The Minories, Colchester until 7 May
Sometimes I like to just wander out and see what’s on rather than have a rigid plan about gallery visits because that leaves room for spontaneous discoveries and avoids me always indulging tried and tested art experiences. I like the lovely Georgian building, part Colchester School of Art, that is the Minories. It is not huge (or overwhelming) and has a frequently-changing and diverse exhibitions programme. There’s always something that evokes emotions and that to me is what art is about, whether those feelings are positive or negative or a confused mix of both.
Hayley is a practising artist who has exhibited nationally and internationally and she also an OCA tutor. With Lone Pine Club she explores “the marginal areas between conscious and unconscious activity”.
On her website Hayley says: “Moving through a fragmentary universe that includes an unknown and seemingly anonymous mythology, I perform acts of encounter, translation and deliberate disorientation through storytelling.”
I focused mainly on her photographic collages which at first glance all look similar. Hands with open palms, symbols, symmetry, obscure objects… but the more you look the more you see… I was compelled to go back and look again and again. They are not symmetrical and there are multiple different images that seem to jump out of the background on closer examination, such as an orgy with a serpent and a naked backside between two ornate dishes. It’s a bit like the different parts of a dream coming back to you in a random way and without real world logic. It feels secretive and unsettling, as if I’ve been caught staring voyeuristically and makes me think of objects placed by some occult sect. There is a Daliesque feel in the bones and egg, symbols of death and fertility.
My reactions were confused and unsettled and yet I was also entranced. It’s a challenging and intense experience and therein lies its success.
Hayley’s research focused on Austin Osman Spare whose worked touched on the occult, surrealism, automatic drawing and spiritualism. Hayley takes her ideas from meditation, asanas (yogic poses), magic and religion and taps into her unconscious with the help of hypnotist Graham Howes. She is “guided through her nether realm by Graham, prompted through the reading of texts and relaying her journey through unbidden spoken word, drawing or writing” – a process similar to the automatic drawing by surrealists and others.
I wasn’t surprised to read, alongside many positive and enthusiastic comments some negative responses such as “My cabbage loved it” and “Mediocre at best”. It’s the response itself that matters.
Austin Osman Spare: Cockney visionary (Guardian article May 2011)
Austin Osman Spare was hailed as the next Aubrey Beardsley, but died in obscurity. Since then, he has had a cult following, but his art is finally gaining wider popularity…