Sunday, 11 August 2013

Review of 10 at the Conference Centre, St Pancras Hospital

The Conference Centre, St Pancras Hospital
12 July – 12 September 2013

“Imagination is like the sea. You cannot say how many cups of water are in it – it’s endless.” This was my introduction to the group show currently on display in the Conference Centre at St Pancras Hospital – a chance encounter with a member of hospital staff, who, seeing me standing by Simon Croft’s mirror works, Normal, Natural and Real (2013), came over to ask if I was one of the artists, expressing his awe, and saying how he was “mesmerised” by the works on display. With such eloquent expression, really, he ought to be writing this review, but sadly he had another job to get back to! Nonetheless, his enthusiasm for the works on show certainly opened my mind to enjoy them even more than I otherwise might have.

The exhibition is a celebration of ten years of the Arts Project, which, together with the North London NHS Charitable Fund, has curated 125 exhibitions, involving over 200 artists – both professional and amateur – since 2003. And, indeed, the long corridor gallery space is filled with a sense of celebration – bright colours, kitsch, beads, playful papier mâché animals (by Sheona Josiah), an installation of golden Egyptian wonders (Gold of the Pharaohs, by Sue Kreitzman, 2013, a personal homage to the curator Peter Herbert), collage, ceramics, stonework, photographs, paintings and prints. Portraits hang opposite landscapes, and various thematic threads run throughout, inviting the visitor to pick one at will and start unravelling…

Places and memories figure significantly, with Dominic O’Ryan’s black and white photography montage, There are Places I Remember (2013), creating a travellog of beauty, Paul Herbert’s blue and green acrylics, The Homeland: New Zealand Portrait (2013) and The Homeland: New Zealand Landscape (2013), looking, with their black outlines and stark, effective shapes, almost like woodcuts, and, closer to home, Angela Inglis’s photographs of Kings Cross (taken from her book, Kings Cross: A Sense of Place, 2012), Ana Sedano’s photograph Shard London (2012), and Terry Humphries’ small bluish oil painting, St. Paul’s on the Thames.

Landscapes do not just refer to those of location, either, with Paul Dedelve’s stunning photograph, Landscape (2009), portraying the mere suggestion of the contours of a female body. Echoing this, Sue Smith has created a white stoneware sculpture, Woman at Rest (2012), whose smooth curves evoke hilltops and valleys, every bit as much as hips and shoulders.

Matilda Moreton works with literal maps, printing historical maps of the city of London on to ceramic tiles, and china mugs and plates, whilst Catharine Barcham’s dreamlike fused glass face masks opposite are displayed in a case with a statement taken from Lawrence Gowing (1962), saying:

The map of the face made up of timeless, mysterious, elusive human identities, 
is one, which we can only explore through our own understanding of ourselves, 
and how we map our own lives.

Certainly the question of identity – common to Herbert’s curatorial efforts – is another thread of this exhibition, and a number of artists raise questions as to how we see ourselves. These include Margaret Pepper, whose Journey of Discovery (2007) considers the uncertain territory traversed by the LGBT community; Phil Wildman, whose collaged acrylics bring together features from a variety of sources, compiling the emergent self; Ella Guru, whose painting depicts a woman looking in the mirror and seeing a rabbit’s face (Rabbitt’s Mirror, 2012); and Simon Croft, whom I mentioned at the start, whose three mirrors overlaid with PVA words look at the ways in which language use brings about judgments and affects the way that people, in particular transmen and women, look at their bodies.

Overall, this exhibition is an eclectic and joyous collection, appropriate for its celebratory purpose, and well worth a visit.


Sheona Josiah
© the artist

Dominic O’Ryan
There are Places I Remember 
© the artist

Paul Herbert
The Homeland: New Zealand Portrait 
© the artist

Paul Dedelve
© the artist

Catharine Barcham
© the artist

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