Looking Through: Presenting New Works by artist Ann Sutton

Arts Ambassador Katherine Wells considers the work of artist Ann Sutton on show at The Winchester Gallery.

As a visual artist, and a recent art graduate, I had heard of Ann Sutton’s work but never seen it, as my work is more in the photographic and video circle than that of sculpture and weaving.

However, once I researched Sutton’s work in preparation for the opening of her exhibition I was amazed at what I found. Many interesting and unique pieces that showed off a quirky side to the artist before I had even heard her speak as part of the exhibition private view’s ‘In Conversation’ event.

The ‘In Conversation’ between Ann Sutton and curator Gill Hedley was an eye opener. Sutton was a different kind of light that I felt drawn to. The art works all very distinct and interesting. Her works ranged from sculptural assemblages to complex, painted surfaces and structures. Works were either monochrome and saturated with many colours. Sutton’s way of weaving materials together resembled loosely de-constructed  tapestries.

Acrylic paint, plastic monofilament and plastic tubes.
Homer, 2014

Sutton’s nonchalant manner  in which she explained her accomplishments were rather abstract. Her way of talking was magnificent, with animated stories that were a joy to listen to. She kept referring to her achievements as, “something that once happened and won’t happen again” . It was refreshing to listen to a female artist, especially as I have found – in attending Winchester School of Arts’ weekly talk series, ‘Talking Heads’ that male artists tend to over emphasis their achievements. Ann Sutton’s list of titles are many and wide ranging: Artist, Designer, Teacher, Author, Consultant, Curator, Patron, Arts Promoter and Organiser. She never seems to be bored.

Sutton happily recounted memories of works and was enjoying the conversation with curator and friend Gill Hedley, who offered an insightful anecdote into the artist’s early encounter with pattern:

“When Ann was a small girl she and her mother went home to visit Auntie Elsie who ran a high quality bespoke dressmaking business.” The story continued, that to divert the toddler in the showroom “she was given a swatch of fabric samples. The plain navy-blue cloth was boring, the next, with a single white pinstripe in the warp, began to hold her interest. The third sample had a second horizontal white line woven in the weft. ‘Evidently I was very pleased with these three pages and turned them back and forth seeing how plain became strip became check, until it was time for tea.’”

The origins behind an artist’s early beginnings may be thrown away in conversation, here it was at the centre.  The audience seemed enraptured by this simple memory of Ann Sutton’s first look into patterns.

Interior Finish on Plastic Straws
Crawling Mass, 2016

After the ‘In Conversation’ everyone was invited to view the exhibition which Sutton declared, “I haven’t seen it myself, I’ve made it a habit not to view my works in an exhibition space without a drink in my hand!” This for me was another lovely quirk we learnt about Ann that day.

Looking around the gallery space was phenomenal. There were many different things going on, from 3D paintings, mini sculptural pieces, cut-outs and hanging works from fabric.

The exhibition made me want to touch the art, interact with the works beyond simply looking at them (however I don’t recommend touching any art work unless you have permission!).

One such piece is Crawling Mass, 2016. The work consisting of white interlocking structures spreads out to cover the glass topped vitrine. The light above hits the work below, casting the sculpture’s shadows into the depths of the vitrine. This pieces let the viewer walk around it and see all the different shadows that are formed as well as see how their own body, moving in space, casts shadows on the work and in turn changes the effect.

Acrylic paint on nylon, four panels on brackets and rods.
Moving Through, 2015

Many of Sutton’s works came back to the idea of weaving and thread, even if it wasn’t inherently obvious. Her considerations on scale and light work well with all the pieces in the show. The curators worked hard to make sure the lighting was perfect for the sculptural pieces. I couldn’t help but enjoy moving around the canvas-based works to block lighting and let other shadows form from the wires sticking out from the work. One of my favourite pieces was Homer, 2014, an acrylic paint, plastic monofilament and plastic tubing pieces on a canvas. The other piece that drew me to it was probably one of the most photographed pieces in the show. This work Moving Through, 2015 was isolated at the end of a longer room off of the main gallery space, it is open and lit beautifully to illuminate the piece. The work itself is acrylic painted onto four separate panels of nylon. Its suspended from the ceiling, as if floating.  . Looking through the panels makes it seem like a macro photo of a woven piece, but the closer you get to it, the illusion breaks down. Seeing it from an angle is  interesting as you can see the raised parts of the acrylic paint, the marks of the artist’s brush strokes where the paint had dried thickly on the nylon.

Ann Sutton, Looking Through: Presenting New Works was at the Winchester Gallery, 11 July – 15 August 2018.

Arts Ambassadors is a paid opportunity, supported by the Careers and Employability Service’s Excel Southampton Internship programme, University of Southampton.

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