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PRISM 2007 Stitch! Draw?

6-10 February, The Mall Galleries, The Mall, London SW1




Any exhibition arranged by Opus is a guarantee of quality and the Prism group, which is linked to the Opus School through Julia Caprara, has been putting on particularly good exhibitions for the last few years. The success of this strategy is borne out by the crowds attending the latest one. The show included guest artists Shizuko Kimura, Joan Schulze, Diane Bates and Caroline Morris, plus work from the Opus tutors. I like it that their work is hung side-by-side with that of students without special emphasis. Each piece speaks for itself and the fact that every piece was linked by 'drawing' resulted in a cohesion where line and form overcame differences in colour and scale.

Gavin Fry was at his witty best and the lips have been joined by chimps. His work is always immaculate and you can see the narrative element from these pieces.
Gavin Fry Detail
Gavin Fry: Mathematics, detail.

Gavin Fry Mathematics
Gavin Fry: Mathematics
It was lovely to see larger-scale work by Catherine Dormor and to watch the video of her hand needle-felting technique. Catherine has an article describing this technique in this issue. Her work took the form of images of her hands making the work, with the silk strands embellished over the top.

Close to her in the gallery, a positioning which enhanced the display of both artists' work, were Fiona Fletcher's studies of crows. The drawings here were wonderful and translated into haunting three-dimensional works, based on studies of crows caught and killed by farmers and hung on fences to decay slowly, discouraging other crows.

On a happier note, June Andrews' piece, shown below, felt like the record of a journey through life. Again, good drawing skills produced a large panel which made full use of objects such as print blocks and handled the integration of these exceptionally well.
Catherine Dormor Hand Made 1
Catherine Dormor: Hand Made 1

June Andrews: Me, Myself and I
June Andrews: Me, Myself and I
Britt Proudlock: Woman V
Britt Proudlock: Woman V

Britt Proudlock: Woman IV
Britt Proudlock: Woman IV
The theme of 'draw', a challenge from Julia issued to all exhibitors, produced some outstanding pieces. Very literal translations, such as those shown above by Britt Proudlock, drew a good deal of well-deserved attention. Her drawing book was magnificent and the translation to the wall pieces was well achieved. The skill here lies in the 'spare' lines - nothing could be added and nothing left out. Reproduced over a layered paper surface which included bands of pattern and, indeed, dress patterns, the work made good play of the word 'pattern'. I felt that the neutral pieces worked better than the coloured ones.

The human face and figure were well represented in this exhibition. Prinkie Roberts' piece below shows a colourful rendering and there were Susie Vickery's fantastic portraits in stitch to examine closely. Susie's frieze, 'Kabi Woman, Kabi Man', with the characters morphing in and out along a curving 'sine wave', worked really well and caused those enjoying the coffee bar some squashed moments as everybody leaned in to have a look.

Joan Schulze gave us sparse, linear pieces conveying meaning at the basic level of hieroglyphs. Two of her pieces also showed faces which were beautifully rendered.
Prinkie Roberts: Standing Proud
Prinkie Roberts: Standing Proud
It was very interesting to see how the instruction to draw was interpreted by the artists. Probably far more work was produced based on face and figure (as discussed above) but the landscape studies were also well to the fore. I liked the triptych by Eileen Harrison, which gave a feeling of threatening weather conditions, the calm before the storm. Mary Bridgman's 'Sand Dunes, Path to the Sea' gave a real 'sand between the toes' feeling and Louise Bach's 'Beach Huts', which had all sold, really made you experience a great seaside day, with a salty wind and a choppy sea. These pieces were very successful.

It is a measure of the success of the exhibition that I could double my word count quite easily and it seems criminal to omit Fiona Rainford's textural pieces, Christine Sewell's 'School Days' installation and Linda Westerman's small restrained gems. Needless to say, the work of Julia and Alex Caprara was drawing the crowds and it seems fitting to end with Ruth Issett's large-scale 'Mechanistix', having a whole new emanation in its hanging place on the back wall.
Louise Bach: Beach Huts
Louise Bach: Beach Hut



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