A spoon is an unpretentious object – modest, useful, receptive; a small shallow bowl with a handle. Masterworks started its exhibition year with “The Humble Spoon” and the show perfectly reflects the subject – small, quiet, unassuming yet not without its pleasing bits. The six artists all stayed within an arm’s reach of the subject and none tried moving it along to semi-literary variations such as Spoonerisms (ripe for someone, surely) or ‘silver spoons in the mouth’ but an amiable humour is present in Cheryl Lucas’ titles for her ceramic objects that allude to various functions of spoons such as, Egg ‘n Spoon and Egg Hugger or Berry Jammy. The over-scaled renditions in satin matt demonstrate Lucas’ well-honed skills and warrant a narrow space on a kitchen wall.
An even wider smile comes with Raewyn Walsh’s invitation to viewers to complete a sentence for themselves. Entitling her works, ‘Waiter… ’ Walsh cut the life-size shape of a fly from the bowls of found sterling silver spoons and then applied the fly-shaped silver cut-out to the end of a stick-pin for an elegant lapel trophy and presents them neatly coupled. Smart, sharp and well titled, these are the smiles among the more earnest bits.
But those earnest bits merit scrutiny for most are small in scale and demand the close-up peruse. Another display of elegant stylishness that also utilises the found spoon is Victoria McIntosh’s white-framed collection. Effectively mounted behind glass in traditional spoon-shaped ellipse the congregation of junk-shop finds – made of everything from silver, to bone, to wood, to Bakelite, to wire and any number of unidentifiable materials – offer a grand assemblage of seventy-odd different shapes that all have been functioning spoons in essence, deftly set out so that the working surfaces are what presents yet it is the contours that resonate most strongly. The gathering does intriguing things like raise reminiscences of mother’s wooden cooking spoons worn down through years of stirring a pot (and whatever happened to those teensy splinters of wood that were abraded?) and other collections I have seen, such as crucifixes of every imaginable configuration or hand mirrors, displayed upon bathroom walls. Then there are questions such as, what were those huge perforations or twists of wire meant to catch? And what on earth was the specific function for that strangely contoured bamboo spoon? Or how long did all this take to pull together?
That the work sold on opening night was no surprise but that did raise a small question about buying a ready-made, completed collection when the point of accumulating is usually the joys, blunders and oversights of gradually putting one together for oneself? That aside, it’s a beautiful, and engaging, work of multi-levelled nostalgia.
Abi Woollcombe also offers a compilation of spoon shapes within a wall-mounted casing, this one with wood veneer background and Perspex cover. But there the similarity ends. These clearly hand-wrought spoon shapes don’t possess the variety of McIntosh’s found objects, being variable mainly by alterations of scale with a couple having off-set handles or perforations. Tentative in form, they are unified by the application of a dense, Yves Klein-ish, deep blue pigment. The colour is rich and luxurious but looks a little as though there is a small problem keeping it there as it has mainly gone from some high spots as though scuffed away through handling. This would be fine had the forms of the spoons been controlled but their loose handling alongside the worn surface made the combination seem too random and unintentional. It’s an exhibit that makes hard work of trying to understand the artist’s intent. It has potential as a nice idea but it needs either the colour or the forms to be immaculately rendered to make a really successful combination/contrast with relaxed and casual – if that is the intent. Personally I’d like to see both – flawless blue over strong form with well-formed bowls from which spring tensely curved, pulled handles. The result could be stunning.
The show is rounded off with splendidly scaled, reticello glass, ‘Scoops’ by Luke Jacomb and some finely worked black walnut spoons for neck-wear by Rachel Bell.
THINKSPACE this month is given over to Andy Kingston with a display called ‘Dot to Dot’ where he demonstrates just how many steps are involved in making one of his multi-surfaced vessels. Here is a group of covered jars progressively showing what is involved in each segment of a finished work as layers of surface are added, further complicating or embellishing the last. No text needed.
All absolutely worth a look.