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Galleries: A journey into the magpie mind of Tessa Asquith-Lamb

Galleries: A journey into the magpie mind of Tessa Asquith-Lamb 9099416

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The world of “lost” things offers endless possibilities for artists, who are all storytellers at heart. Where did these things come from, who made them, what are they? Artist Tessa Asquith-Lamb has always been fascinated by the tales behind objects, so much so that when she was a little girl, growing up in Yorkshire, she made her own museum in the porch of her house, organising her collection of objects and writing little cards for them.

“My work is for all those people who live out stories in their imaginations,” she explains. “Each image I create is assembled from drawings in my sketchbooks of beautiful things founds in museums, in the depths of the woods, remembered moments, carefully observed self portraits, and objects from my collection of Victoriana and childhood treasures.”

In the past year, Asquith-Lamb’s overactive imagination has been fired into orbit following an invitation from Falkirk Community Trust’s exhibitions officer, Gillian Smith, at the start of 2018 to have a root around into the museum collection at Callendar House in Falkirk.

The resulting exhibition, Drawn from the Past: The Museum Mind of Tessa Asquith-Lamb, is an absolute joy. In two small rooms, Asquith-Lamb uses the museum collections as inspiration for her own pictorial flights-of-fancy. This encompasses detailed etchings, paper-cuts, poetry and her own collection of ephemera, including; 19th century toys and decorative arts, vintage glass bird Christmas decorations, crackers and ceramics.

Works from the likes of Alan Davie, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham and Asquith-Lamb’s own artist father, Howard Asquith, sit companionably alongside these artworks and objects.

One of her new etchings, Paper Memories, which features Callendar House in the background, forms part of a series called Reynard Considers. Reynard is a fox who prowls around Asquith-Lamb’s imagination as well as her art. Floating around in the foreground, there are objects she has sketched from the Falkirk Community Trust collections, including a terracotta statue of a goddess with a dog and ancient ice-skates found under a window sash in an old shop in Falkirk.

There is a reference in this work to the almost-forgotten art of “pinprick painting”. Elsewhere in the exhibition, there is an example of a rare 18th century pinprick painting of a lady, in which her hands, face, feet and basket are painted but her dress is made up of thousands of pin pricks, arranged to suggest folds of fabric. The old rusting skates, which looked like they would have been suitable for a child, are also on display.

Drawn from the Past is not one of these exhibitions you might stumble across as it’s tucked away in the second floor galleries space of Callendar House while the usual “Park Gallery” space on the ground floor is transformed into a Victorian Christmas wonderland aimed at young people and families. But when you get there, it’s like falling, Alice in Wonderland-like, into a parallel universe of Asquith-Lamb’s making.

Gillian Smith first came across the East Lothian-based artist’s delicate and beautiful paper cuts around ten years ago when she took part in a Winter Warmth exhibition at the Park Gallery. Smith says: “I wanted to engage an artist who would be able to immerse themselves in the Callendar House archives and respond in an interesting and thought-provoking way. I remembered Tessa’s work and instinctively knew she was the right person for the job.

“At the opening of the exhibition a few weeks ago, which was a joyous occasion altogether, one of Tessa’s friends came up to me and said it was as if her brain was on show in two rooms. She felt that it was the exhibition Tessa had been itching to do for years and that the invitation to trawl the archives had triggered a real outpouring of her imagination.”

Asquith-Smith graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 1998. Since then, she has continued to create her etchings and paper-cuts – often including her trademark fox, Reynard – alongside working as a freelance art educator. Her work is in many private collections and recently she was commissioned by the V&A Dundee with designer Martin Baillie to create a giant paper cut pop up book.

As a child, her father used to allow her to stay up late if she was drawing, and some of the etchings have a feel of a young girl doodling dreamily in her bedroom.

The exhibition’s showstopper was inspired by a 19th century paper cut created by a Camelon man called H. Knox in 1870. Asquith-Lamb found this intricate painted paper Valentine token in the museum stores and it prompted her to create her own versions, featuring items from the house alongside a new poem mirroring the original heartfelt piece of folk art.

She explains: “I decided to make my own versions of this pretty early on in the project and through doing so appreciated just how much of a labour of love making the original must have been.

“The paper circle is folded into six sections but there is now way you can cut through this many pieces of paper at once, so it has to be have been made a couple of layers at a time.” Asquith-Lamb’s two 21st century versions, which echo the layout and measurements of the original and are displayed companionably on the wall alongside the original; both time capsules in their own way.

This new work bears all the hallmarks of an exuberant creative spirit let loose. From descriptions of how the etching process works to the panels which tell the viewer about the origins of the Christmas cracker alongside examples of the real early 20th century thing itself, it’s a mind-expanding experience.

*Drawn from the Past features two Festive Fridays, evening events on December 7 and 14, when the artist will share her knowledge of past Christmas traditions and visitors can create their own decorations (while enjoying a seasonal refreshment). See website for details.

Drawn from the Past:The Museum Mind of Tessa Asquith-Lamb, Park Gallery

Callendar House, Callendar Park, Falkirk, FK1 1YR, 01324 503772

www.falkirkcommunitytrust.org/venues/park-gallery/ Until January 13 2019. Open daily (apart from Tuesdays), 10am-5pm. Free

CRITIC’S CHOICE

Trust a quick-witted denizen of Dundee to come up with the term Beatlemania. The phrase was coined in the city after a promoter, Andi Lothian, witnessed Beatles fans’ frenzies reaction to their heroes at the Caird Hall. A small selection of ten images taken of The Beatles performing there on October 20, 1964, have now gone on display at The McManus in Dundee as part of its Revealing Characters exhibition, which examines the enduring appeal of the portrait.

The images show the Fab Four in the early days of their meteoric rise to fame, performing in front of an excited crowd. Taken by Monifieth-born photographer, Winnie Forbes-Cochrane, these photographs are part of a series of 33 photographs which were put up for auction earlier this year and successfully secured for the city’s collection by Leisure & Culture Dundee.

Affectionately known in her home town as “Winnie Flash Bang”, Forbes-Cochrane, who died in 2002 at the age of 86, was the daughter of a well-known press photographer, J. D. Forbes.

Her candid images represent a snapshot at the height of the craze, with a number of her photographs focusing on the fans. The gig was the eighth date of The Beatles’ 1964 British tour, and the second of three consecutive nights in Scotland.

In keeping with the music industry’s love of “merch”, the museum has had merchandise created from the images which is for sale in their shop. If ever there was a Christmas present for the hard-to-buy-for music fan, this is is…

The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum, Albert Square, Meadowside, Dundee DD1 1DA, 01382 307200, www.mcmanus.co.uk, Mon-Sat, 10 am-5 pm, Sun, 12.30pm-4.30pm Free.

DON’T MISS

Denise Zygadlo, has developed a highly-personal visual language which is arrived at by combining photographs of classical sculptures with sections of her own body, sometimes wrapped in muslin cloth. This is fused together using an old-school photocopy machine. The resulting collages are transferred onto canvas, creating surreal, fragmented jigsaws of marble, muslin thread and anatomy. Sculptures by artists Michelangelo and Giambologna serve as inspiration; in some cases with pops of colour and gilding added by hand to the prints at a final stage. A new exhibition of her work opened last night at Arusha Gallery in Edinburgh.

Denise Zygadlo: Sable Charm and Dumb Enchantment, Arusha Gallery, 13A Dundas Street | Edinburgh EH3 6QG. Until December 21. 0131 557 1412. www.arushagallery.com. Free


Source : HeraldScotland

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