Shelagh Wakely, a pioneer of installation art, died in March 2011. This exhibition celebrates her delicate ephemeral work including floor pieces, objects and drawings. It is an extensive overview of her life’s work and a catalogue has been produced to accompany the show. Amongst many others, Shelagh had exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery 1977, ICA 1979, Hayward 1980, The Showroom 1980, was a fellow at The British School at Rome in 1991 and exhibited at IKON Birmingham in 1992. In her later years she did many architectural commissions in the UK and abroad including a huge mosaic for the southern porch of the Albert Hall.
She was involved in 5 group and solo exhibitions at R O O M Artspace in different locations – the last being two months before she died.
Observation from the natural world was always important to Shelagh Wakely. A childhood surrounded by ecologists and natural scientists and a spell as a research agronomist were a good training. Alongside this she was always interested in how artists through the ages have reflected developments in science and technology, and she had a particular fascination with the way natural forms have been interpreted.
Her early work consisted of collections of delicate small constructions scattered over wide areas of floor space, always with a sensitivity to the place in which they were assembled. Drawing was an important part of the process, mainly to explore ideas but also occasionally becoming something in itself, particularly in the 1980s when very large drawings on calico became her main concern. Deconstructing this two dimensional drawn and coloured surface led to making a number of works in which calico or silk were cut into seas of slit patterning. These filled floors reaching wall to wall, usually being made in response to a space. The cutting through led to developing complex patterned templates through which powdered substances were sifted forming sensual ephemeral works creating questions about aesthetic pleasure.
Since the 1970’s Shelagh Wakely had also been experimenting with print, beginning with large- scale screen prints and textiles. In the 1980 she worked with etching and in more recent years, digital prints. Video had also become an important part of her practice and led to collaborations with other artists, musicians and dancers.
Shelagh Wakely died in 2011 and a homage was made to her through an exhibition in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in September 2012. The show included small works by 11 British artists and 6 Brazilian artists in the beautiful Museu do Acude, high up in the mountainous Tijuca rainforest , overlooking the city. It was testament to the love and admiration felt by so many artists that they each desired to remember her by recreating a work she made there in 1992, and by adding their own contributions. This exhibition will be an opportunity to see the wide range of her practice and many of her experiments and studio works. An archive has been made of all her works and there will be a catalogue to accompany the exhibition.
R O O M Artspace 30 Manchester st London W1U 7LQ www.roomartspace.co.uk
For further information contact Sandie Macrae
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