Yesterday I went on a bit of a nostalgia trip to Margate, a seaside resort on the north Kent coast. Somewhere in the loft is a photo of me aged 5, grinning into the camera without any top front teeth, waving a bucket and spade on a beach that apparently stretches for miles into the distance.
Childhood holidays apart, in recent history Margate’s main claim to fame was as the home of artist Tracey Emin. Then, in 2011, the Turner Contemporary gallery opened on the seafront, on the site where the eponymous artist stayed when visiting his mistress Mrs Booth.
The current exhibition, Entangled: Threads & Making, was finally enough to lure me out of my metropolitan bubble – and it was so worth it.
Intriguingly, the exhibition begins in the lift, where Samara Scott has covered the walls with old carpet decorated with yoghurt, plaster and food colouring. Sounds bizarre – but it makes for a wonderful riot of colour and texture.
But I did wonder how long the artist spent going up and down in the lift while installing it! 🙂
The colour continues with Anna Ray’s Margate Knot – 2,000 intertwining padded elements tied together, inspired by the colours of the cliffs, lichens and buildings around Margate.
The exhibition includes pieces by big names, such as Louise Bourgeois, Sonia Delaunay, Sheila Hicks and Anni Albers, but here I’m focusing on artists I hadn’t heard of whose work particularly appealed.
Christiane Löhr has two pieces in the exhibition. Her Horse Hair Column connects floor and ceiling and took four days to install. In another room, eight incredibly delicate structures made from grass stalks and seeds are displayed on a low stone plinth. Her close observation and knowledge of her materials means that she knows exactly the right time to pick the grass so that it has the right degree of flexibility and rigidity.
Paola Auziché’s Natural Fibres consisted of 37 pieces made from fibres such as chenille, hemp, raffia, cotton, jute and hemp, inspired by minarets in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Next door, Laura Ford’s Penguins looked on in bemusement.
More animals – ceramic sculptures of a lizard and a crab by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro – were covered with handmade cotton crochet by Joana Vasconcelos.
Ursula von Rydingsvard cut cedar beams to resemble thick thread or reams of fabric for her work Thread Tremor.
I also loved Aiko Tezuka’s Loosening Fabric #6 (Entangled). The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but she has unravelled the threads of the central part of this piece of fabric so that it seems to flow down the wall and onto the floor. It can take an hour to unpick just 10cm of fabric!
Entangled: Threads and Making runs until Sunday 7 May – sorry for the late review.
While I was in Margate I also visited the extraordinary Shell Grotto. Nobody knows who made it or when, or why – it was discovered in 1835 and opened to the public in 1838. The walls of the passages and rotunda are covered with mosaics of around 4.6 million shells, most of which are British, though not necessarily local – the main shell used in the backgrounds is not found in Kent but around Southampton.
I even made a start on my own shell collection with a hearty bowl of spaghetti al vongole at the wonderful Hantverk & Found! 🙂