Friday, 10 May 2013


Crimson, scarlet, vermillion. Red has many names.
Blood, lipstick, earth, mars. Red has many meanings.
Of all the primary colours, is red the most powerful, disturbing and divisive?

In this show Espacio artists, a  London- based group with cultural roots around the world explore the potential of red to evoke a visceral reaction in the viewer. But is this the only use for red? Or can it have other meanings, other possibilities?

The triptych here on display stands on a window sill at the Menier Gallery. The image cannot do justice to Alexis van El’s work, which is designed to be seen from more than one viewpoint, with the additional pleasure of looking through the startling gap slashed through a beautifully textured metal surface. It’s pungently reminiscent of the scars you see where branches have been lopped off mature trees leaving a gaping wound. 

The metal plaques are made of thin, mild steel sheet, sometimes with the addition of other metals, mainly copper. Some are suspended in pairs in a Perspex frame; others, called Bookforms, consist of two hinged plates, conjuring up the enclosed, personal world a reader is free to enter.   

 And for most of us that beautiful shape has sexual associations. The artist writes ‘in my pieces the labial forms and the enriched, encrusted surfaces celebrate female energy’.

In 1928 Virginia Woolf addressed the Arts Society at Newnham College, Cambridge on the subject of Women and Fiction, and from this talk emerged her feminist and modernist text, A Room of One's Own. In March of this year, as part of Women's History Month, Alexis van El was one of 12 artists at the Espacia Gallery offering their personal response to the work. Woolf writes about women and education, marriage, money and property, and ends with a passionate call to her readers to open their minds and throw themselves into creative endeavour. (Woolf was practical too, recognising in the book title that ‘a room of one's own and money in one's pocket’ are essential to women's creative freedom).


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