- Persistence Works Gallery, 21 Brown St, Sheffield, S1 2BS
All art carries meaning, regardless of its author’s intention. Some is politically-charged, a prescriptive call-to-arms or stark reminder to be vigilant in an increasingly complex world of signs and false news; some is altogether more lyrical with no great pretentions to be anything more than that, a gentle beckoning to contemplate our environment, yet triggering unique thoughts in all who see it. And then there is art that negotiates a space between, that takes something from both – poignancy and power from the first, engaging beauty from the latter.
Janie Moore’s ‘Anatomy of Loss’ is both a challenging show in terms of the themes that underpin it, and also one of artistic grace. Dealing with loss is difficult, yet is handled here with integrity and sensitivity, and ultimately proves to be an uplifting experience. The show comprises a number of works in a range of media, demonstrating Moore’s creative versatility and her ability to find the means that best supports her ideas. At first, the works might seem dislocated, limbs form the same body, but coherence emerges with time spent in the space.
The first piece to the left, ‘Marking Time’, is a drawing in biro on sealed envelopes of a woman smiling broadly. Its style is disengaged cross-hatching, an almost mechanical doodling to help pass the time and process the tragic loss of a loved one.
Next is a metal sink, its draining board overflowing with 683 used tea bags. It speaks so ably of hoarding, the crippling inability to discard items regardless of value, relentless accumulation, and the fear of what might happen should they and their owner be separated. Like ‘Marking Time’, the act of repetition is crucial to our understanding of the work, as is the notion of a cup of tea marking a time for reflection or catching up with oneself, subconscious mindfulness.
‘Relative’ is a small, framed drawing of a member of the Women’s Royal Navy, so immaculately rendered that it looks like an old, black and white photograph. It is subtly placed too high for close inspection, so the doubt remains as to its exact nature. It is an exquisite piece and acts as a lynchpin for the show in that its ability to say so many things so simply and lightly. Drawing need not be sweeping gestures of charcoal in order to portray and elicit strong emotion.
Elsewhere are large drawings combining formal techniques, rubbing of surfaces to create texture and a bond with this place and, perhaps most significantly, erasing to indicate absence. Moore is working on these drawings during her time in the gallery. There is also a ‘found drawing’, wallpaper partially discoloured by sunlight and time, leaving ghostly traces to tell their story, and a series of photographs of past work form an ongoing pinboard and provide a fascinating insight into how an artist’s practice evolves.
In the centre of the gallery stands a large work that will progress over the course of the exhibition. The artist’s intention is to construct an outsize overcoat, its heaviness equating the feeling of bearing grief. Visitors are invited to share their own thoughts and feelings by writing on the sculpture to help create a monument to grief, but also to having the opportunity to connect and share, to be heard and understood. The artist will be available to talk about her work and ideas to further connect with visitors.
I urge you to visit this exhibition to not only marvel at Moore’s skill, thoughtful art-making and redoubtable optimism, and also to contribute your own reflections on a theme with which we can all identify.
‘Anatomy of Loss’ runs until March 28th with a public event on March 5th from 5-8pm. It is part of Yorkshire Artspace’s Ways of Making exhibition series. The programme commissions new work from local artists in response to the theme of materiality.