Linda Brothwell: Conversations in Making
The first contemporary art exhibition at Stonehenge Visitor Centre.
Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Wiltshire
24th May – 24th November
LINDA BROTHWELL MAY have trained in jewellery, but her subsequent work has concentrated on themes such as provenance, tool making and repair. The Bristol-based artist emerged in 2009 with the ‘Bench Repair Project’, where she spent a month in Lisbon’s Museum of Portuguese Decorative Arts learning traditional wood inlay techniques. She then went about beautifully mending broken slats on the city’s benches, sometimes using Portuguese embroidery designs. It was a tiny, lyrical and effective piece of urban regeneration. Likewise her ‘Acts of Care’ projects, in places such as Sheffield and Liverpool, were micro-interventions based on extensive research into her host city’s trades and industries – both historical and contemporary – that were woven into its urban fabric.
While set in the visitor centre of Stonehenge, rather than in a factory or on the street, her latest show, ‘Conversations in Making’, contains some familiar thinking. It features 40 bowls, beakers and vessels made from copper and silver using a traditional metalworking technique called ‘raising’. The work was inspired by the site of Stonehenge, as well as the Neolithic tools and pottery she found in local museums. It was also informed by speaking to ten makers – including a thatcher, a tailor and barber.
Displayed in glass fronted cabinets and bathed carefully in light, the pieces look delightful. The problem is that I wanted to know more about the thinking behind the work. What was the tenor of the conversations the artist had with the artisans? How had the pieces she discovered in the museums affected the forms of the objects she’d created? And how were the textures she found by going inside the mighty stone circle translated into metal?
The show was crying out for more explanatory text or perhaps a short film because, on leaving, the overwhelming sense was there so much more to unlock, more stories to be told and more conversations to be had.
‘Conversations in Making’ is exhibiting at Stonehenge Visitor Centre. It will be open daily to visitors.