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REVIEW: I-deNt-iTy, David Holah

I-deNt-iTy, David Holah
The Gallery Liverpool

Words and Pictures, Patrick Kirk-Smith

I spend almost every day looking at decorative stuff (sometimes art, sometimes questionable), but it’s not every day I actually want to own it. Put bluntly, I want to spend every morning looking at David Holah’s work. I want to wake up and feel as positive as his multimedia images made me feel. Even before understanding their story I had an uncontrollable smile on my face, wandering around the quiet gallery getting my face as close as I could to every stitch in every picture.

I remember being at college, trying very hard to master the art of drawing with stitch, and failing miserably. I think I intended to make a seascape and ended up with a ball of cotton and a telling off from the tutor to be more careful with the sewing machines. David Holah, on the other hand, uses stitch to create lines that have the energy of freehand drawing, and seems to have done it with ease.

His layered-up fabric prints and stitched drawings are the aftermath of a career in fashion design, which included founding one of the biggest labels of the 1980s, BodyMap. It’s not hard to find the similarities between his prints at The Gallery, and the clothes his brand produced, which are still best recognised as boldly printed, boldly layered, boldly coloured innovations. The prints are no different, with combinations of shape and pattern that disguise the message they contain.

The deeper message, if you need one, is David Holah’s personal history, hidden throughout these prints as quiet explorations of his own ‘transmorphic’ gender state. As soon as you read that, it all clicks. Until then, you’re viewing something spectacularly bright, but it shifts suddenly to reveal a story of someone excited by colour, trying to understand that fascination. It’s no longer just experiments in colour, but an exploration of his own sense of self.

The product is a brilliant introduction to the joy of open-mindedness, and the infinite possibilities it creates. I might have ruined the surprise for you, but I’ve not ruined the discovery. If you walk into The Gallery Liverpool between now and Sunday you’ll be rewarded with work that puts a smile on your face.

The second exhibition in the Spirit of 76 series at The Gallery Liverpool closes this Sunday, 14th August, and is followed by ‘Typical Girls’ by Sheila Rock & Jo Brocklehurst, between the 19th August and 4th September 2016.