- Kaleidoscope Gallery
The proximity of Kaleidoscope Gallery to Sevenoaks Museum, adjacent to each other in Sevenoaks Library building provided the stimulus for a group of Kent artists to propose an exhibition linking them. The outcome is work initiated by artifacts related to the act of cutting. Entitled Apokrisis(response) it centres on a display containing among other things a forged ploughshare, scissors, a cut-throat razor, some false teeth , a billhook. The artists are to varying degrees concerned with role of the museum as arbiter of value? What is ‘worthy’ of inclusion? What does it say to and about us? What is the role of the curator? Both artist and museum curator stand as midwives to the birth of (re)discovered meanings. Past and future balance upon the moment’s fulcrum. Ros Barker, Ray Taylor, Sue Evans,Luke Brabant, and Franny Swann have produced a group of works exploring the relationship between artifact, art and the rhythm of lives flowing through. Gradations of nostalgia create metaphoric chiaroscuro in the work of Franny, and Ros, the graph of historical coordinates rounded with the flesh of personal reference. Ros and Franny use the structure of exhibiting – boxes, cases, notes and labels. Ros collects hair from a Sevenoaks hairdressing salon; she inserts a lock of her childhood hair. It sits tentatively at the edge of the installation, a child-like presence on the periphery, insisting nevertheless , and ‘Hey! Here I am!’ This single lock contrasts poignantly with the bulk of hair displayed, momento cut for another reason. Drawings of her childhood friends are embroidered on pillow-like cotton fabric, with hair that might just be theirs. Could they have been to that very hairdresser? There is longing in this-a desire that in the act of connecting she might magically reconnect? And there is the anomaly of the hair itself ,hair as beautiful and dead, juxtaposed attraction and repulsion – hair-filled mattress and hair-shirt .
Franny Swann works with memory, memorial, and the museum . Reaching back through the museum cabinet, her installation pays gentle homage to her dentist father.
The process of seeing him in his certificates, x-ray slides, and through written notes of sayings and doings, illuminates her present. We come to see the way in which extraordinary achievement can be grounded in everyday normality – vital counterweight to contemporary visions of immediacy and celebrity. A series of small drawings are pinned to a shelf. We have to look down at them, displayed as they are in museum fashion, specimens pinned to a board. Not however, generic specimens, these objects drawn, draw us, to particular meanings.
One of Franny’s notes says ‘My father believed you put back into life what you had been given.’
In my previous life as a teacher, I came across many whose only option seemed to be to give back their pain. These simplest of insights are powerful. Be careful what you give. We give ourselves unknowingly and are received in like manner. A wreath of white toothbrushes testifies to the passing of things.
Like the pies into which Sweeney Todd’s victims were transformed, his image by Luke Brabant is also made of parts. A composite of five canvases creates a portrait of the eponymous barber. Brabant’s graffiti – illustrator technique presents a character larger than life.
Ray Taylor too, responds to the razor, and the cuts that are an inevitable consequence of his life with glass. Each of his eight glass – panel presentations of incised skin refers to different contexts in which blood is shed. Birth, Brothers, Frenzy, Help, Repair, Ritual, Self Defence, Tribal. Opacity and transparency, terms that connect with the physicality of glass stand also for the nature of the work. His literally harrowing subject, presented in elegant form, nevertheless remains accessible simultaneously on and beneath the surface. Pointed questions arise about what is considered normal. Cutting and scarring have found times and places as the norm worldwide. Why do we recoil? Might we learn uncomfortable and enlightening truths from those who are in control of their relationship with this kind of decoration? Cutting, seen conventionally as ‘self harm’, is for some a link to self preservation, self realisation.
Sue Evans’ response to a forged ploughshare is to discover in it an alter ego. The sprit of the apparently defunct – a kite-like shape, ascends the wall, tail of black ribbon wrapped around, small ploughshares cut from card, paper, polythene. These materials, used to pack items in storage, point to the rituals of death and rebirth. There is a limbo in our stored past. Spirits await the liberating imagination. The billhook too is reborn. Through the use of soft materials, Sue enables its metamorphosis from tool to narrative, a process implicit in the very first blow of the blacksmith’s hammer.