Eta Ingham Lawrie – Gallery 45 (July 3 – August 5 2021)
I fear that I am a little late in reviewing this exhibition before it finished last week on August 5th, but Eta’s work was just so stunning that I find myself desiring to write a short article on the now ended exhibition. It took place upstairs at Gallery 45 in the Long Room, this room holds the function of being the modern white cube which a lot of gallery spaces have adopted in order to demonstrate work in semi isolation from the world around it. The work on display in this room, predominately woven with a loose weave displays exquisite artistry and an absolute mastery of colour and design over function. These pieces are quite obviously designed as artworks and wall hangings and could not be imagined to hold any other function aside from to please the eye.
Lawrie gained experience with tapestry creation when she was young, later attending the RCA in London and freelancing as a textile artist. Most of her work in this room is textile art in a very loose weave, some parts are designed to be textured, others colourful. The playful way in which she has used tapestry and textile skills to such wonderful effect is evident in the range of different types of work which she has on display, ranging from a delicate construction, right through to one that is sturdy enough to hold embellishment and three dimensional effect. Her intuitive combination of colour and weave is transformative enough to give a kind of depth, even to work that is created on a flat plane.
Taking a closer look at some of the exhibits reveals the sublime manner in which they have been composed, In Light over Lindisfarne for example, the lighting on the water is well matched by the light from above in clouds in the sky. The sky itself, although coloured golden and a grey-red colour, appears to be smooth, with the weave getting firmer the further down the composition that the eye drifts, Becoming firmer where the castle pokes into the sky, firmer still over the water, finally drifting into a patch that appears rouched and raised representing the shoreline. This roughness reaches a crescendo right at the bottom of the piece, in the location where the viewer can imagine themselves standing. The whole composition feels warm and inviting to the eye, the lines and waves of the textile giving the eye plenty of directions to spur off and explore. Although the loose composition does loose the coherence of the picture within towards the horizon point, I can’t help but to feel that in this case that is an advantage in this work, rather than a disappointment.
If we contrast this with another Lindisfarne hanging that she has created, with a different light, tone and texture within its composition, we can get a feel for just how skilled in this form of textile art that Lawrie is. This hanging, just titled Lindisfarne is smaller and darker, but the tone of the image is completely different, It doesn’t feel as warm, though it contains exactly the same scene as before. The weave at the top is extremely loose and diaphanous, giving the colours a slightly faded appearance, like in a watercolour. The use of blues creates a less welcoming feeling, but there is still yellow, used to highlight a portion of sky and sea, as though the scene is a sunrise which has just begun, welcoming a fresh new day to the island. Similarly to the other hanging, this one also becomes denser towards the base of the image, the visual effect helping create a sense of place. The weighted net at the very bottom, could be a homage to the fishing industry that was once prevalent on the island as well as helping the artwork to keep its shape and composition.
Other parts of her work are much more abstract than the previously mentioned images of Lindisfarne, hung together are three delightful images of the sea front, all with a coherence of scene that’s often difficult to visualise. Lawrie has worked wonders here with the creation of those open circles in her weave and the inclusion of shells and other found objects into her compositions. In each of these three different hangings, she has used a range of differing weaves of different density, it’s unlikely that the soft, almost non existent weave used at the top would have been able to sustain the weight of items like shells being incorporated into them. The thicker net like weaves she has used lower down do this well. The three dimensional elements that appear to reference sticks, or dried seaweed on the shoreline, even by looking visually at the artwork, you feel the rough texture of such items.
This exhibition of work is now no longer where I viewed it, but I’m sure that the artist will be displaying again elsewhere in the future. I would strongly recommend a visit to such another event. The exhibition itself was held in a white room, which ordinarily is great, as it allows the art to speak for itself, isolated from its surroundings, however, in this case, I feel that some other visual stimulus would have really made this stand out, perhaps a more textured gallery, to counter the textures involved in the artwork itself.