Cumbria spans 6,768 km² in size, twice the size of Lancashire and three times the size of Cheshire. And undoubtedly the beautiful landscape of the Lake District attracts artists far and wide. Consequently the Cumbrian Artist of the Year Exhibition at Rheged Centre features some of the best contemporary art produced in the local area.
From painting, sculpture and printmaking to video installations – a new edition to this year’s exhibition. Produced by Rachel Gibson ‘Quantum’ is an animated film which inspired a sense to me of the world being a big, crazy place and with so much unknown. The size of an atom is small yet wields immense power. And with all this power, everything would just turn to dust and disappear. Becoming a part of our world again. Her combination of mediums from film to an artist book titled ‘Quantum Series 2’ contains dust drawings which help to convey a sense of this meaning, incorporating both memory and place. Here is a short part of Quantum as well as a poem, aligned to both these works…
Another alternative view of the world is provided by mixed media artist Brian Shields, Joint Winner of the Exhibition’s main prize alongside painter Celia Burbush. His assemblage sculptures combine a sense of delicateness with a touch of the macabre. There’s a strong level of craft and workmanship in his winning ‘Crowned & Robed’ piece (see images below) which matches the ideals of romanticism with the surreal.
Another touch of the strange and romantic goes towards the numerous paintings selected by this year’s Young Curators judges. To the abstracted waterscapes of Annie Coxey, the bright and beautiful impasto markings by Frances Winder, the minimalist mountain outline from Maggie Learmonth, graphical collaged paintings by Hamish McLain to the powerfully bold portraits of Catherine MacDiarmid. Each one represents a distinctive angle or view that the artist has aligned themselves to after much research and deliberation. Their strong sense of visual vocabulary is clearly identified when placed next to each other.
With so much to see I can’t forget to mention the varied printmaking on display. Tom Harforth’s two pieces ‘Urban Tirol 1 & 2’ combine screen print with collage to depict the textures of decaying, fragile and weathered landscapes. A recent exhibition at the Brewery Centre in Kendal displayed his series ‘Structure of Decay’ exploring the physical decay of industrial buildings. Through photography and print he has developed processes that accentuate the actual layers of the building – and hence layers and memories of the past.
Also of particular note were the sculptures dotted around the gallery space from a colour field spectrum, cut-off mannequin legs, bronze female figure and contemporary ceramics – including a set of ceramic conkers (see images below).
Lastly, a large textile artwork titled ‘Eden’ by Vasey McKeown caught my eye with its conceptual, collaged coloured areas. This is the first rug that Vasey has ever made using traditional ‘rug-firing’ techniques. She is concerned with making pieces that are useful and not just decorative. With inspiration coming from her farming background this is a unique nod to the traditions and practices of the Cumbrian landscape in which she grew up in, yet with a contemporary nod to her interpretation and life experiences.
Here’s a selection of my favourite images…
|‘Eden’ by Vasey McKeown|
|‘Urban Tirol 1 & 2’ by Tom Harforth|
|Frances Winder (close-up)|
|‘Crowned & Robed’ by Brian Shields|
|‘Quantum Series 2’ by Rachel Gibson|
On until 5th November
The Rheged Centre