“The Lightness of Being” – Alison Simpson and Amanda Baron – delicate, decorative paper and glass artwork at the Birch Tree Gallery, Edinburgh
The Birch Tree Gallery opened on Dundas Street, Edinburgh in March 2017 specialising in showcasing the fine art of Craft. The gallery name represents the simple yet effective image of the texture of bark to denote the wider world of nature as represented through art. A range of regularly changing exhibitions feature a diverse selection of artists who specialise in natural materials, creatively working with textiles, wood, glass, ceramics, paper, porcelain, metals, silver, gold, gemstones, as well as linocuts, mezzotints and screen prints.
“The Lightness of Being” currently showcases the innovative work of Alison Simpson and Amanda Baron, who specialise respectively in Paper and Glass.
At Art College, Alison trained first and foremost as a sculptor, forging a career in metalwork, constructing and casting in steel, bronze and iron. But after a decade or more, the heat, heavy weight and hardness of the work and materials ceased to be an inspiration, and she wisely turned to learning about and experimenting with the delicate art of paper-crafting. Paper can be made from any plant, and Alison uses the fibres from cotton and linen and locally grown Scottish flax.
Around the gallery is a series of beautifully framed, white and gold, textured, decorative Paper squares. “Through Trees” shows what seems like a woodland of tall slender trunks, with perhaps the glow of the moon beyond. It is meticulously crafted, to reflect the light-as-a-feather, literally “paper-thin” material of the delicate fibrous fabric.
Around the gallery is also a marvellous display of sculptured paper ornaments such as a linked chain of bluebells with pretty petals, shapely shells and tiny birds.
Alison lives and works on the Moray Firth, where the natural environment of the sea, beach, changing light and weather is all a rich stimulus in her creativity. As she explains, “When I make a piece of art, I want the viewer to stop struggling to understand, just to stand, to breathe, to rest the eye. The complex and miraculous properties of paper allow me to do this, creating sculptural pieces that weigh little in comparison to their visual impact. ”
To complement Alison’s enriching papercrafts, Amanda Baron is exhibiting an enticing collection of decorative glass and jewellery. She studied Architectural Glass at Edinburgh College of Art, later Artist in residence here, and worked for many years as a conservator of stained glass.
This exhibition features stunning framed works of kiln-fired enamel on mouth blown glass. The theme of the environment is inspired from a visit to the Isle of Eigg where along the Singing Sands and Laig Bay Beach, Amanda observed the sky, clouds, rock pools, ferns, lichen and sand patterns created by the tide.
In such meticulous craftwork, “Sand Movement”, “Cloud Study”, and “Rock Pool,” the soft shades of blue, white and grey shapes almost appear floating in the transparency of the glass.
Here are circles, discs, ovals and patterned shapes to represent the impression of shards of light and droplets of water, grains of sand, shells, seaweed – fragments of the seashore recreated as imaginatively composed works of art.
As Amanda describes the process: “I make paintings on glass that reflect my research into elements of Scottish landscape. I highlight the qualities of glass using traditional painting, staining and enameling techniques that are relatively unchanged since the medieval period. The work is hand painted using kiln fired glass paints and can have up to six firings to build up surface layers. They embody and crystallise my response to the craft of the material and the beauty of landscape”.
The result is a masterly effect of landscape painting and botanical illustration inspired by traditional stained glass. See also her collection of jewellery, such as exquisitely polished and perfected orange, gold and green glass pendants.
This is truly a most inspirational and imaginatively curated exhibition, where the beauty of Scottish land and sea, from the Highlands to the Hebrides has been translated into such finely crafted artworks composed in paper and glass.
The Lightness of Being – Alison Simpson and Amanda Baron
6 July to 1 August, 2017
Birch Tree Gallery 23a Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6QQ