Whilst supremely different in content and style, what these two exhibitions share is the theme of reworking. In an age where we are told to recycle, upcycle and celebrate what already exists, there could not be a more pertinent time for these two artists to be displaying their work.
Belgian-born artist, Sylvie Franquet is known for unpicking and remaking old tapestries. As a multimedia collage artist, Sylvie’s fine art practice spans needlework, textiles and rock sculpture. She combines classical imagery with a punk aesthetic. Her show reCollecting, at The Harley Gallery takes inspiration from a huge variety of objects collected by the Dukes of Portland and their families, in particular the women. These women collected for the excitement of the acquisition, but also to learn about the world and to understand more about natural history and the sciences that were coming into being.
Sylvie said: “I work mainly in textile, but in fact, I like working with all kind of found materials. I make collages with paper, cut from art and fashion magazines, exploring female desire and often stitching on top. I collect my materials on walks, along seashores, in junk markets and on eBay, and then I create a world I can better understand. I am fascinated by attitudes to gender and nature, and by the similarities in those attitudes.”
London-based artist, Romilly Saumarez-Smith takes metal detecting finds – everyday bronze remnants of history found in great quantity all over Britain. Each of the pieces have at their core Roman, Anglo-Saxon or Medieval metalwork, discarded hundreds of years ago. They have lain underground for hundreds of years and Romilly uses them to make time capsules, casting new light on old stories. The discarded shards of history are given new life to continue stories that would otherwise have been forgotten. After a neurological condition left her paralysed from the neck down, Romilly works with three jewellers who act as translators for the work that Romilly has imagined. Her exhibition- Loss, Rediscovery and Rearrangement is a display of beautiful and intricate boxes, rings and knife handles.
Romilly said of her forthcoming exhibition at The Harley Gallery: “I like to show my jewellery as works of art, isolated in white space so that viewers are compelled to engage with the detailed character of each individual work, a modernist version of a cabinet of curiosities. I have also spent time looking at the collection of miniature portraits in The Portland Collection and made a selection which will be on display later in 2019. I didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas but I do remember being aware that I wanted each one to be beautifully or interestingly painted. When I laid out photocopies of the miniatures at home I found that all but one had a ruff, a collar or some sort of neck wear. I find this intriguing because it is something I like to do myself when dressing – it’s about showing off the face to its best advantage.”