The University of Southampton
Winchester School of Art

Looking Through: Presenting New Works by Ann Sutton

Ann Sutton sample work

11 July – 15 August 2018
Mondays to Fridays, 10am to 4pm
Saturdays, 11am to 3pm
(Closed on Sundays)

The Winchester Gallery,
Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton,
Park Avenue, Winchester,
Hampshire, SO23 8DL

The Winchester Gallery is proud to present our summer exhibition Looking Through: Presenting New Works by Ann Sutton. This exhibition brings together work that Ann Sutton has created over the last decade which explores the gridded form. But far from rigid, mechanistic patterns, these engagements with the grid bear the trace of the sensuous, organic shaping of the individual.

It has been our privilege to work with Ann Sutton over the last couple of years to prepare this exhibition and it is our great pleasure to bring it to the wider community in Winchester and the School of Art. Winchester School of Art was home to an earlier exhibition of Sutton’s work in 1995 (No Cheating: Serial Woven Studies – Ann Sutton). Over twenty years later, it is exciting to host this new presentation of Ann Sutton’s recent directions in her creative practice.

Sutton’s engagement with the grid flows throughout the works in this exhibition. But it does not connect merely with her professional international career as a maker, especially in woven textiles but has been basis of her whole practice. As the curator Gill Hedley has written in a wonderful appreciation of Sutton’s pursuits, suitably entitled “On the Grid”, this fascination with the gridded form was present even in Ann Sutton’s earliest encounters with materials as a child.

Hedley offers this lovely anecdote: “When Ann Sutton was a small girl she and her mother went from home…to visit Auntie Elsie who ran a high quality bespoke dressmaking business.” To divert the toddler in the showroom:

“she was given a swatch of fabric samples. The plain navy blue cloth was boring; the next, with a single white pinstripe in the warp, began to hold her interest. The third sample had a second horizontal white line woven in the weft: ‘Evidently I was very pleased with these three pages and turned them back and forth seeing how plain became stripe became check, until it was time for tea.’”

This intrigue with the grid manifested itself, as Hedley notes, in Sutton’s early to mid-career focus on weaving: “The strength and tension of woven fabric comes from the warp crossing the weft in a simple network of lines that can create deep complexity.” Contextualising Sutton’s work within the British art world of the period, Hedley comments upon the connections it bears to British Constructivist art of the 20th century and those particular artists “with whom Ann Sutton has deep links”.

Ann Sutton’s recent selected works in this exhibition continue what Hedley describes as Sutton’s “very clear and binary vocabulary: over and under; positive and negative; colour and monochrome; vertical and horizontal.” Yet, as these new works show through their departure from her practice before 2008, Sutton is a maker not afraid of exploring various avenues for her creativity. As Gill Hedley records, Ann Sutton’s career has included her work as “an artist, designer, teacher, author, consultant, curator, patron, arts promoter and organiser.” This rich career has seen Ann Sutton awarded the MBE and given a UK touring retrospective of her textiles by the Crafts Council in 2004.

It was after this moment that Sutton entered the “new period of experimentation” that generated the works in Looking Through, representing what is now a decade of new works. One of the aspects of this period that is most intriguing is Sutton’s turn to drawing, and the conditions under which these were often made. As Hedley relates, in the 2000s Sutton has “most summers…made a long voyage on a cargo ship. The focus of the voyage was simply to draw and draw. While weaving, her designs were worked out on a small scale, never drawn, but now a new passion for lines on paper developed until a hurdle rose up in the form of waves.” The movement this introduced to her mark making helped Sutton feel “‘released from straight lines’”. This kinetic quality enlivens the grids she makes and brings that trace of the hand and the person to these new works, awakening the viewer to the maker behind the grid. Looking through these ten years of a new kind of making we can see Ann Sutton’s lifetime’s interests looking back at us.

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