The great thing about writing reviews is that you keep experiencing different things and meeting new people. A case in point is the visit I made to The Tetley on Thursday, 17th September for a preview of Citra, an exhibition by Lauren Gault.
I always find that being given a drink voucher when I arrive anywhere is a most acceptable way to start an evening, especially as on this occasion I was not limited to the pop-up cocktail and wine stations, but could go to the main bar for a hand pulled pint of Tetley Original ale.
The exhibition opened to the public at 6.00pm but Tetley members were admitted at 5.00 to get our refreshments and be treated to a presentation by the artist and Bryony Bond, the Director of The Tetley. When I say treated, I mean treated.
Ms Gault said that the exhibition was first presented at Gasworks in London and was meant to be transferred to The Tetley straight after but what with the lockdowns and restrictions keeping venues closed, it is about a year late. This has not been a totally bad thing as the artist has added some extra pieces meaning that we have more of this excellent work to witness.
Although based in Glasgow she is originally from Northern Ireland to where she regularly returns. It was her rural upbringing which inspired and shaped her work. Another factor was a book which she read by Martha Craig who was an Irish explorer, inventor and scientist. Weirdly, after doing some research on the author she found that they were related.
When I say that extra pieces have been added, it is not quite as it seems as we are meant to see the exhibition as one work rather than a curated collection of individual sculptures. This was not as easy as it sounds as the work is so diverse, albeit having the theme of being a dichotomy between what is natural and what synthetic and man-made. OK, I possibly wouldn’t have got that had I not been listening to the presentation, but please bear it in mind when you go for a visit – you’re welcome.
When the introduction was over I approached Ms Gault as I had a couple of questions for her as a follow-up to what we had been told. She said that she was just fulfilling an appointment with someone but would find me when it was done. I have been given the bum’s rush by experts, although none so charmingly as this, so I strolled off to have a look at the exhibits, sorry, the components of the exhibit, and take photographs for my piece, thinking that was that. Look, I am entitled to be cynical, I have spent seven decades practising.
The works were as diverse as you could wish for, ranging from tiny delicate glass figures, through plaster casts and fossilised horn to huge bales of straw wrapped in Lycra, a sort of agricultural Christo. We in Yorkshire are used to seeing huge weird shapes wrapped in this material which I put down to our having hosted the start of the Tour de France a few years ago and now experiencing a succession of wannabe Mark Cavendishes puffing and panting their way round the route.
The use of Lycra, or Spandex as my American readers will know it, was one of the things I wanted to question the artist about as I would have thought that something as environmentally unfriendly as that would be a no-no in these green times. By the way, did you know that Spandex is so called because it is an anagram of expands? Once again – you’re welcome.
I was mulling over this enigma when Lauren Gault, who had clearly fulfilled her other obligation, came over and apologised for having to keep me waiting. I would like to take this opportunity of publicly apologising for my previous thoughts and in the light of this gesture will amend my behaviour in future; until I get dumped on again, obviously. She answered my Lycra question – it is a new form of the material which has been created with sustainability in mind and, although not totally recyclable, is much more appropriate than the original version. She also told me that she reuses the cloth several times over. Not only was she kind enough to spend time doing that, but we had a longer conversation about other aspects of the exhibition with her not once checking her watch or looking over my shoulder to see if there was someone more interesting to talk to. Obviously there would have been many contenders for that title which makes her behaviour all the more amazing. I thanked her for her time as I didn’t want to keep her until her eyes glazed over, and went for a further look round.
There were a lot of animal sculptures, mainly of sheep and dogs. Some of these were quite disturbing which I was told reflected the huge increase in the incidence of sheep worrying in recent years, a trend which I put down to townies moving to the country and not being familiar with rural ways. I base my theory on the other increase; that of dog owners being ‘attacked’ by cattle. Cows are inquisitive animals and are attracted to dogs which they will approach, sometimes a little too quickly. Country people will walk away and let their dogs look after themselves, which they can easily do as they are able to run much quicker than their pursuers, thus diverting them from their owners. Townies will pick up their dogs to protect them causing the bovines to continue with their approach towards both parties, sometimes ending in disaster.
Another element to the show was the use of black mesh echoing the texture and shape of fireguards which were a familiar part of Ms Gault’s upbringing, as they were of anyone with a real fire. They were adorned with small flowers to repeat the natural/man-made theme. There was one which was larger than the rest and looked to me like a screen door with the tiny blooms looking like bugs trying to get through. I suppose that everyone gets what they can from art.
There is one element brought to the exhibition by The Tetley itself, and that is the light. The gallery windows face west and, as it was a fine evening, the sun shone directly into the rooms, not only illuminating the pieces, but casting shadows onto the walls and floor adding an extra dimension.
All in all, I really enjoyed my visit to this preview, I learned a lot, not just about the exhibition, but about myself and my surroundings.
Although you will not have the pleasure of meeting the artist in person on your visit, there is a video piece by her in one of the rooms which explains the exhibition far more lucidly than I have done.
Lauren Gault: Citra, which was commissioned and produced in partnership with Gasworks, London with the generous support of Freelands Foundation, runs at The Tetley every Wednesday to Sunday 10.00am to 5.00pm until 3rd January, 2022. Admission is free with no booking required.
For more details please visit https://www.thetetley.org/whats-on/cithra
Should you wish to join The Tetley and avail yourself of events such as this as well as take advantage of other benefits, please go to https://www.thetetley.org/become-a-member It is only £28 per year and well worth it.
All photographs by Stan Graham