How could I have missed the (not so) unmistakeable coils of bed springs?Not all the materials were so hard to identify – Wisdom, here on a plinth but with potential for wall display, undulates over its base of bra underwires. Other raw materials included an outdoor chair, beaded seat rest, frayed ghost net. Tracey was very friendly, happy to chat with us (I was with Claire of Tactual Textiles), and she confirmed she is always looking, alert to found materials with potential. As the exhibition title suggests, shadow is a significant concern of the artist. Light falls on and through the works, layered, like shadows in nature. Robin Powell suggested shadows are the spirit of Tracey’s work. The ample light in the gallery, both natural and artificial, made the most of this feature. There was a real sense of unity and yet diversity in the works on display. I particularly like the way Tracey revisited ideas in different materials and scales. For example Shadow Spirit used quite a wide wire mesh, formed into a shape, in this case an open-topped box or vessel, and then interlaced with a feathery string. Those light laces created movement, defined the space contained without hiding it, gave an air of fragility. Visually similar materials at a smaller scale were used to create a series of pouches or bags, Sacred Spirit. That pouch shape was also seen in Bush Spirit, back in a mid-scale and in wooden beads. The idea of open metal frame interlaced with feathery yarn was used again at large scale in Moon shadow (seen in the background of the exhibition view photograph above). This work formed a deep relief on the wall, with complex layers and once again those ever-present, ephemeral, shadows.
I found so much to admire, to learn from, in this artist and her work. With my upcoming (in a few months) welded sculpture workshop I am very excited about the possibilities in combining metal forms and textile elements. Many of the pieces used textile techniques, particularly weaving (one example among many Tree Spirit) and wrapping – Woodwind II would make a great case study for one of the Mixed Media for Textiles assignments.
However I think more important is the approach – Tracey Deep’s work displays great care and attention to detail, thoughtfulness laced through with humour and joy.
The exhibition is on until 13 November, a rewarding destination for a springtime drive.