I had a walk down to the Bonington Gallery today at NTU to visit the current exhibition- Lacuna, by Joy Buttress which explores the relationship between lace and skin. Nottingham is historically renowned for it's lace making. This process has long stopped but Nottingham remains proud of this heritage and the industry lives on through interpretation in art, an area in the city called Lace Market, and a small collection of designers who are trying to revive the industry on a small scale all together. Lacuna in art refers to a blank spot, something that does not adhere- I have never thought of the relationship between lace and skin before.
Buttress' initial inspiration stems from a botanical design portfolio from 1910 found in the University's archives. The intricate drawings have had a major impact on the collection of work which Buttress has produced. Many of the lace designs found in the archives have a reoccurring theme of natural forms. It is well known that lace was once used as a material for gloves and it is gloves which make up much of Buttress' work in this exhibition. Vintage leather gloves are concealed in plywood boxes around the exhibition space. There are tiny holes which allow us to look at the work and also help us to direct our focus on one particular element which highlights the delicacy of lace and the body of work. The gloves have been embellished with a variety of materials, such as beads, iron fillings, human hair, threads and wax, to give the impression of natural forms on the gloves. It may be naive of me to say this but many of the embellishments reminded me of maggots protruding from the gloves, and moth like laser cuttings, as if the boundary between nature and glove (human) is truly unrecognisable. Similarly many of the embellishments are reminiscent of mould/natural growths. These uneasy forms parallel with the beauty of the lasercut stamens and tiny flowers dotted on other gloves. The natural forms working with the gloves as if they are one. The delicacy of lace is a metaphor for the delicacy of a human being. Other exhibits around the room show Buttress exploring the relationship with lace and skin, which several panels of latex "skin" and a quilted piece of fabric on a rocking chair reminding us of a bygone tradition of craft- but again with extraordinary growths of buttons to form button backing and beads scattered across as if an unusual disease. Buttress has been recorded saying that she tried to achieve beauty and repulsion simultaneously; I think this has been achieved. The collection is quite simply beautiful.
Lacuna is free to the public and runs until Friday 2nd March.