BALTIC exhibition review by Grace Storey
Holly Hendry, 18 February - 24 September 2017
BALTIC exhibition review by Grace Storey.
Wrot is a technical term for wood which has had at least one side planed, or made smooth and level. Wrot is also the name of a deeply complex and interesting artwork by the artist Holly Hendry. The name is appropriate, as at the core of Hendry’s work is a fascination with layers and the building blocks of both body structures, the ground on which we walk and ultimately life itself. Arguably though, even the name itself is a hidden layer in the piece as few know the technical term. So, the title for most of us has a far stronger connection in our minds of death, decomposition and decay, themes which Hendry utilises beautifully. Hendry plays on our dark expectations of her work through her use of pastel colours, evocative of a calmness, peace and even sweetness. This juxtaposes our preconceived ideas of death and decomposition, both confusing and interesting to the viewer, who is now trying to make sense of the barrage of conflicting emotions Hendry forces us to explore.It is easy to see why the brain could therefore, in this situation, be drawn to think of medical matters. Medicine couples a similar threatening presence and a fear of death with the calming presence of doctors working to prevent this, a comparison which is almost invited through Hendry’s use of surgical colours like tea green and pale grey-blue. Hendry also chooses to use medical assistance poles, symbolically to hold up larger than life bones and teeth as the medical profession itself holds up our bodies whenever we, like these suspended structures, are at our most vulnerable. The medical undertones of this exhibition are further highlighted by the structure to the left hand side of the exhibition space, which takes the form of a bone. Said bone is shown fractured, and, as a piece seemingly cut out of the wall, alone it seems vulnerable and delicate despite its marble make-up. But the piece stands strong, dominating the viewer physically and is presented as being self-sufficient, following the addition of metal screws, now peppered across its surface. These screws, possibly referencing the medical pins inserted into many people’s actual bones. Could reference how surgeons now have the power, with our advanced technology, to defy the way life tries to break us all and the very frailty that is being human. A power mirrored by the large cross section of a tooth, filled and imposing rather than damaged and flawed as is natural and in essence; human.Hendry’s use of Texture also builds into this presentation of unnatural strength and the way a human body can defy the decay expected of it. Using Jesmonite and plaster she creates what look deceptively like soft, oozing layers in her work, which are actually oddly rigid and durable. Lastly, trapped inside these layers are various everyday objects such as a plug and sock held due to the strength of the material we expect to be pliable. So are these the memories and emotions we hold under the layers of our skin, deep in our beings? Have they been allowed to accumulate and build up over time as medical science lets us live longer? Or do these objects, like those of an archaeological dig site, actually represent the things we lose and live to forget about as our lives get longer and more complex, as new layers are added to our characters?The decision is down to the individual, who themselves must judge upon seeing Hendry’s work.
Written by Grace Storey.
Photograph courtesy of BALTIC website.