In a gallery that you never knew existed, a curious group of older ladies sporting chunky statement jewellery and cosy turtleneck jumpers sit, patiently invigilating their own show. Patriothall Gallery and Studio is an artist-run space tucked in amongst some residential blocks behind a busy road in the affluent Stockbridge. The gallery appears modest and understated from the exterior, and not much more is given away from the interior.
With Visible as the title of the show, I erroneously assumed a cohort of women, feeling the weight of their gender’s historic invisibility, would be presenting their work in the hope to prove that women artists deserves recognition. The title is in fact an allusion to the invisibility of our experiences and art has been the tool used to give them expression.
The first room is a naked and awkward space; an embroidered teapot sits in the middle prompting questions of navigation. Perhaps the scale of the work plays a part in this: much of it is small and delicate;hand-sized sculptures, A5 prints isolated in a corner and some skin-thin paper precariously pinned to the white walls.
The accompanying leaflet for the show emphasises that the women exhibiting are not bound together by one theme or medium;their common thread is a wealth of memories, experiences, knowledge and a “shared commitment to exploring processes, materials and ideas.” With each artist practising so differently, it is easy to get lost in the diversity of processes and materials that are presented.However, extractable from this collection is the essence of labour and time, potent in each piece.
The main event appears to be through a corridor that leads to a more intimate space filled with more small objects, draped fabric and an attractive hanging of restructured plastic bags,glowing the Sainsbury’s orange. A highlight must be the light-hearted dispersion of Heather Bell’s small models entitled ‘Bodyworks’. Parts of the body have been isolated and contorted to a comic effect. Plastic eyeballs rest inside dark fleshy caves, or pop out of miniature cushions emulating slapstick Hallowe’en decorations.
The body of work on show is a pleasant display of some old and familiar themes. Decay and mortality are explored through Sarah Colles’ collection of shrivelled apples;landscape and identity are similarly visually discussed in large-scale drawings. But time remains an underlying presence in the collection. It is through time that the relationships and memories in the work are formed. Time allows items to decay and evolve, and the natural transformations that inspires the work of Rosemary Walker are also temporally dependent.
Visibility is perhaps not the most intellectually stimulating exhibition currently on show, but the diversity of artistic paths and disciplines is commendable. Further incentive to visit is the insight into the lives of an older generation of local artists who, through this show, have woven a rich tapestry to explore.
Photo credit: Laura Henry