The jumbled mix of approaches at the Chelsea School of Art, MA Interim Show, Part 1, speaks to the strength of the art school in encouraging their artists to pursue their own directions. Attending such an exhibition feels like being on a treasure hunt - a mix of styles struggle for attention but hidden gems shine through the confusion.
The minimal and dispassionate appearance of “Penumbra” by Lucy Whitford betrays its deep emotional impact. Laid out scientifically and precisely, the sculpture at first presents itself as a clinical conceptual assembly. Selected organ pipes are held at arms length from the wall by metal fastenings. Sitting discretely below them, two plain concrete slabs are held up by metal stands - the spindly legs baring their weight hardly serving to accommodate them. A fragile organic structure sits delicately on one of the slabs, we feel its frailty on the heavy base.
Whitford’s combination of raw and simple materials, with precise placement and tidy construction brings a piercing emotional resonance to her work. These worn pipes speak of their histories - muffled choirs and heartfelt occasions are all locked up in their steely metal exterior. The combination of fragility and strength encourages a feeling of vulnerability in the viewer, and the delicate organic structure is notably appearing only on one plinth, bringing to mind its absence on the second.
This is work which has a powerful impact on an intuitive level. Recently Whitford has been paring down her sculpture, and this work speaks of the resulting increased impact and subtlety she has brought to it. It is work which speaks of futility, fragility and loss with poetic metaphor. Her work is a breath of fresh air amongst the masses of self-reflective highly conceptual work we often see on the London art scene. It is work which resonates long after you’ve encountered it.
More of Lucy Whitford’s work can be see on her blog. The three Chelsea School of Art MA Fine Art 2012 interim shows continue with Part 3 opening on Thursday 10 May 2012, 6–8pm. See the Chelsea website for details.