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Review: Annie Frost Nicholson: All of your textures live inside of me, at Dorothy

“In 2011 I lost almost all of my family in an accident on the East River. In 2016, my father, the only remaining survivor of the accident, died after a long battle with cancer.”

Annie Frost Nicholson’s exhibition at Dorothy (her first UK solo show) is everything all at once. On the face of it, it’s a celebration of life, and a lesson in grieving well. Behind that, is a very open conversation between the artist and her viewer about living with pain and doing everything you can to continue living with the memory of the people you’ve lost.

Behind the rug tufting, acid-toned paintings, cigarette business cards and raves, is someone processing grief, after thirteen years.

It’s the first time (somehow) that I’ve been into Dorothy, the vibrantly unmissable and unmistakable design studio in Baltic Creative’s 22 Jordan Street. They left me to sit with the work and felt completely lost. It’s not often you’re invited into someone’s actual grief. There’s even a film of ashes being scattered in a hilltop rave.

But, once I’d settled into what I was part of, and processed that that in-your-face colour of the exhibition was the face of this grieving process, it felt more natural.

So if you do get the chance to see this show before it ends, take your time. Slow down, and expect to feel a bit like an intruder. Because you kind of are. You’re part of a process that is nearly always private. But it doesn’t have to be. Grief can be public, like it is here.

Grief can be shared, and it can be a reflection of the people you’ve loved and lost because their memory isn’t gone. Continuing your life with them, without them, is more than possible. And while I’m probably not going to grieve through rave, I know there are ways to translate grief that are more reflective than the norm.

Plus, for some, raving the grief away might be the step to twisting grief into joy.

I’m not a councillor. I’m not going to try to tell anyone reading this how to grieve, but there’s free guidance in the form of Annie Forst Nicholson’s exhibition, open at Dorothy until 12th April.

And at the docks, her installation Fandangoe Discoteca has one last weekend out, closing on 7th April. If you’ve missed it, it’s a big pink, portable disco that sits outside the entrance to the Beatles Story and adds the opportunity to practice the lessons of the exhibition in a physical space.

‘All of your textures live inside of me’ is open at Dorothy, until 12th April 2024
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith