FLEECE and FABRIC A Textile Experience with Judy Balchin,Judy Balchin Angela Carole StockerAngela stocker and Sue Evans
This show represents a coming together of several strands in the work of the artists. It is appropriately puzzling in its varied preoccupations to do with meaning, process, craft(ing) content, form, performance, status. Its objects constitute a show essentially to do with a crucial, formative time in the unfolding ideas of the artists, the works exploratory conversations with themselves and replete with the uncertainties and difficulties that such conversations have.
Judy Balchin has had a varied and successful career, or set of careers based in graphic design, writing, teaching, working for the BBC. This exhibition represents a new direction for her work, in a search for something else, something to do with that sense of purpose, exploration of self, engagement with open-ended ideas and insecurities that is part and parcel of the business of making ‘art’.
It raises up an exploration of distinctions to be made and questions to be posed concerning the concept(s) of art.
Her piece, ’Delightful Dolores’ is an ornament, an artwork, reference to a ‘Dolores’ type, gender statement, light hearted and serious, a toy, an insight into what we are, both sexualised and neutered, an image of a woman and a stereotypical image of an image of a woman, simulacrum and fetish, a simple thing and a conundrum; there is a ‘kind’ of person there, a flirting Venus, intention and accident, surrogate tease. What would a feminist reading make of it in terms of the male gaze.?
The art-craft divide stands at a crossroad of moral discomfort, where the pretty and the comfortable camouflage uncomfortable realities of being, and at a class divide between rough hands and refined minds, doing and thinking, and the divide between mind and body, all arguably false distinctions fashioned for the purposes of power and control. It engages too with notions of the decorative, decoration, the ornamental and the sculptural.
There resides in ‘Delightful Dolores’ an underlying pathos of prettiness which sits at the fulcrum of Judy’s art. Dolores is painfully, precariously balanced on an edge ground sharp by the meetings of ‘craft’ and ‘art’. It opens up questions regarding the portrayal of women.
At a basic level, the term ‘craft’ refers to processes and not to things, whilst ‘art’ refers to things and not to processes. But the term ’craft’ as a finger pointing at certain kinds of thing is also a political use of the term, designed in pursuit of a kind of order of merit in support of a fine art hegemony.
Throughout the first week of this collaboration, Angela Stocker worked in a wardrobe. Only the sounds of an artist working – knocks , bumps, rustling, greeted whoever entered the gallery.
Working blind she felt her way into her work with paper, wire, silver faced paper held together with masking tape, like a hiding naughty secretive child in the wardrobe. (Would Mummy approve, understand even?) And the noise within as the artist’s embryonic torn paper offspring grows in the womb-wardrobe makes for a pleasurably perverse piece.
Is there then a meeting that takes place between‘With hidden noise 0.3’ and Dolores? What secret sounds might reverberate through her voluptuous form? What sadnesses might her curves conceal, what joys echo within? Her knowing posture sends a signal? Shake the wardrobe and hear the sound, sound as tease, sound as Dolores. Is noise the sound of something? Do we look beyond the image of Dolores or enjoy the moment? What do things so different in kind as Angela’s cupboard and Judy’s felt work have to say to each other?
Our tastes our choices, our affiliations, mark out the territory of our values, making distinctions between self and other, and more pertinently, between me and not me, us and them. We are defined by our tastes, the tastes that bind us and validate us through the forms of objects and which in validating our judgements validate ourselves… ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall …’ what we do is what we are- our work is what we are.
Sue Evans,is like Judy Balchin engaged in a period of deliberate change, through her MFA course. Her pieces, ‘Gradual Loss of Focus’, ‘Memory Quilt’ and ‘Ambition’ have taken a turn of ideas and form in an empathic direction in contrast to her previously wryly descriptive approach; an embrace pushes aside the handshake. Formally she uses the physical qualities and behaviours of her materials for their potential for metaphor and empathy, a felt process of ‘identifying with…’,The embrace now occupies space where once was a relationship, an engagement with experience as opposed to a more distanced description of events. ‘Memory Quilt- Body -18-68’ sldes and drops from the wall. Black and beaded it descends from soft black canvas like rectangles to spill onto the floor collapsing and folding gaining experience along the way. It speaks of ageing, 18 to 68, a lifetime. Sue’s lifetime? Someone once said to me that death is maturity.
There are two material based collaborative pieces in the show it being ostensibly a collaboration but the sense in which the show is truly cooperative is in the discourse, conversation, in the provocative juxtaposition of things, maybe a give and take…..
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This show is now finished and was part of the Sevenoaks Visual Art Forum programme at the Kaleidoscope gallery.Gallery