Friday, 25 October 2013


CERI HAND GALLERY, 8 Coppperfield St, SE1 0EP

PLIAGE Acrylic on purple wool, 180 x 140 cm
I have to declare a bias. Michael Raedecker's haunting, deserted landscapes and interiors failed to win the Turner Prize in 2000. Raedecker applied thin washes and thick impasto to the canvas and then used thread, embroidery, fabric, sequins and textiles. Did the judges see a disjunction between highly valued 'fine art' and lowly 'craft'?

Fabric is the ground of Hannah  Knox's work, each piece  chosen for the possibilities it opens up: from pink linen to silver PVC to day-glo orange pure silk. Her beautiful exhibition at the Ceri Hand Gallery -   tucked away behind the spacious premises of the Jerwood Gallery and its excellent cafe - is a joy. In Pliage dark woollen fabric is folded and sprayed to become a dramatic, mesmerising rainbow. The works are folded, stitched, sprayed and draped, these are paintings barely and painted barely - this is painting in the 'Buff', the intriguing title of this exhibition. 'Buff' as a verb means to polish or to perfect; it also conjures up a yellowish-beige colour worn by genteel ladies in small provincial towns in the 1930s. Better still, the phrase 'in the buff' suggests being caught naked - and really rather pleased about it - as in a naughty Donald McGill comic seaside postcard of the same era.  

 Third Wave Riot, Acrylic on cotton mix,  170 x 100 cm x 3
Third Wave Riot is a triptych of inky blue lines spray-painted onto thin blue and white striped fabric.  It reminds me of Bridget Riley's paintings and I even walked slowly past it to see if the lines would give the illusion of swooping and swerving as hers do. Instead they stay put - because they have already slipped and smudged. The title refers to Third Age Feminism and 'Riots not Diets'. She says 'This way of working - folding, taping, creasing is an attempt at it becoming something, working blind in some sense, only see what you've put on, not what you've left out'.

 I'm including 2 extra images  in order to show something of Knox's remarkable versatility.

PNEUMA, Heat sensitive T-shirt in artist's frame,97x87x4.5 cm
Pneuma is an ancient Greek word for breath or spirit. It's found dozens of times in the Bible's New Testament, often meaning  the Holy Spirit, the energiser, the One who breathes new life into us. The work's  pastel tones are perfect. And while I was at the viewing someone (not wearing lipstick) was invited to  get very close to the work and to breathe out. Like a child's magic painting book, a patch of colour faded and then bounced back into life as the fabric cooled. Shocking! Imagine getting that close to an Art Work and reminding us of our frail dependence on the invisible air in which we live and move and have our being.

Fall 13 is different again. The folds represent falling leaves and change. Thee is a musical reference: the Laurie Anderson song, Walking and Falling.  The song reminds us that with every step you take you fall forward slightly and catch yourself from falling. Over and over again. But without falling there's no walking.

STOP PRESS Louise Bourgeois: the Fabric Works by Germano Celant has just been published.

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