Have you ever faced the long walk up to the Peter Chalk Centre, and wondered if there is anything diverting to do en route? Do you enjoy art? If you answered yes to either of those questions, Razz may have the answer for you. Next time you pass the Forum and feel like all hope is lost, pop into the Northcott Theatre for a few minutes rest, and use the time to appreciate the Collected Artists exhibition displayed around the café area on the first floor.
The centre-piece at the base of the main stairs is Gillian Taylor’s ‘Poppies’, an installation piece consisting of 1000 hanging paper poppies made from World War Two love letters. The piece is lit from below, and moves organically with each change in air pressure, creating a play of light and shadow that the poppies throw on the space around them.
Moving left or right up the stairs, you cannot miss the mixed media canvas art of Exeter-based Nina Kleinzeller. Her large pieces depict birds-eye views of people in their beds, using thick black lines and the bold colours of autumn. The sketchy definition of the outlines and the faded skin-tones give some of the pieces the feel of a graphic novel, on the verge of the gothic, but this is balanced by her use of natural flower and leaf patterns. All of the pieces are excellent, and in fact one has been snapped up by a buyer already.
Above the café bar are the smaller prints of Patrick Cullum, which may at first glance seem irreverent compared to Kleinzeller’s large emotive paintings, but in fact are deceptively affecting. Cullum’s cartoony style makes his prints exciting, but his colour scheme seems to convey the emotion that the expressionless faces and two-dimensional perspective do not. One print for instance, showing someone curled in a ball on the ground, has ominous and gloomy overtones because of the use of blues and turquoises, where it could easily have seemed more playful if yellows and oranges had been used instead. It is just a shame that some of the prints are unlit and relegated to the high wall behind the bar where they may be easily missed.
To the right of the café are the works of Natalia Kisielnicka, centring on the same basic outline of a reclining woman but altered through different media. Each version seems to take its influence from a different place, conferring a nice variety on the series. For instance, ‘Untitled 1’ seems to have elements of traditional Japanese art in its natural imagery and simplistic outlines, while ‘Untitled 5’ is reminiscent of German expressionist artwork because of its bleak, black, faceless form. Similarly ‘Untitled 4’ appeared Cubist, and ‘Iona’ surrealist. It was refreshing to see how many ways the same outline could be approached, even by the same artist.
The rest of the exhibition consists of Kisielnicka’s pencil sketches of insects, the excellent photography of Nick Rosier, often juxtaposing rural and modern subjects, and tucked away in a side-room are the black and white ink drawings of Frances Matteson, whose zig-zag texturing is quite unique, making everything look as if it is made of tweed.
I would highly recommend a visit, particularly to see the Nina Kleinzeller pieces. The exhibition closes on December 9th, so get in there quickly to take a look and fight off those winter blues!
Written for Razz by Dan Squire.