Subversive Surfaces Review
Review by Adele Matterface
Subversive Surfaces is the new exhibition of work by artists Gina Baum and Lou Baker currently on display in Trowbridge Town Hall. The diverse and intriguing exhibition features pieces which challenge modern perceptions of the human body, while drawing attention to critical issues such as the barbaric practice of FGM and the hold pharmaceutical companies have over us. A key theme of both artists work is contradiction. Ideas of what is appealing versus repulsive, socially acceptable versus unacceptable and the things that make us feel safe versus vulnerable are magnified for the publics scrutiny.
Part one of the exhibition is on display in the main foyer and in the gallery and are representations of motherhood and health. Lou Baker’s work consists of hanging sculptures made from a variety of different textiles. These pieces explore the theme of the interior and exterior. Her piece All the babies I might have had is a red woollen representation of a womb, twisted and knotted to convey the impression of anxiety. This was cleverly placed over the stairwell to loom over any visitors to the building. Gina Baum’s Tools of my trade consists of hanging speculums. Contrastingly, my initial impression of these beautifully painted tools was that they represented birds in flight and the idea of freedom.
The piece I found the most interesting was Pharmacopoeia, a large interwoven collage of empty pill packets. With overuse of antibiotics and anti-depressants regularly featured in the media, it invites the viewer to consider their own use of medications – how vast would your own personal collage be? Is the amount of medication we collectively consume a necessity we are lucky to have access to or is it something we rely on too heavily to numb our everyday experiences?
Part two of Subversive Surfaces is on display in the basement cells and features a much darker selection of work. After walking down the steps, visitors are confronted with porcelain representations of FGM mutilation and a giant vagina gushing with blood. It was essential to explore every inch of the basement to discover every piece as the scale of the work varied greatly. The basement also featured an interactive section where visitors are encouraged to engage with the work by touching it. Gina Baum’s piece Scabs and Scars consisted of two piles of plain white pieces of porcelain in the shape of these wounds. I did not expect the scars to make such a pleasant metallic chiming noise, although it made me feel profoundly uncomfortable making such a racket in such a peaceful place. Next door is a small confining room threaded with long black ribbon. Visitors are invited to sit a while and consider the ideas of comfort and discomfort, before attaching a coloured piece of fabric and a label detailing things which makes them personally feel these things.
Overall, it is easy to see how much thought has gone into the layout of the exhibition and the skill required to produce the work on display is awe-inspiring. From intricate stitch-work and delicate pieces of fragile porcelain to large fabric constructions that show the inner workings of the human body, touring around Subversive Surfaces is an interesting, educational and moving experience. The exhibition opened on the 9th of June and will remain on display until the 14th of July. There is no charge for entry, and every piece on display is for sale. If you would like to discover more about the artists, please visit Gina’s blog at https://snakesholestudio.wordpress.com/author/ginakbaum/ or Lou Baker’s at http://www.loubakerartist.co.uk.
Review by Adele Matterface