Sunday, 18 November 2018

LOUISE DONOVAN - TEXTILE ARTIST - HER 2018 EXHIBITION IN ST IVES - PART ONE

Louise Donovan is my wife but put that relationship to one side and enjoy her works of art for what they are - the fruit of a singular talent who combines a striking command of colour and form in her abstract textile art with the traditional stitching by hand that means each piece emerges from many hours of loving work.


The March for the Alternative - Louise Donovan (2012)

This is the break-through piece when Louise becomes the textile artist, creating in abstract form the real events and feelings of an historic event in 2011 - the mass protest against Austerity. 

Her first solo exhibition has just drawn to a close here in St Ives at the Crypt Gallery, Norway Square. It ran from the 10th to 16th of November - seven hours a day for seven days; 49 hours of



public opening plus 2 hours for our private opening - and the show attracted around 220 people and 45 written comments.


Louise at the Private Opening - Saturday 10 November 2018


Here, in these blog-posts, I weave together some of the brilliant digital images produced by Leo Walker during the Private Opening with the thoughts of those who came and viewed the exhibition over the seven days. First, though, a couple of images of the wonderful Crypt Gallery itself, taken by Larisa Walker using a tripod - what a setting to show to advantage these works of art!





In the late 1940s, this gallery space became the centre of the rebellion of the modernist St Ives' artists such as Patrick Heron, Peter Lanyon, John Wells, and later Barbara Hepworth against the St Ives' establishment artists, literally lauding it above them in the main part of the former Mariners church.




And the public reaction to Louise's show?

Four comments on the first day before the Private Opening in the evening:

'A wonderful show - art as therapy politics is so meaningful and beautiful. Congratulations on achieving such an inspiring result.'
'Lovely inspiring work!'
'Beautiful work. Great colour combinations. Love the 'Mondrian.'
'Beautiful - love the colours and boldness.'


My Mondrian Moment - on exhibition at the NEC, Birmingham in August, 2018 in the annual Festival of Quilts

My Mondrian Moment - Louise Donovan (2018)




The next day was Sunday - Armistice Day - the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that ended five years of slaughter in a world war fought by imperialist powers. For what? Prestige? Territory?  Millions of men died in a blood-bath of trench warfare that through vindictiveness and opportunism at the Versailles Peace Conference served to sow the seeds of the second World War, twenty-one years later. We love the comment from a visitor from Penzance:

'What a thought-provoking exhibition, timed perfectly for the 100 years memorial: 'Happenings'.'

The timing was accidental but Louise's belief that 'People matter' is the lettering that runs through this exhibition like the messages in seaside rock. The lives of the millions who went to their early graves mattered - but they became disposable commodities in the power games conducted by the rich and powerful.

A scene of war devastation from more modern times - Gaza in the 2010s - similar theme, though: war as an instrument of power and never mind the human cost - see my next blog-post in this series for Louise's response in Gaza (2015). 


Other voices from that Sunday left a remarkable testimony to the power of the two-way conversation between artist and viewer:

'Thanks - a very considered and original collection.'

'Very beautiful and evocative quilts. We were inspired and humbled to view your work. Thank you.'

'Thank you so much for this exciting exhibition. Very touching. I am very moved by the piece called 'Grief' - it moved me to tears - it so explains the range of emotions. Thank you again.'


Grief - Louise Donovan (2015)

Louise started this work between the death of her father, Ronald Watkins, aged 90, in late-July and his funeral in early-August 2015. It was finished as winter approached. It is designed to show the nuances of a complex journey.  



The last words in this first post in the series I will leave to our dear friend, Julia Bush, who appeared on Sunday afternoon. All the other quotes have been from strangers.

'My third visit to this wonderful exhibition, looking so 'complete' in a beautiful space and accompanied by a very informative catalogue. There is much for an 'expert' to admire, but I enjoyed it simply for the beauty of the colours, the subtlety of the varied stitching and the poignancy of the human experiences rendered into an art form I had never really encountered before. Thank you - and well done! x Julia'


Caroline Wilson (Louise's sister), Louise Donovan, and Julia Bush at the Opening (Thanks once again to Leo and Larisa Walker for their digital images in the exhibition week and their photographs of the pieces beforehand.)


Thank you, Julia - and everyone else quoted. I am looking forward to producing the next post in this series that tells the story of this past week of artistry.