Feature: Making Connections, an Exhibition at Sun Pier House, by Alison Swan

Alison Swan Making Connections WOW Kent

A group exhibition featuring work by: Pam Dodds and David Cowley; Olivia Schlevogt and Alison Boyce; Alison Swan and Cathy Cullis is currently showing at Sun Pier House, Chatham.

One of the artists, Alison Swan, tells the story of how six very different artists made connections and created the show.

The idea for this exhibition arose from a discussion between myself, Pam Dodds and Olivia Schlevogt at the end of 2014.   We had previously shared space at The Old Reed Bed, Lower Halstow, with established ceramist Jean Lowe. Now working from our own home studios, but having maintained contact, we agreed it would be good to come together and exhibit again but to somehow add another element to the mix.

Pam had, in the past, expressed a desire to show work alongside that of her ex-tutor David Cowley who taught on the Ceramics Degree course at KIAD (now UCA), Rochester.   This set us thinking. What if we each extended an invitation to an artist or maker whose work we admired or connected with in some way? It could make an interesting show, encouraging communication, conversation and perhaps, enriching our own creative output through a cross-fertilisation of ideas. In this way ‘Making Connections’ was born.

David Cowley accepted Pam’s invitation to exhibit recent work – large-scale drawings and paintings exploring his response to specific pieces of music – alongside a selection of Pam’s mixed media collages, ceramics and new papier-mâché forms. It is an interesting pairing: An orchestral symphony versus the stillness or movement of the body; musical scores translated into colour and line through gestural mark-making; statuesque figures captured in torn and layered newsprint or in vessel form – lip, neck, belly and foot reflected in hand-built paper and thrown porcelain pots.

Olivia, a full-time jeweller with a national and international reputation, has selected Alison Boyce, a student on her jewellery / silversmithing course at Rochester Adult Education Centre, as her exhibition ‘partner’. Olivia recognized great skill and imagination in Alison’s approach at an early stage in their teacher / pupil relationship and her name sprung immediately to mind when we were discussing this exhibition in outline. In contrast to Olivia’s traditional silversmithing skills and use of precious metals and gem stones, Alison takes inspiration from discarded and found objects. The resulting pieces are of a different scale from those created by Olivia and use non-precious materials in an innovative way and often to dramatic effect. Both makers use drawing to develop their ideas as well as utilizing traditional silversmithing techniques in their distinctive collections.

My own choice was a less tangible ‘connection’. Last year on ‘Pinterest’, I chanced upon the diverse and fascinating world of artist and poet Cathy Cullis. I have followed her blog for some months now and feel a great empathy with her creatively.  We share a love of poetry, literature, fine and folk art and a particular interest in women’s lives.

Cathy uses the Internet to connect with other creative people. She fills sketchbooks with new ideas on a daily basis, shares observations and images in a blog and sells her modestly priced paintings, drawings and embroideries via her Big Cartel online shop.

In contrast, I prefer to keep a low online profile. I work from a quiet, purpose-built studio, producing a relatively small number of unique, fragile-looking ceramics from paper clay. A personal inclination to collect and display objects is reflected in the way I group or title pieces to suggest an underlying narrative. For all our differences, both Cathy and I like the idea that our art may suggest a story. Interestingly, at the time of writing this article, Cathy and I have not met in person but have liaised regularly via email, exchanging ideas and photographs, to develop a specific series of complementary work for this exhibition.

‘Making Connections’ brings together the work of these six very different artists and makers from Medway, Swale, London and Surrey. We hope that visitors to Sun Pier House will enjoy the diversity on offer, comparing and contrasting themes, approaches, styles and materials as they move around the gallery space, taking time to explore for themselves the concept of creative ‘connections’ in the widest possible sense and within the exhibition as a whole.

The show coincides with Medway Open Studios (18-26 July 2015), a busy and stimulating period in the vibrant local arts community. The venue is home to a variety of artists who will be opening their studios to visitors (see the Medway Open Studios website for further details) and is a popular hub on the arts trail with its tearoom and stunning river views.

For more information on this exhibition, please see our WOW Kent ‘Making Connections listing.

Detailed information on each artist /maker can be found at the following websites:

Alison Boyce – Sculptural Jewellery

David Cowley – Painting / Sculpture

Cathy Cullis – Works on Paper / Board

Pam Dodds – Mixed Media / Ceramics

Olivia Schlevogt – Silversmithing / Jewellery

Alison Swan – Fine Art Ceramics


Featured image credit: Alison Swan