Finding hope in a time of change

THE new exhibition at Sladers Yard, West Bay, is Hope, featuring paintings by Rachel Fenner and Frances Hatch, pottery by the late Adela Powell and Yo Thom, sculptural baskets by Caroline Sharp, and furniture by the gallery’s resident designer-maker Petter Southall.

The theme of the exhibition, which runs to 2nd September, is “Ways forward into a changing world.” When the world is changing too quickly and too much is at risk of being lost, there is an impulse to curl up tight and do nothing. It is hope that makes it possible, in fact vital, to act now to cherish and protect the many small things that make our world so precious.

Each of the artists in this exhibition has found hope in the beauty of nature. Their work celebrates and draws attention to this.

Adela Powell, a naturalist and ceramicist, died in 2022. The exhibition features the pieces that she spent her last months making. As a young woman, she studied natural sciences at university and made a habit throughout her life of observing the natural world, including the effects of nature on manmade items that wash up on our beaches and rivers. Much of her work, particularly her Shell Forms, speak of fragility and permanence by contrasting the smoothest sensuous insides with robust textured exteriors.

Her glazes are dripped and crackled, layered deep, with areas of shiny rich colour abutting chalky semi-transparent over-glazes. Her effects were created using oxides and glazes, sometimes pressing a pebble into a pot and waiting to see what colours it would release in the kiln.This is an artist working in three dimensions, sometimes making organic forms and other times pressing in abstract marks or almost figurative patterns.

Rachel Fenner’s recent paintings and drawings of holloways, rocky coves and the last vestiges of Britain’s temperate rainforests are deeply felt responses to powerful places where wild things still survive.

Frances Hatch finds wild places and makes work about them using materials she finds there, mixing natural pigments and textures with paint and found materials. Her paintings are joyous gatherings of the light, the weather and the feeling of being in that wildness at that particular moment.

Caroline Sharp’s woven sculptural forms are constructed places of safety, places of hope, created out of natural materials. Like bird’s nests filled with leaves, they evoke the care and attention needed to protect life.

Pictured: Caroline Sharp Leaf Vessel 2 , salix Nancy Saunders and bay leaves 2023; Frances Hatch, Mortehoe Hallelujahs. Woolacombe, Devon, acrylic on handmade cotton rag paper 2022; Adela Powell, Blue Shell Form ceramic; Rachel Fenner, Cat’s Back Rock, Porthmissen, gouache.