Looking Intently : Et Cetera @HoxtonArtGallery

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There’s a fabulous exhibition on at the moment at Hoxton Art Gallery. Curated by Tom Jeffries, it is entitled Et Cetera- A reappraisal of the mundane. And it is most certainly an equisitely assembled set of works examining the insignificant and overlooked; the discarded and superficially unworthy.

On entering the space, I was immediately struck by the visual coherence of the show. Even with a clear thematic approach, you sometimes end up with jarring juxtapositions, but here nothing jarred, nothing seemed out of place.

I found something to reflect on in all the works from all of the participating artists. I loved the tranquil calm of Stephen Gill’s photographs of mineral debris. And the detailed drawings of Beatrice Haines.

But I was particularly struck by the immaculate and beautiful pieces of Laura Culham. Tiny, detailed yet subtle watercolours and paintings which demanded a disproportionate amount of focussed attention.

Very often miniaturized intricate works lack expressive force. It’s as if the desire to perfectly document the minutiae impedes the artist’s hand and intuitive sensibility. But there is no question of this happening with Culham’s work. Sensitivity and delicacy prevail, and this lightness of touch makes for some extraordinary work.

The gallery’s invitation card uses one of the watercolours as the advertising image for the show (see above), but paradoxically, in this scaled up version, much of the power of the work is lost.

I’m reading an interesting book at the moment about The Value Of Art by Michael Findlay, an art dealer based in the US. One of the things he talks about is the way these days people often don’t really look long enough and intently enough at an artwork. He suggests going into a gallery and sitting in front of a painting and looking for at least an hour. I’m tempted by this. But it occurred to me that I would really like to contemplate any one of Laura Culham’s works for a good hour. I think it would have a very positive effect on my wellbeing.

Et Cetera is on until 24th May. Tom Jeffries has written a fascinating accompanying handout.

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