Soft Estate, at The Bluecoat

Laura Oldfield Ford M6 Junction 9, Bescot 2011, chalk, acrylic & ink on watercolour paper.  Collection of Moses Luski
Laura Oldfield Ford M6 Junction 9, Bescot 2011, chalk, acrylic & ink on watercolour paper. Collection of Moses Luski

Review by Rachel Tillett

Soft Estate is an exhibition of works from Edward Chell, as well as invited artists including Tim Bowditch, Nick Rochowski, Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau, Day Bowman, Jan Williams, Chris Teasdale (The Caravan Gallery), John Darwell, Laura Oldfield Ford, George Shaw, Robert Soden and Simon Woolham. The exhibition explores the interface between history, ecology, roads and travel. The title of the exhibition refers to the green verges of land which are in the midst of urbanisation. Factors explored throughout the artwork on show include; edge lands, beauty, pollution, urban habitats, wildlife, wilderness and human agency.

There is a variety of works across all mediums in the exhibition such as film, photography, prints and paintings. The particular artist that stood out most for me was Laura Oldfield-Ford: her mixed media, large scale drawings really captured the hidden beauty in areas of waste land.

M2 Junction 3 by Edward Chell
M2 Junction 3 by Edward Chell

The scenes which Oldfield-Ford creates are harsh, neglected and isolated; however, the way in which she depicts the spaces is delicate and feminine with the prominent use of the colour pink. This creates an image of magnificence rather than the stereotypical characteristics you would normally associate with grassland under a bridge or a block of council flats.

Her pieces also highlight the potential these spaces hold as areas of celebration within art, rather than spaces of waste. Laura Oldfield-Ford has a variety of pieces on display, all varying in scale but created using the same technique. Oldfield-Ford’s body of work within Soft Estate focuses on overlooked spaces where narratives unfold, and evoke personal meanings and collective memories.

Photography is an important element of the Soft Estate exhibition; John Darwell’s An Allotted Space depicts nine small scale photography pieces which focus on in-between spaces for leisure such as allotment spaces.  Some images focus on various aspects of the allotments, whilst others capture them as a whole. Allotment spaces as a subject matter are interesting because of the cultural and social impact within allotment communities; they create a sense of togetherness. The photography shows the spaces of wasteland to be used for something resourceful and environmentally friendly.

Soft Estate focusses on work with an individual and unique subject matter. The exhibition displays work from a variety of talented artists across all mediums, which makes the show diverse. The themes behind Soft Estate, are thought provoking, and are something that a large range of people can relate to.

‘Soft Estate’ continues at The Bluecoat until 23 February 2014.

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