PORTICO GALLERY "HAIR" THE EXHIBITION
Reviewed by Emily Cannell
Having only opened in May 2010, The Portico Gallery in West Norwood has already been described as a creative hub for the local community. In this short time, John Price and Rick Pinn have worked hard to establish a space in which Artists can exhibit and the public can enjoy the best of what local talent has to offer.
This September saw The Portico’s most successful exhibition yet, “Hair”. A theme which produced an exciting response and caught artists from all walks of life, some trained and some not at all, simply with an avid passion for the arts. The exhibition was refreshingly honest and had a certain emotional resonance as each interpretation of the theme held connotations of loves lost, gained, life through it’s triviality, complexity and spirit, in an “artistic examination of the relationships we hold with human hair - our own and others.”
Through sculpture, photograph, paint and mixed media, each artwork speaks of a personal experience.
The theme itself was originally decided as a reaction against the proposal of an exhibition which would focus on one demographic of the community. Instead, Hair jumped out as a rich seam for exploration, one which would invite broad interest, variety and reflect the important cultural diversity within Lambeth itself, “everyone has a hair story”, said John.
Walking into the gallery for the first time, the senses are captivated with colour, the space is awash with splashes of bright bubblegum in Ewa Obrochta’s “Dualsexus”, a mixed media collage depicting a leaping, androgynous ballerina and in Sue Cox’s “Beside”, a sensitive portrayal of a family by the water in soft blues and fleshy hues.
Ingrid Andrew’s three portraits “Helen”, “Violet” and “Woman at the window”, explore the beauty of youth and the elegance of age in a quiet conversation between the viewer and viewed. Perhaps family, friends or strangers, these richly coloured portraits invite you to think inquisitively of their provenance and significance to the artist. Marion Mitchell’s “My mother has golden hair”, a sculpture with long locks of blonde growing from the base of a wide hairbrush takes an entertaining spin on a family member, whilst another artist focuses on the lack of. Kelly Averis, a student and commendably one of the youngest artists in the exhibition, puts forth a sincere and lovely portrait of her father, a burly looking man with insecurities about his hair loss, in a painting entitled “Dad”. Kelly wanted to portray her father as a strong figure who is “conscientious and worried about getting old like many other people.” There is a strong current of painting which paves the way for a selection of works by Jolyon Dupuy, a mixed media sculptor. “The Beachcomber and his lover”, is a piece consisting of wood, wire, broom bristle and a carefully arranged bounty of found objects, adding a jollity and contemporary take on hair, as a material that keep the theme sailing. John Price exhibits “Rastafarian Giacometti”, composed of a charred plank of wood with afro-carribean hair. This playful piece was inspired by cuttings of hair from the barbershop, blowing down the street in the wind. A poetic image which symbolises beautifully an integrated culture in an urban Britain.
The Portico gallery arrived to the great pleasure of Emma Fenelon who exhibits four ceramic pieces, “Wild Hair”, “Ginger hair”, “Bed hair” and “Blue Rinse”. Emma set up a local housing co-operative in 1985 and has lived in the area ever since, “it is fantastic to get involved in a very local art hub as I passionately believe in local involvement.” At first unsure about the theme, “after considering Hair and all it’s myriad cultural connotations, values and significances, I realised that it is a very powerful subject.” Emma’s ceramics are like scenes from a fairytale, each room is adorned with a decorative print on the surface and inside a bathroom where forest of trees create a boundless space for the imagination. Hair spills from bathtubs and cupboards, reaching across floor tiles in a “disturbing reality”. Having a theme took Emma’s work in a new direction, usually working with sectors of the community to create large ceramic buildings in which everyone has a part in the making process, she found that hair forced her to look at the idea of “home” in a different way.
It is clear throughout the exhibition that there are a lot of different voices. Each have something to say about Lambeth and who lives there. The gallery's ethos “Art for all”, stays true to the idea that creativity is innate and should be enjoyed by everybody, for which I wholeheartedly agree. The gallery opening, has led to form of creative discourse within Lambeth, encouraging a free spirited exploration of the arts. In a community with such a strong diversity, “Hair” left a compelling and long lasting impression on it’s visitors, I look forward to the next.