lovely question of the viewer in this instance, which is to work it out for themselves. I’ve always been a fan of work that requires some work on behalf of its audience, and this show does that. Any show that brings the poetics of the work into focus will do that.

Poetry and art go hand in hand, always will, but there are definite distinctions between poets and artists that lie behind the scenes. Artists have a rare opportunity to expose their own views within the public realm, but poets have a responsibility to develop public understanding of public views. This exhibition then, whether it wants to or not, is a mediator, trying to decipher the boundary, or to blur it.

But, forgetting all this for a minute, it’s all well put together work that displays itself excellently and forms a conversation as whole. Wendy Williams shows off her ceramic planes, and stirs up the poetics of space and travel, alongside Michael Borkoswky, who draws on music and printed text in his collage work, If All Goes. Some refer more literally to poetry, like Joanne McClellan’s Conforta Me, which uses the written word as an adhesive between text and image making techniques. This conglomerate of all the elements of the exhibition is what both ties the work up as a unified front, and creates several strands of enquiry into the same theme.

This is the perfect accompaniment to Unity’s stage programme, and will delight the full spectrum of their audience and maybe even get some cogs whirring before they head to their seats. The exhibition is open to the public throughout the week, and on full display for all to see during their theatre intervals. Hopefully it will generate the interest it deserves, but my hope may be unnecessarily placed with this brilliantly housed group exhibition anyway.