Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Unravelling the manor house

This exhibition at Preston Manor by 12 artists in the unravelled group was an intervention inspired by the house and its artefacts. We were shown round the house by some members of the group who explained the inspiration behind the interventions, which were found in different rooms throughout the house.

The artists variously based their work on the owners of the house, the servants and the objects. The pieces I found most interesting were the two installations by Laura Splan, the pillow by Catherine Bertola, the screen by Emma Molony, the blood prints by Kira O’Reilly and the video and notes by Ingrid Plum.

In one of her pieces, Laura Splan had machine embroidered wording from the manor’s visitors’ guide on to two layered pieces of cosmetic facial peel. They were ‘framed’ by embroidery hoops and left on a stool as if just laid aside by the lady of the house. Her other intervention was a glove made in the same way left in a bedroom (Trousseau, shown here). Catherine Bertola’s ‘lace pillow’ was a pillow on a bed with pins sticking out of it as if they had been used to construct bobbin lace providing a play on words and contrasting the idea of the soft comforting pillow and the hard pins. Ingrid Plum’s installation in the same bedroom played out the narrative of the owner’s relationships, by combining a video of shadowy figures, sounds from the present day manor house and handwritten copperplate notes of unexpressed feelings.

Emma Molony’s work was in another bedroom and showed animations of the daily tasks of the servants superimposed on a screen (shown here). The animations were cleverly made and very delicate and also included humorous twists. The jointed models she had made were also shown and were for sale which made the piece more interesting. Kira O’Reilly’s blood prints in lace were in one of the bathrooms; they were attractive and appealed to me because of the lace but I wasn’t sure why the lace had been used.

This domestic setting served to show off the quirkiness of the exhibits in a way that would not have been possible in a white cube setting. It was also interesting to hear the artists talk about their work and inspiration.

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