Alumni News

West Dean College MFA graduate Lotti V Closs is having her debut solo exhibition at Castor Projects, London: In Plain Sight. The exhibition is runs from 26th May to 1st July, and is open Fridays and Saturdays or by appointment. The Private View is Friday 26 May, 6-9pm.

"Curves, steps, slots, and a balance between organic and geometric lines work as a type of vocabulary. Suggestive and awkward, bulky attempting delicate, standing stones ignore, reach or recline between one another, competing for space and attention. Closs' works sit between possible maquettes for monumental public sculpture and fetishized interior objects.

Closs' limited material choice in this body of work focuses on the unique and corporeal qualities inherent in stone. Boulders chosen to amplify natural movement, and blocks are cut sharply to create graphic contours augmenting a sense of character. A playful, theatrical approach is continued from previous works, using intermingling components and elements of narrative open to be built upon by the viewer.

In Plain Sight condenses an array of influences, and is the first exhibition of new work following participation in the 'Las Pozas' Visiting School 2016 in Mexico with the Architectural Association. Spending time exploring Mexico City's culture, art and architecture and surrounding historical sites, the school culminated in a concrete-making workshop in the Surrealist sculpture garden 'Las Pozas' (The Pools) in Xilitla, the creation of poet and patron, Edward James, built between 1949 and 1984.

For Closs, the concrete garden of 'Las Pozas' (which had been a destination for the artist since studying her MFA at West Dean College, founded by James in 1971) reflects a fundamental essence of joy in the ridiculous, and scrambled, poetic visual information. The now ageing structures, though alien and angular, seemingly grow within the rampant jungle greenery, and the garden itself represents the impossible whims and fantasies of a situation that could not be reproduced today.

During the time spent in Mexico city, amongst sampling the abundance of ancient history, Closs also witnessed significant modernist monuments Ruta la Armistead, created for the 1968 Olympics, and the outdoor sculpture garden Espacio Escultórico (1979) in UNAM's (Universidad Nacional Autónama de México) vast grounds. Both sites sit within a bed of ancient petrified lava and undergrowth, with the ever-expanding cityscape growing around past and beyond the originally uncrowded sites.

Working from a series of minimal sketches made on site and in the studio, imagined objects evoke alphabet characters or game pieces, potently stylized décor, and implied visual metaphor. Closs' intuitive and material sensed approach to making allows forms to appear and evolve organically, connecting with the details of line and surface, character and the composition of sculptural parts. In the studio, each form takes turns in a constant editing, altering and extending process to influence each other's and the group direction, finally choreographed into the public space itself and emanating their tone to the environment in which they are seen.

The substantiality of the materials echoes both the modern and ancient monumental influences whilst scale and form step into the domestic realm. Connotations of the masked or coded, In Plain Sight reflects back an imagined visual language that emerges through a saturation of potent visual and environmental information."

Another recent MFA graduate, Kate Boucher, is part of the exhibition of drawings and sculptures entitled Inarticulate Landscapes, being held at Unit 1 Gallery in London. The show is open between 26th May and 16th June (by appointment Mondays and Tuesdays) and the Preview is Thursday 25th May 6-9pm.

[Image: Benedicte Emsens]

QUEST, a solo retrospective exhibition of the work of Pippa Blake (another West Dean Visual Arts alumnus) is taking place at Candida Stevens Gallery, Chichester, between 27th May and 17th June. The Private View is Friday 26th May, 6-8pm.

"Quest seems an apt title for this solo show, which takes a look at a body of work from the last ten years. Blake's subjects are inspired by dramatic geographical and man-made features; from gorges and wastelands to figures glimpsed. Her enigmatic paintings evoke a sense of mystery and mood and for her they 'are outer expressions of her inner feelings.' Blake's work is immensely atmospheric, perhaps melancholic but there is something always exquisite in the moment or scene that she captures - a soulfulness. Her work is able to suspend us in a place where reflection and stillness can happen. 'I have always felt deeply. Light and dark is integral to my work. I look to the horizon and am fascinated by what could be beyond.'

Many of her pieces are observed from a distance, often on travels - in cars, aboard planes, on walks - the world Blake shares with us is one that is seen to be going on about us but one in which we only watch, peripheral, not disrupting, hidden. Recent travels have led to the creation of her newest series Flightpath. She comments that so often "we zoom past the world but for me, when I'm in the air, I am acutely aware that there is a whole world down there and people getting on with their lives and dramas". The poignancy of this thought, and the unknown circumstances or conditions of the people below, are what she feels moved by and is expressing when she paints."

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