Review: Julie Arkell, In the Window

Julie Arkell, In the Window
Bluecoat Display Center

On College Lane, a whimsical little arrangement in the window of the Bluecoat Display Center is peering out at passers-by, asking to be looked at. If one stops and observes, they will see a conglomeration of paper mâché birds and mushrooms, landscape paintings, and knit cloth.

Julie Arkell, the artist of this exhibition, is one of England’s most recognized contemporary folk artists. She works mainly in paper mâché, fabric, stitchery, and the words of poems she loves. “I like to work with materials available around the home,” she says, “Newspapers, glue, fabric, wool, carboard, wire, and various bits and pieces.”

Native Londoner, Arkell studied at West Surrey College of Art and Design, then gained a diploma in textiles from St. Martin’s School of Art. She is inspired by old toys and folk art and says that “Collecting things is an important part of my work.” This style of making is clearly visible in her work, which sometimes includes odds and ends such as sticks and thread.

Words are an important part of her work, too, as they feature not only in the paper of the paper mâché, but also stitched onto the clothes that her dolls wear, and on the frames of her landscape paintings. The words she chooses are eerie and evoke a sense of wistfulness. Arkell says she is constantly writing down words and phrases and thinking of stories to set in the worlds she creates.

Her style might be described as rustic, or quaint. This art exhibit is a small display but creates a curious atmosphere around it. Arkell’s work is exhibited worldwide, including in the UK, the USA, and Japan.

The Bluecoat Display Center is open 10:00am – 5:30pm Mondays through Saturdays, and 12:00pm – 5:00pm on Sundays. It is free to enter.