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L for Leather exhibition review by Phoebe Thomas

Written by Bluecoat Display Centre | Posted on: June 27, 2016

My name is Phoebe, and I’m currently assisting in the Bluecoat Display Centre for my week of work experience. As I am interested in textiles, illustration, and mixed media art, the Display Centre has always intrigued me; it demonstrates the distinct art styles of local artists, as well as how they have developed in their specialist area. At the moment, the exhibition on display is ‘L for Leather,’ featuring pieces that incorporate the form and texture of leather; all differ due to the artists’ individual perception of what intrinsic link we have with this raw material.

Initially, the juxtaposition of this somewhat classical exhibition that evokes a sense of nostalgia and tradition against the cityscape of Liverpool is stark. In a way, this exhibition can serve as a means of escapism from the modern world. The form fitting structures of the leather bodices of Una Burke, and the deliberately raw edging of Lisa Farmer’s ironic forms, mimic the natural world with modern and traditional techniques alike. The pieces look as if they derive from a forgotten age; both distinctly otherworldly and inherently familiar all at once.

The interlinking forms of Tania Clarke Hall’s jewellery derives inspiration from the artist’s chemistry based background. The structures of the necklaces and bracelets almost look as if they are DNA strands, making for interesting pieces to both spectate at and wear. Similarly, Agne Visniauskaite weaves stories through her pieces, allowing the imperfect structures to echo the often random and chaotic order of nature. Hyorim Lee is another artist whose jewellery reflects commonplace scenes in the natural world.

Lisa Farmer’s bags and accessories look as if they derive from a Neolithic age – and yet, they would not look out of place on the city streets. This contrast between the old world and the new is evident in her work, as well as the work of other artists featured in this exhibition. For example, Harry Owen’s leather bags are deliberately uncomplicated and traditional, meant for practical use. This contrasts Una Burke, whose work may not be appropriate for everyday wear – yet the beauty of her striking pieces is unquestionable. The studs and spikes on her pieces feel like an ode to the late fashion designer Alexander Mcqueen’s philosophy of ‘savage beauty’; blurring the boundaries between the masculine and feminine aspects of clothing.

Tortie Hoare’s furniture is an example of the marrying of old techniques with a uniquely contemporary style, for both practical and aesthetic use. Eva Kesceti’s designs are wearable, paying close attention to durability of leather, and how malleable it is. Likewise, Candice Lau’s leather bags are minimal in shape and appearance, fitting for those who would like to incorporate handcrafted accessories into their everyday wardrobe without making as bold a statement that would come with wearing intricate designs.

Reflecting on this exhibition, I can see its evolution through the the continued support of local artists whose materials echo the base elements. In particular, artists who focus on the renewability of their designs, such as the ethical pieces of Emma Ware, may lead the way for innovative designs that are harmonious with a world of declining natural resources. New materials, such as leather made from dried pineapple skins, and the reclaiming of castaway materials are both ways in which both traditional methods and the Earth’s resources can be preserved.

The Bluecoat Display Centre is uplifting for local artists with an array of backgrounds and skill sets. The Centre continually broadens the perceptions of what it means to be an artist; where their profession is not confined to their work, but rather defines their lifestyle. ‘L for leather’ is a showcase of the integrity and initiative of artists; the conservation of the traditional techniques, modernised by contemporary thought, to capture the attention of today’s audience.

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