I went to see this exhibition at Birmingham on 22 May. Although it was well displayed I was disappointed with the work on show. There was little that was innovative and several of the traditional pieces were not well mounted. The pieces I did like included Chris Berry’s Canale Grande, a small paper and stitch construction that could be viewed from many different angles and produced interesting shadows. However, this piece had not been selected for the show and appeared only because the selectors were asked to produce a piece of their own work.
I think my favourite of the selected pieces was 84 hours by Sarah Brown. It was a long bound book form made from 6am to 8pm for 6 days to represent the working week of William Wood, a bookbinder who died in Newgate prison in 1788, after being sentenced for 2 years for pressurising his master to reduce the working week from 84 to 83 hours. Sarah recreated William’s working week and produced a very attractive and evocative piece, which kept drawing me back to look at it and consider William’s life.
Other pieces I thought worked well were Caren Garfen’s Womanual “All done and dusted” referring to the fact that no one sees the effort that goes into traditional women’s work. I also thought Mend of me by Ilaria Margutti and Rosalba Pepi was interesting and unsettling as the woman in the picture sews herself. Search for pouring down by Kyoko Nagasawa also appealed to me with its twisted layers of recycled plastic bags.
The catalogue is good, with a picture of each piece (photography was not allowed). But the descriptions are variable, some authors provided an excellent write up of the themes behind their work while others provided nothing at all – and the works did not always speak for themselves!