In the midst of a snow covered UK, the exhibition ‘Freeze’ featuring works by Rachel Ducker and Rachel Owen had its final week at the O3 Gallery at the end of last month. With the weather at the time, one would not have been blamed for hearing the name ‘Freeze’ and thinking – Snow, Frost, Cold, FALLING OVER ON THE ICE…!
However the exhibition was not, as much as we just love talking about the weather, about this. Themes of fixedness, preservation and, perhaps, escapism were central to the works at hand.
While superficially it may be difficult to forge a link between the work of Ducker and Owen, both find common ground through their interest in capturing moments in time. Owen’s screen prints pictorialise memories of times gone by, whilst Ducker’s wire sculptures attempt to capture the expressive possibilities of the human figure.
Rachel Owen, Shadows, screen print
A sense of nostalgia is present, in my opinion, in many of Owen’s prints. Their lack of distinct identification in terms of place and time provide an opportunity for personal reflection. When faced with Shadows, I found myself reminded of watching the shadows of myself and friends stretch in front of us during sunny afternoons as a child. Likewise, memories of family holidays and hot summer days emerged from the lines of deckchairs in Cinema Paradiso II. In contrast to the exhibition’s name and the frosty preconceptions that stem from it – I’m sorry I am referring to the weather again – certain pieces of Owen’s work are somewhat warming.
Rachel Owen, Cinema Paradiso II, screen print
Owen’s range of subject matter, from architecture to human figure, is presented with a certain misty indistinctness that comes as a result of the print media she uses. I find this quality perfectly illustrates the notion of a memory. Memories are, after all, not relayed in our minds in high definition but come to us as collections of hazy visions and certain feelings. Owen’s strength is in her ability to capture a memory, be it her own or something more universal, and preserve it for us.
While Owen’s prints present the opportunity for contemplation, Ducker’s wire sculptures shout out what they represent with defiance and without the need for reflection. They seem to me celebratory; they celebrate freedom, vitality and the joy of being alive. Ranging from tiny to almost life-size, Ducker attempts to capture the kinetic energy and expressive potential of the human figure. The smaller, more intricate of the sculptures certainly attest to Ducker’s training as a jeweller yet, my favourite of the pieces are the larger, more life-size examples. The energy within them is palpable, from the way Ducker has molded their body shapes to the wildness of their windswept, wire hair.
Rachel Ducker, Dancer with Scarf, plaster and wire
Ducker has left the faces of her sculptures blank, thus offering a tabula rasa onto which we, the viewers, can project ourselves. Perhaps they offer us a rare opportunity to experience a sense of release; something that we often lack in our busy, modern lives.
While, as I mentioned previously, the connection between Ducker and Owen is found in their ideas of fixedness and preservation, escapism could be considered as further common ground. Through having the time to think back on our lives, as I found myself doing through Owen’s prints, or experiencing a sense of release through Ducker’s sculptures, I found both artists offered a brief moment of escape.
Rachel Ducker, Out of the Ground II, wire
Prints by Rachel Owen and wire sculptures by Rachel Ducker are still available to purchase at the O3 Gallery.
Louise Crocker, O3 Gallery Intern