Lost In Lace

“Lost in Lace – transparent boundaries” curated by Lesley Millar is the current exhibition at Birmingham City Museum, on till 4th March; I went to see it recently with colleagues, Hanne Rysgaard and Basil Kardasis, who are part of the Stitch and Think research group. Hanne and I had decided to make a large porcelain hanging based on lace for the group’s exhibition at the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery which takes place later this year, thankfully a lot later. Basil came along for the pleasure of a day spent looking and talking.

The first thing that really got me excited was the scale of the work on view. The Gas Hall where the work is housed and much of it is designed to fit, is massive and the lace exhibits certainly inhabited the space and made a monumental but ethereal impression. My own impression after my first walk around, was of a silent shadowy cathedral; but it wasn’t silent and it wasn’t gloomy, but it was majestic.

I became fascinated by the light within the space and also how the unusual materials used to construct the pieces still acted as lace, you can see it but you can also see through it. trying to assimilate the whole exhibition on my second  journey around I sought out this now you see me now you don’t aspect, as seen above.But I had come to try to take away some aspect that I could develop in the work that Hanne and I are about to embark on. We actually didn’t look or speak together for about 3/4 hour, then she said “light” and I said “shadow”.

I became obsessed by the shadows cast (or not) by the ‘lace’ so this is post is now about the  shadow experience. I now wanted to see and capture shadows, but this wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, which gave rise to a long conversation on the train home to Bristol, about how will we achieve large-scale combined with strong shadow….Annie Bascoul talks about shadow in her pages in the excellent catalogue, she mentions the “eroticism of the thrown shadow” I like what she wrote but I couldn’t find a good shadow to photograph ( but this may be due to my ineptitude with the camera)

A not very erotic shadow – sorry
Some of the most fascinating shadows were from the smaller pieces,below is a detail from 2 edges of Diana Harrison’s ‘Time Line’ a broken,small in scale but very long length of polyester thread. cotton cloth and dog hair. I really wanted to stay and draw the with crisp complicated meshed shadows formed by the fabric and it’s fine black pins that anchor it in position.
The best shadows  obviously were mad when the wall or floor was close to the surface casting it …and the refreshingly bright blood-red piece by Micheal Brennand-Wood gave crisp grey snowflake patterns as an extra bonus.
Lace the Final Frontier, painted and stained aluminium :Micheal Brennand-Wood
and in the children’s activity area beyond the main hall there were lovely paper snowflake patterns hung on a washing line.
And it made the most ethereal and unusual shadows
But my favourite shadow was the strange almost mottled fish skin appearance cast by the unbelievable hand – cut paper lace panels, by Piper Shepard, that made a sort of triumphal arch between two tall and elegant pillars in the museum.
and here is the panel that made this shadow…
And if you feel that I have just not done justice to this exhibition, because I haven’t talked about the philosophy of either the artists’ or the curator’s decisions to make and show the work and I have missed the whole point – good. Go and see for yourself or if not, buy and read the catalogue :-Lost in Lace, written by Lesley Millar,  published by Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, ISBN 978-0-9570494-0-6 and let me know what you think.

6 thoughts on “Lost In Lace

  1. It sounds like a fascinating exhibition- i will try and get there.Lots of food for thought!
    Good luck with yours.
    Good to see you at the South west textile group some months ago too- i so enjoyed your talk and seeing your beautiful work. Your sketchbooks were an inspiration and has made me go back to using mine again.I remember from University how good your sketchbooks were -some time ago now …
    Best regards

  2. Dear Janet
    Whilst searching for something else (of course) I found your beautiful image of Piper Shepard’s shadows and so visited your site. Thank you very much for your very thoughtful description of the exhibition, particularly the cathedral reference – which you will now know was something Elena and I discussed. It is now a year ago, and reading this brought the exhibition back to me with full force – thank you.
    kind regards

    1. Dear Lesley,
      thank you for sending me this – I was very very pleased to receive the comment almost 12 months to the day of my visit. I can still recall the atmosphere of the Lost in Lace exhibition – the hall is very tall imposing and I can imagine that a lot of work could get lost in it….but not the lace – how fascinating that the most ethereal of fabric should inspire such monumental work.
      Yours, Janet

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