We’re back on track after a long hiatus – initially we were too busy to post news and reviews and then we were not busy enough, no thanks to C19. We’re now delighted to be back with a real live art show by one of our favourite artists, Lisa Traxler, drawn from a body of work developed during the pandemic lockdowns. We reviewed an earlier exhibition of Lisa’s, Build, in 2017, which featured works such as Beauty Chorus, on a much smaller scale, so it was with even bigger pleasure that we navigated our way around the formation of larger contemporary abstract sculptures at the Private View for Blast Wall.
The energy behind the new pieces, which are currently on display at The Foundry Gallery in Chelsea, appears to be running full blast, fuelled by the long months of lockdown on the Isle of Wight, where Lisa lives with her partner, in a house that integrates the ruin of a brutalist concrete bunker within its construction. This derelict WWII radar station, the Isle of Wight’s decommissioned RAF St. Lawrence, was in daily operation from 1940 to 1947, and has inspired an extraordinary contemporary home known as The Bunker. Lisa’s involvement in its transformation into a dwelling has profoundly informed her work since 2015, when the site was first acquired.
During 2020’s lockdowns, with so much time spent at home, new facets of this unusual residence began to permeate Lisa’s art as she was able to more closely observe the effect of the passing seasons on its surfaces and volumes. As the title of the show suggests, Lisa’s collection of 6 free-standing pieces entitled Ghosts respond to one particular area, the Blast Wall, which was originally built to protect the station’s generator. This concrete retangular space is at once enclosed and open to the elements, coloured by the ever-evolving weather and advancing light of day and night, with glimpses of the sky, sea and wild landscape beyond. Nature’s palette, blended with the concrete’s shades of grey, imbues each of the sculptures, suggesting bright white clouds and spume, darkening skies and seas, and the distinctive yellow in the wild gorse that flowers abundantly nearby.
There is a more complex conversation in this exhibition too. The larger sculptures, which are designed for inside or outside display, are inspired by the Bunker’s blast wall architecture and by the geometric shapes and tones within military camouflage. They can be reconfigured in various ways, as they originally were, in situ on the Isle of Wight when they were first created. They speak to us too, within the enclosed exhibition space in Chelsea. Here they also function with an extended body of works which is even more personal to the artist, entitled 20 Letters.
“Whilst Blast Wall talks about the architectural structure of a piece of defence architecture it also alludes to the emotional history of this period of time through a collection of military letters recently rediscovered by my family. My great uncle was a Lance Corporal posted overseas during WWII, he wrote frequently to his sister about his yearning for Home, missing not only his loved ones but also the domesticity of everyday existence. Each time he wrote the word Home he used a capital H, elevating this word to describe the spirit of place, his genius loci. He writes, ‘India seems so very far from Home – but there – letters fill in the ache – so I guess we can’t grumble – someone has to be out here – don’t they?’
This correspondence of 20 actual letters, inspired Lisa’s smaller wall-based scuptures, which can be glimpsed through the apertures and in between the shapes of the larger pieces in the gallery setting. They also form a cohesive ensemble in their own right. “This wall sculpture alludes to the twenty letters from my family history whilst also creating a lineage utilising excess shapes from previous works. These forms are reconfigured and re-worked, their colour palette pertaining to the rugged land, bunker patina and military camouflage working in unison.”
Lisa will be at The Foundry Gallery, 39 Old Church Street, London SW3 5BS, to discuss her work on the last day of the show, tomorrow 19 June. Blast Wall will then travel home to the Isle of Wight where it can be viewed 27-30 August (Friday 2 to 7pm then Sat/Sun/Mon 11am – 4pm daily) and selected dates in September at The Bunker Gallery, St Lawrence, by appointment. There will also be a ticketed ‘In Conversation’ event with Lisa and artist, lecturer, writer, Jonathan Parsons on Saturday 4 September in The Bunker. Check Lisa’s website for further details and to view her some of her other work and forthcoming shows.
All photos © Emma Boden except as captioned