Antlers is the first gallery I’ve heard of that calls itself nomadic, with each exhibition bringing a new location and showroom. This concept undoubtedly cuts costs down for the gallery, as showrooms need only be rented whilst an exhibition is on, but it also means that each exhibition is more fresh and intriguing.
On a very rainy evening, my friend and I went along to the preview of its new ‘Gravitas’ exhibition with work from two artists Dorcas Casey and Abigail Reed. The name of the exhibition- ‘Gravitas’ comes from the latin word for weight and can be translated to mean seriousness, importance and dignity. The two artists have very impressive backgrounds, available to look at on Antler’s webpage. Their collections work really well together, complimenting each other not simply through the use of animals in their work, but though the power that the creatures evoke. Making the difference in hierarchy between human and animal less distinct.
Here are a few pictures of Abigail Reed’s black and white paintings. She used only three shades of black to white paint and used mainly rags with a few small paintbrushes to create the soft, fluid texture that characterises the paintings.
This piece was undoubtedly my favourite, the serene layout of the sleeping dogs is beautiful and calming. By using only black and white I feel like I’m able to appreciate the fluid lines and different shades of the dogs more too. Even the background is not simply one shade of black and you can see the movement of the rag Abigail used instead of a paintbrush.
This was Ami’s favourite piece of the exhibition, we both seemed to find that of the two artists, Abigail’s paintings demanded most of our attention, which you may find surprising when you see Dorcas’ amazing sculptures. I find the intense look in the bear’s face awe-inspiring, especially once you take into account the thick, undefined, strokes of paint created by using the rags instead of paintbrushes. Again, looking at the picture below of the bear’s legs, the rags have meant that the paint runs and creates the more delicate lines of the bear’s fur. In some of her other work Abigail uses the dripping more dramatically, for example this print for sale, where splendour seems to drip from the stag’s antlers.
Unfortunately, I thought two of the pieces, Abigail’s bull’s head (above) and Dorcas’ stag in a sewing box (below), got lost in the exhibition. They were visible when you walked in but tucked away in the corner of the room which was more of a reception room, containing prints and merchandise for sale, opposed to the other whitewashed exhibition room. As limited space might have been the issue, perhaps these pieces could have been closer to the entrance of the main exhibition room.
Dorcas’ sculptures are hand sewn, stuffed, fabric creatures that are soft to touch. Her inspiration is focused on dreams and how she thinks of animals in this subconscious state. The stag, bull and goat in the exhibition are created with discarded items of clothing and material and are juxtaposed with ordinary abandoned items of household furniture. In Dorcas’ own words…
In dreams, bits and pieces of the everyday combine with fragments of memory and take on a new significance, I try to echo this notion in the materials I choose for my work. I like the idea of out-moded, discarded and marginal things returning as powerful presences.
The size of the sculptures gives the creatures a demanding presence and the juxtaposition of the furniture and fabric creatures has the same idea of blurring the line between humanity and animals that Abigail Reed’s collection has. However the contrasting combination seems to give the animals a more vulnerable presence than Abigail’s powerful black and white paintings as the creatures are caught up in the household furniture.
The goat has a softer colour which stood out and I thought made it the centre piece of the exhibition. Also it seems very fitting of the exhibition’s theme because the goat is propped up on the chairs sitting as a human would, although it sits lopsided perhaps to show the unnaturalness of this humanisation.
I found these sculptures a lot less thought provoking but beautiful and intricate all the same. It surprised me to find out they were not a rusted metal but actually jesmonite (a material used in casting and moulding) , clothing fabric, iron powder and wood.
All in all, an outstanding exhibition which has given me a lot to talk about- I can’t wait for Antlers Gallery’s next exhibition ‘Exploration’ open 25th April.
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