Roger Ackling & Sigrid Holmwood – the two artists’ works are on display at Annely Juda Fine Art’s London gallery on Dering Street. Despite the fact that two exhibitions are so different from one another, they each used a distinctive medium making for a great viewing experience, writes Sahithi Kalyanam
The first exhibition, Roger Ackling – The Edge of Things is a showcase of a medium created out of found objects,
beach flotsam and jetsam, broken crates and lost carpentry.
The black lines and shapes on these wooden objects are made out of a burning technique using focussed sunlight through a magnifying lens. The objects were burnt and transformed into art at the site that they were found. That created a difference in line and form at various locations. The lines were different on different kinds of wood, at different locations and at different times of the year.
What is interesting is the idea of displacement of objects and how nature and sun are connected to it through the work. The concept of using imperfect and damaged bits of wood to fashion something so significant and exquisite is amazing. Some of the fragments resembled charred charcoal, as if they had come from a fire. Particularly the vertical arrangement of shapes and the recurrence of forms and motifs give the visual a tribal feel. The usage of voids and attachments, which may or may not be metaphors, is another fascinating concept in Ackling’s work.
Some of the paintings feature blanks and spaces that have been left out, which creates a sense of seclusion or absence. However, one also notices attachments and nails driven into the pieces, which adds to their strong appeal. One piece in particular had a bent and corroded nail protruding from its side. It has the ability to cause emotional turmoil since the thing itself appears rather disjointed and fractured and because the hammered nail adds depth beyond the objects’ inherent characteristics. The art of Ackling is made all the more fascinating by the concept of carving a character into a dislocated and abandoned object.
The exhibition Roger Ackling – The Edge of Things will be on at Annely Juda Fine Art’s London gallery’s third floor gallery from 26 January – 3 March 2023.
The focus of the second exhibition – ‘Sigrid Holmwood, A terrible and True History’ is the witch trials of 1590 in Denmark and North Berwick, Scotland; The horrific witch trials when women were tortured and burnt. Some of the sites where these Danish executions took place are quite close to the place Holmwood, where the artist lives; Malmo.
The imagery used in the artworks is quite disturbing and impactful. Flames and the reds and the oranges create a demonic essence to the works. It also sort of reminds one of the tragedies and the pain of these executions. Holmwood talks about the conspiracies that had to do with witches and witchcraft especially in Europe. She talks of how they could’ve been a counter revolutionary tool to supress women and their knowledge of plants and medicine. She uses madder roots in her work for red dye. Madder roots were historically used by women to induce abortions.
Quaife, G R in her book ‘Wanton Wenches and Wayward Wives, Peasants and Illicit Sex in Early Seventeenth Century England’ talked about a woman, who was forced to have madder roots to have her ‘illicit’ child aborted, “Another female received very specific directions. To destroy the kid conceived in this examinee’s body, her man “did advise and force her to take bearsfoot and savon boiled, and drink it in milk, as well as hay madder chopped, and drink it boiling in beer”.
This type of female repression and seizure of reproductive rights is also addressed in Holmwood’s work, which is particularly pertinent in the world today. The invention of printing press created a worser scenario of misinformation. Holmwood illustrates this deception through a green textile piece that she coloured with weld plants from the execution sites in Malmo. This work includes an excerpt from a booklet that was printed in London in 1591. called the “News from Scotland.”
She also ran through the process of turning madder roots into pigment as a part of the exhibition. She adopts the character of a peasant painter to emphasise the idea of peasant culture and the suffering of several women in the name of such witch hunts.
The exhibition Sigrid Holmwood ‘A Terrible and True History’ is on the fourth floor of Annely Juda Fine Art’s London gallery from 26th January – 3rd March 2023.