‘Everyday Things’ puts household objects in new light
Nicola Wheston at ArtCraft Showcase
BY ELIZABETH NOLAN, DRIFTWOOD STAFF
Nicola Wheston is inviting viewers to take notice of the objects we accumulate around us with a new series of paintings called A Celebration of Everyday Things on the ArtCraft Showcase stage.
Using for the most part items from her own personal life, Wheston has created groupings of things that might not usually appear together, which brings those objects into new focus and removes the type of ranking one might be tempted to bestow.
“These paintings are representations of the random things we all have in houses. Some are useful, like tools, others we keep for purely sentimental reasons, some we discard, and others we hoard,” Wheston writes in her artist’s statement. The tendency to be overwhelmed by our things occupied Wheston’s last series, Stuff. Here the objects are placed out of context, encouraging greater examination of the items themselves.
The objects are seen as if from above and are grouped in quartets of four square panels each. How each grouping is arranged is up to the viewer to decide: each panel is affixed to the frame with velcro and can be switched around at will. As a result, different objects can take centre stage at different times within a single grouping, in the same way that patterned ceramic tiles create a larger design depending on how they are arranged together.
Wheston in fact came to the practice through the four-patch quilting technique, introduced to her by friend and fellow artist Thea Chapman. Printed fabric is one influence, but the tile connection also feels strong, especially since several of the pieces appear to have tiles as their background.
The series also provides an interesting reflection (though was not created as such) on ArtCraft’s last show Mrs. Williams, in which Melanie Thompson and Judith Barnett offered an un-ironic celebration of typical household arts such as sewing and cooking in unique constructions. Wheston’s objects, since they are mostly her own, also conjure a picture of a particular woman’s life and work, with bits of silky lingerie strewn through hand tools, a vintage vacuum cleaner and hedge trimmers among the objects.
One painting places a pink bra among a litter of half-squeezed paint tubes, with a charging cord thrown in for good measure. Another has various hand-held tools such as a screwdriver, hammer, wide paint brush and putty knife. Arranged against a neutral background, the items with their colourful handles and paint stains call to mind how a printed fabric might have a collection of exotic insects or flowers.
Each work is a marvel in terms of technical accomplishment and composition. Wheston painted directly from life, eschewing help from computer, photos or even sketches to accomplish designs that work in multiple combinations. For example, a plastic grocery bag is a ruffled corner ornamentation in one configuration with a dust pan and brush at the centre, and itself becomes the centre point in another assembly. It’s not easy to say which was the original. Even though not preplanned, somehow all the disparate elements always fit back together.
Number 14 has a lush, vegetable beauty — suggested perhaps by its tomato red background and mossy green slip dress. Seen one way, the old Electrolux vacuum is taking charge, its corrugated hose laid overtop the scattering of clothes. In another version, though, the discarded dress is in the centre along with slip and panties, an abandoned hairdresser over all. It’s hard to resist a sense of gleeful escape from all things “woman” in this one: the naked artist running away laughing.
Other works call to mind the side that just appreciates lovely things and how they fit together, such as a collection of white linens, blue teapots and glassware arranged against a backdrop of sunflower yellow tiles.
Those who attended the show’s opening on the evening of July 7 were treated to a demonstration as Wheston re-arranged the two pieces being shown on the floor. She might repeat the favour during an artist’s talk scheduled for Sunday, July 23 at 2 p.m. Visitors can also try their hand at creating different combos at home or on the spot, with high-quality magnet and coaster sets created with help from David Borrowman’s photography. Each work on display comes with a cheater strip showing different combos along with the main work, but actually playing with the squares gives the viewer a good understanding of the variables involved and provides another tool for looking at things a different way.
The show continues at ArtCraft daily to August 2, 2017.