Review: Personal Reflections at The Bowery
February 7, 2016
Upstairs from their cosy and snug café, The Bowery’s current exhibition, Personal Reflections, showcases three artists’ biographically themed work. Each artist’s collection is shaped in some way by his or her own personal experiences from the most seemingly ordinary to the more turbulent and dramatic moments in life.
London based Laura Gee takes inspiration from her personal journal by transforming her daily written reflections into colourful abstract paintings. The juxtaposition of the calming pastels with looming clouds of darkness creeping in from the corners alludes to darker conflictions of inner emotions and thoughts. The series of paintings vary in their ordered chaos of thick brushstrokes and swirling blend of tones to create fragmented representations of the inner imagination. Particularly revealing are Gee’s etchings of some of her journal musings in the heavier layers of paint, which are almost concealed and missed without careful observation. Even though the paintings serve as reflections of internal desires and thoughts, they still retain something of the secretive and cryptic nature of a diary.
The work of Yorkshire born Ian Pepper has a more autobiographical approach, characterised by his timeline of life events seen below each piece. Pepper’s chronological trail focuses on human relationships and cultural influences through his life from childhood to recent times, documenting these with cuttings of different materials made into detailed collages. Pepper’s work has a warming intimate touch; by including novel details of his life through drawn portraits of his family members, he deals with the universal themes of family relationships, for example, one of the final collages depicts the experience of Pepper becoming an uncle. Candid captions like ‘1996: had my heart broken’ and representations of the awkward intricacies of personal relationships (‘we were in between love and friendship’) provide something for just about anyone to relate to.
The most thought-provoking and ethereal collection is that of photographer Mia Eccles. Based upon her experience in Leeds General Infirmary, where she was under a coma for a significant period, Eccles represents the liminal space she experienced during and after her trauma. Consequently, Eccles suffered from post-traumatic thoughts and she was affected both physically and mentally upon awaking from her coma. Her elusive photographs represent the blurring of reality and the unconscious. They have a disorientating minimalist quality which, for example, refuses to show us the face of the unclothed female figure depicted in several of Eccles’ disturbing photographs.
Personal Reflections certainly delivers what it promises to the viewer. The artists’ frank and open discussions of pivotal moments in their lives produces a meditative space wherein we are asked to pause to consider how our own individual experiences and yearnings can be assimilated with others. Oddly reassuring and insightful, Personal Reflections shows the wide scope of the inner human experience in all its awkwardness, confusion and uncontrollable disarray.
The exhibition runs until the 18th of February. For more info visit The Bowery’s website.