Cloth Road Arts Week 2016 Review

on Friday, 03 June 2016. Posted in Events

Local Artists Show Artwork at Trowbridge Town Hall

Spread over the whole of Wiltshire, The Cloth Road is an annual art trail linking the areas of West Wiltshire that were once cloth making communities. Now in it's seventh year, the trail exhibits and celebrates the work of local artists. The last Cloth Road event began on the 8th of May 2016, and for nine days it transformed visiting the Trowbridge Town Hall into an Aladdin's cave style adventure.

I started the trail in the courtroom, where photographs by John Samson stood alongside a variety of textiles by the creative duo Material Values. The range of prints and photographs by John was impressive but surreal. Some images were taken from unusual angles to give a new perspective on everyday sights, and others were cleverly manipulated using modern technology, resulting in a picture of the Trowbridge Civic centre to strongly remind me of the style of work often used on 70's album covers.

The Material Values stall, featuring the work of Marion Brevan and Brenda Jones featured a range of products from patchwork quilting and folded cloth birthday cards, one of which I couldn't help but purchase. One of the things which struck me about the trail was how friendly and open each artist was. There was no trace of art gallery snobbery and elitism and each artist was adept at expressing their processes and concepts in easy to understand ways.

Next I had the pleasure of speaking to JoAnne Huntley. JoAnne had both a market style stall in the court room and an installation in the basement, and both were fascinating in their own ways. The stall featured Joanne's bead work, featuring beautiful jewellery in a multitude of styles and colours. The artist explained to me the process of making the beads, from coloured glass rods to the finished product.

The installation in the basement, entitled Encased, Entrapped, Imprisoned showed a whole new side to Joanne's work. The bulk of the installation considered of transparent 2D figures and a white sculpture of a young boy. All of these shapes were covered by words in thick black ink, representing the labels – both positive and negative – that we as a society put upon each other, such as 'loved', 'angry' and 'trapped'.  The town hall basement was the perfect setting for the installation, requiring visitors to stare through the black bars of locked cells to view certain figures and adding a new element to the work.

In an antechamber on the left of the courtroom I discovered the work of the painter Andy Bigwood. Most of Andy's work featured the sky, from studies of World War 2 aircraft to the stars and planets beyond. The juxtaposition of historic images from the past and images of imagined futures created an atmosphere of adventure.

Following the trail up to the loft space of the building, I wondered into a room of illusion. This room featured the works of husband and wife team Sian and Ben Midgley, both of whom are sculptors. As I was admiring one of many stonework figurative carvings, I was asked by Ben to pick one up carefully. To my astonishment, the carving (a bowl in the shape of a bird) was actually made of paper pulp. According to the artist, the effect had been fooling art lovers all through the exhibition, which is a testament to the amount of care and level of detail that goes into the couples work. The illusion of stone and solidity made a wonderful contrast with the rich embroidered felt work of Victoria Wood which was featured in the same room.

The last room I investigated was known as The White Room, where I spent some time admiring the work of Sue Hallissey and Susan Cook. Although the artists styles were very different with Sue working in watercolours and Susan in a variety of different media, both featured natural imagery such as landscapes and organic forms. There was something very calming about the room. Another common feature of both artists were soft lines and colours, and the majority of pieces were images I would be overjoyed to hang in my own living room.

The hours I spent wandering around the exhibition made for a very enjoyable Sunday. The Trowbridge town hall, as the base of Trowbridge Arts seemed to me the perfect location for such an exhibition and sums up the essence of what Trowbridge Arts brings to the community– a wide variety of styles and experiences all in one place. I will definitely be returning to investigate next years cloth road.

Review by Adele Matterface