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Review: Monochrome at Bluecoat Display Centre

Review: Monochrome at Bluecoat Display Centre

Words, Kathryn Wainwright

Using the word monochrome to describe can give varying reactions, from the somewhat dull or demure to the ultra-stylish and fashionable controlled interior design palette. In an exhibition in which you might think would contain be a certain level of restriction and limitation comes a celebration of just that. Monochrome in Bluecoat Display Centre hosts an array of artists from a range of disciplines not bound together by a lack of colour but by their dedication to just one.

My personal preference is, just like that of a magpie, towards small, shiny and intricate objects that can be easily overlooked, so the work of Antonella Giomarelli immediately drew me in.

Jewellery can be adorned with colourful gemstones of all shapes and sizes, but when presented as its bare essentials, precious metal can be manipulated, textured and patinated, to make the most of the material itself, and create something more precious than any the value any stone could have. The textures in Antonella Giomarelli‘s rope-like twisted silver pieces are touchable, and weighty. They have a simple rustic quality which needs no other adornments. The main statement of the monochrome exhibition comes through here – it is about the skill and control of the artist to master their craft, rather than decorate and distract from the objects themselves.

exhibition view, with Lanty Ball vase in view

Again using and celebrating the manipulation of metal, the quick sketches in iron wire by Helaina Sharpley are line drawings frozen in time. They start life as simple pen and ink drawings, which are used as the inspiration for the delicate wirework pieces, then mounted in a way that creates a second ghosted, and slightly distorted wiry shadow, crossing boundaries between sculpture and drawing.

Limiting the process of making art can have far greater impact, than allowing all the freedom of expression and over diluting the creative journey. Miriam Maselkowski knew the effect she wanted to create and found that the use of hundreds of nails surrounded by wrapped thread gave the most delicate and atmospheric image as the end result. Again, bordering on the boundary of drawing and sculpture, Miriam’s pieces slowly emerge from just the placement of nails hammered into board as she wraps thread around the markers; denser areas of darker thread and more heavily worked places give a depth, in contrast with the highlighted areas where the artist has restrained and let the lack of material fill in the gap, focussing on negative spaces, making them as important to the work as the work itself.

The process is important to Miriam Maselkowskis’ work, it is what gives it its edge. It creates an effect that the freedom of graphite would not achieve; another example of how important control is to this exhibition.

This same importance of process can be seen in the work of Richard McVetis. Specifically, the artist here is driven by questioning the go-to medium of choice when it comes to mark making. He explores the similarities between using pen on paper and thread on fabric, electing to draw with materials which limit the outcome, but enhance the story. McVetis explores how time and place are felt, using deliberately subdued colour alongside the constraints of thread we see how the ritualistic and habitual behaviour of hand stitched embroidery can create subtle differences between outcomes.

Though there are few colours to see, those that are available are all the more rich showcased on their own, unsullied and pure. The viewer must look closer at the work, to see the artists’ skilled hand, and appreciate the expert craft.

Vanessa Hogge

You can see these subtle differences in the repetitive and ritualistic pattern of making seen in Vanessa Hogge’s floral wall works. The minute differences between one tiny hand sculpted petal to another amongst hundreds of others. The labour is apparent, and these ceramic, botanical wall pieces are pristine and perfect but also so simple. It is the detail that captures you and you can’t help but get a closer inspection. They force you to consider their conception and in doing that, to consider the importance of the materials; something you can’t do when the results are smothered in gloss colour.

Monochrome is on display at Bluecoat Display Centre until 12th January
The next exhibition, 60 @thebdc, celebrates sixty year’s of outstanding art and craft
Words, Kathryn Wainwright