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26 September - 1 November 2008
Reviewed by: Steffan Jones-Hughes »
I should start by pointing out that I am related to the artist Jeanette Orrell and so there is naturally some kind of bias to this review. I'm a fan!
The work on show in the Lle Celf/Art Space at Galeri in Caernarfon spotlights two groups of work made over the past four years. The space has been transformed into a haven of peace and solemnity with the clean, spare drawings of Jeanette Orrell. This calm belies the background to the works themselves and the context in which they have been made. In 2006 Jeanette had a major solo show, "Drawing the Domestic", at Wrexham Arts Centre, the large drawings on show here were to have been included in that show. A week before the exhibition was due to open a very unfortunate event meant that these pieces could not be shown. A framer had used wood glue to attach the works to mountcard and when it had dried the drawings became buckled with a radiator type effect on the surface. The works have undergone extensive repair and restoration at the National Conservation Centre in Liverpool. This is the first time these works have been seen in public.
The works are oil and pencil on paper. The surfaces are scumbled with a kind of energetic mark making which seems at odds with the immediate impression of solemnity. I have spent a long time sitting in front of these drawings and they do lend themselves to contemplation and quiteness. Jeanette's use of the most minimal range of chalky colours adds to the effect. Small kitchen objects such as ladels and whisks and spoons are here rendered on a totemic scale using the the most direct and confident of lines, navigating through the thick chalkiness of their surroundings. As Moira Vincentelli says in her catalogue essay these works bring to mind Jim Dine, but there is also a strength and subtlety that reminds me of the very best Ben Nicholson drawings.
Here is someone articulating the joy and frustration of being a mother, of cooking, of having an intimate relationship with the things around her.
The second body of work is a new series of intaglio prints based on drawings done in her daughter's old school excercise book. These are a series of 12 drawings of baskets. Each of the prints is the same size, intimate, hand-sized, reminiscent of those ones we had in school, with lines on each page and in parts you can make out bits of writing such as "two towers" which intrigue and make you look more carefully at each one. They are printed on a warm coloured paper that seems to have petals and leaves trapped in it, in the wrong hands this could be twee, but here the artist has used them in a subtle way to add to the sense of past times, memories, recollections. The drawings themselves have the same directness as the other work in the exhibition. This is a really strong departure, I think, and reflects the maturity of this artist. The baskets themselves would not hold much, they are open and linear, how easily things could slip through, and yet they are determinedly baskets. Knowing the work, I am aware that Jeanette has been using wire for some time now to draw in three dimensions (not on show here), these marks seem to have that definition of fluidity yet strength.
After viewing the exhibition I walked out of the gallery space and onto the dock, with its views of Anglesey on the other side of the Menai Straits; how close it seems across the calm waters whose deadly currents have sunk many a ship and it seemed approriate to see Jeanette's beautiful and meditative work in this place.
Visual artist based in North Wales and Yorkshire. I juggle lots of different things usually all at the same time. Don't always manage and find it hard to walk AND talk.
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