No Woman is an Island
No Woman is an Island is a curated collection of works by seven award-winning women artists:
Cath Bloomfield, Phoebe Cummings, Nicky Knowles RWA, Debbie Lee, Rebecca Newnham FRSS, Sarah Purvey and Patricia Volk RWA FRSS.
I am delighted to be included in this exhibition, curated by Jacquiline Creswell, at the Vanner Gallery, which brings together mid-career women artists in a show which considers how we thrive within a fragile network of support and nurture, and how we communicate our concerns in our work.
“The diverse works were selected to explore what it means to be a creative woman in the 21st century with the many challenges and opportunities women face. Their lives are complex and varied, they are forthright and nurturing individuals with strong opinions on social and environmental issues. The artists are hard -working, creative, committed, and successful mid-career artists who have experienced the many challenges faced by creative people in today’s society. The exhibition sets out to discover their world and life experiences.”
“The Vanner Gallery is a contemporary art gallery located in the heart of the cathedral city of Salisbury, Wiltshire. The gallery showcases contemporary art and craft practice across a range of materials and media. We offer a programme of exhibitions curated by guest curators featuring works for sale from regional, national, and international artists and makers”.
Directors David Christie and Nic Christie
The Vermeer series is a succession of convex, curved relief panels. Their reflective glass surfaces refract the room or the environment so that the viewer’s perception switches between the image and the reflection. Each piece starts by painting onto glass with enamels, which is then fired to fix the pigments into the glass. The glass is then cut and collaged to create a faceted, pixilated image. The shape of each Vermeer is a shallow, tensioned curve, like the lens of the eye. I started creating these works in 2017
The Oceania series is a group of works that reflect a trip to Tokyo and to Auckland early in 2020. Most have a relationship to water – either a beach, a lake, or the ocean – and to the natural and spiritual world. As Covid-19 was taking hold and the virus spread, they served to emphasise the value of the fiercely protected, unspoilt natural beauty of New Zealand and the restraint, focus and social consciousness of Japanese society at a time when the whole world is looking closely at itself and revaluating.
At the beginning of my trip, we went to Senso-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple in Tokyo completed in year 645. This is where I first encountered koi. They were swimming in a water course in an ancient temple garden located to the side of Senso-ji, where there was a waterfall and a bridge. After a morning of over-stimulated attention, watching them calmed my mind and filtered out all the distractions and confusions of people and crowds. Their shadowy movements allowed me to refocus and appreciate with clarity the physical and spiritual dimensions of each new experience of the day.
In Tokyo I visited temples, gardens, and museums, and almost every day I saw Koi. The Nezu museum houses the satisfying collections of Nezu Kaichirō (1860-1940) and has a wonderful garden, with flowing water and with many koi.
Hama-rikyu Gardens was once the site of a villa owned by a ruling family in the 17th century. It is now a public garden but still has a tea house and original timber structures that were used for shooting ducks for sport.
The tranquil, opaque blues and greens of the lake waters are captured in this work, as is a contrasting and carefully placed rock, a feature of traditional Japanese gardens.
The gardens are extensive, with many lakes. They are now flanked on all sides by the tall modern buildings of the commercial district, which are reflected in the lakes. It was possible to dream both that you were in the past and looking at visions of the future, or in the present and time-travelling into the past.
With this sense of the shifting of time in my mind, I moved large sections of the glass and slid them across the image to take the place of other sections, so they replaced each other’s space. There are layers of colour, with fragments of text scratched into the surface to suggest dreams or memory. The shape of the tiles also refer to the configurations of Japanese tatami mats. These mats are still referred to as a unit of measurement for Japanese rooms.
Selected works from the Oceania series are included in this show, as well as Pyro, the first of a new series of wall panels called The Pyro series.
Pyro has a concave timber frame, with singed edges. The glass was painted with glass enamels in response to the flames which blackened the frame, and which helped to dry the enamels. The frame encourages the viewer to draw closer, to inspect and examine the glass surface. This surface of Pyro is made from 1000s of tiny glass squares, mosaiced to undulate and scintillate.
Fire has many ritualistic connotations, such as lighting votive candles. Fire is an example of plasma, one of the four fundamental states of matter, along with solids, liquids, and gas. The Pyro series considers this heady mix of spirituality and science. The Pyro series can be seen as a flaming alarm of climate change, a call to notice the problems, identify and understand the issues which we can change to make a real difference to the health of our planet. Pyro is also a celebration of this fundamental state of matter, prompting a conversation about our use of fire and an acknowledgement of its power to transfix and enhance our lives.
Pyro is a collaboration between sculptor Rebecca Newnham, who has a special interest in glass and artist filmmaker Lizzie Sykes, who specialises in responses to landscape. Whilst Rebecca conceived and created the panel, Lizzie was hands on in the creation of the works and has created a film which accompanies the Pyro series.