The current exhibition at neo:gallery in Bolton is a two-woman show called Take to the Trees. (Not Talk to the Trees, which would have been about the Prince of Wales, I assume.) Margaret Jackson’s work is mainly encaustic paintings while Julie Levy has produced installations and assemblages.
Sometimes when I go to solo exhibitions, the works are virtually the same with only minor variations. What is striking about Margaret’s work is the variety within the wood/tree theme. Some are of trees, some piles of logs, or cut timber, some scenes inside a saw-mill, some of protest camps high up in the trees.
Most of the pieces are encaustic, which I’d always thought involved melting the pigment bearing wax and applying it while it is hot, the wax solidifying on cooling. Margaret explained that she found this messy so uses a paste containing the wax but with turps and linseed oil added, applying it with a palette knife. This means that the turps needs to evaporate and the linseed oil needs to dry by oxidation, like oil paints. She then heats up the wax again at the end with a hot air gun when everything is dry to give a smooth surface.
As I love Margaret’s work, I’m going to show a few instead of trying to choose!
(Margaret lists this as ‘mixed media’ but I think it’s mainly a charcoal drawing.)
This is such a traditional drawing – yet so powerful!
Julie’s installations and assemblages have a very personal connection with her life history. Trees and wood feature frequently in her work with the branches giving a literal representation of her family tree. The Bench for example is her family’s bench while the photographs hanging from the branches are of herself and members of her family sitting on the bench.
The photograph of this work also shows The Bird Table on the left hand side. I felt you really needed to know the family details before you could appreciate Julie’s assemblages. For example, I hadn’t realised that the photographs were of people sitting on the bench until Margaret had explained this. Two pieces though I liked immediately without needing any explanation and they were Weeping Cherry, made with coloured embroidery threads, and The Story, made with sticks with text on them.
I left Margaret in the gallery browsing through some old record books/diaries she has for her allotment as she is thinking of doing her next project about allotments. One couple she knows has wallpapered the inside of their shed! There has to be material there for an artist!