10 July 2008
Colin Hambrook reviews a group show by disabled artists on the theme of light, at Faith House Gallery, Holton Lee, Dorset
I was very excited at the prospect of seeing Light at Faith House. For some time I’ve felt that the group exhibitions at Holton Lee have needed a stronger curatorial presence to up the professionalism of the work shown there. I like the idea of the Disability Arts competitive exhibition – but I think the concept of Disability Arts means so many different things to different people, (especially within the visual arts) that the range of work doesn’t always hang together successfully.
So, not withstanding the prospect of being called smug, I was delighted to see that Faith House had pulled off one its most entrancing exhibitions to date. This was partly enhanced by the fact that one of my all-time favourite sculptures, Paul Cade’s Light Being, was chosen for the show. I’ve written about Light Being previously in my Dada-News blog. The sculpture illustrates a way of sculpting with light that creates an ethereal quality. Other artists - notably Anish Kapoor - have produced similar effects in their sculpture through using light as a creative material. There is a kind of magic that happens when you use light to produce form. Light Being creates an aura around the cast of the artist, which changes according to the conditions within the space it occupies. The mirrored plinth on which the sculpture sits produces reflections which go off into infinity depending on which angle you view it from.
Light Being has a tranquilty which marks it as a meditation piece. Similarly First Dream's digital installation Light Water Life also uses light to talk about visionary experience. Light Water Life consists of three concentric circles of persistently changing animated colour and texture projected onto the back wall of the gallery. It suggests a timeless and peaceful kind of out-of-body experience. This is very positive - a different kind of event from the anxiety-inducing and claustrophic occurrence that I know from personal experience, can often be the result of being inside some part of the self that exits stage-left from the body.
The installation produces a gently hypnotic effect, facing the viewer with a contemplation on the elements - water, earth, fire and air. I loved the way aspects of this animation were reflected in glass in other pieces around the gallery – notably in Jane Fradgley's piece 'Untitled 4' – a digital print which suggests a sun setting on a calm sea from inside a cave. The fragmentary and fragile correlation between the two pieces in reflection was beautifully balanced.
Light as a theme has been an ongoing concern within contemporary painting since the time of the Impressionists. The concept of painting with light has also been a strong development within the digital age. These two ways of working come together within this exhibition, with digital prints that are influenced by Old Masters and paintings that are influenced by digital processes. Capturing the mysterious is another theme that runs through all the work on show. This is emphasised in Maggie Wyman’s paintings which use the technique of making warm colours sit behind colder colours to dramatic effect. Her paintings again use light to suggest transformation in the sense of a rite of passage.
In her work Sally Booth uses light as a tool for projection – again reiterating the theme of light as illumination. There are a variety of drawings of trees and landscape on show – some presented within lightboxes, some drawn directly onto the blinds that shutter the windows of Faith House - and my favourites - large drawings from the bird hide on acetate shown against the windows.
Holton Lee itself is a place where the light - being largely free of light pollution - plays many kinds of tricks. So, it seemed appropriate that another, lesser theme within this show, is to do with how light creates atmosphere within the natural environment. I hope this exhibition gets seen by plenty of people. Being a unique gallery dedicated to showing work by disabled artists - it seems that Faith House has a harder job than many galleries to attract audiences. If the calibre of work remains at the level of Light, then with more publicity and partnership with other galleries then Holton Lee must secure a reputation, nationally as well as locally.
Light consists of painting, film installation, sculpture and photography by Sally Booth, Paul Cade, Jane Fradgley, Maggie Wyman, Abi Kremer and First Dream - Nathan Bolger, John Mondino and Chris Veale.
Light ran until 2 August, please see the Holton Lee website http://www.holtonlee.co.uk/arts or call 01202 625562 for information regarding future exhibitions. Holton Lee is situated off the A351 Poole to Wareham Road and is venue 242, in the DAW catalogue.