Opposition in Print: Shelagh Wakely ‘Going Beyond’ at Shapero Modern

‘Until you have found the edge there is no possibility of going beyond.’ – Shelagh Wakely

Portrait of Shelagh Wakely. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery
Portrait of Shelagh Wakely. Courtesy of Richard Saltoun Gallery. © Shelagh Wakely. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery and Shapero Modern

Coming to Shapero Modern on 6th October is Going Beyond, a comprehensive exhibition of Shelagh Wakely print works spanning the years 1972-2009. The late artist, who passed away in 2011, is best known for her public sculptural artworks, including the now iconic mosaic which decorates the exterior of the Royal Albert Hall.

On view as part of ‘Going Beyond,‘ are a variety of printing techniques exercised by Wakely such as silkscreen, photo etching with drawing and etching in bronze in silver. It will be quite exciting to view these 2D works, coming from an artist most known for her innovative installation and sculpture. Though Wakely’s work really does span across mediums, from ceramics and photography, to drawing, painting and video.

The prints on show in Going Beyond portray many of the themes Wakely is known for. Critic, Sara Kent, describes them quite eloquently as “the notions of boundaries, edges and divisions – the interface between this and that, inner and outer, the self and the other.

One work, which will particularly illustrate this concept is ‘A memory exercised. Collection as yet unnamed: Recorded hence forgotten‘ (1979). The piece showcases a collection of daily life objects presented side by side as blurred quasi-polaroid photographs in a row —  an empty glass, nail scissors, the handle of a knife — coming together to seemingly portray a moment in time, which has now passed; the remnants that make up a memory as pieced together by the mind.

Shelagh Wakely, A memory exercised. Collection as yet unnamed- recorded hence forgotten (1979)
Shelagh Wakely, A memory exercised. Collection as yet unnamed- recorded hence forgotten (1979) © Shelagh Wakely. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery and Shapero Modern

Another print that really drew me in is ‘As light as a feather‘ (2006), which depicts, quite simply, a battered feather. To me, it seems as though the feather is almost struggling to remain whole. The movement in the still life image is palpable and most impressive, as is the pain being expressed by an object that obviously does not possess the power to feel. Even the title is ironic — for something so light, the feather feels heavy, almost as if it were wet and drowning.

Shelagh Wakely, As light as a feather (2006)
Shelagh Wakely, As light as a feather (2006) © Shelagh Wakely. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery and Shapero Modern

On the other side of the spectrum, is Untitled (1979), in which the artist turns to Japonaisme in the colourful imagery of a pagoda and flowers. Elements of the work are made to appear faded, again bringing to mind time and loss through the juxtaposition of fading vs. bold colours.

Shelagh Wakely, Untitled (1979)
Shelagh Wakely, Untitled (1979) © Shelagh Wakely. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery and Shapero Modern

The wide variety of techniques and subject matter would perhaps make a viewer think the works had been done by different artists, and as always in these cases, it is quite inspiring to know that the oeuvre all stemmed from one brilliant, creative mind.

This show is definitely one to see!

– India Irving

Shelagh Wakely: Going Beyond is on view 6th-23rd October at Shapero Modern; 32 St George St., London, W1S 2EA; Open Monday – Friday 9:30AM-6:30PM; Admission: FREE

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