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VISUAL ARTS: Linda Ingham – Open Series: meditations on place, self and time

Open Series - Self Portrait

The first time I wrote about Linda Ingham’s work was for the (sadly defunct) Article Magazine in 2009. Back then, Linda was publicising Open Pores, the launch platform for the much larger Pore Project: some 200-plus works derived from representations of the human face - mostly the faces of friends, acquaintances and volunteers, with some self-portraits. On the eve of Linda’s new show at Caistor’s 28 Plough Hill we met at the artist’s Cleethorpes Studio.

The first thing that strikes you about the works are their openness. There’s an honesty that makes them instantly engaging. This isn’t simply a case of every picture telling a story; the viewer’s own readings of the work are guided by the artist creating layers of meaning. So much so that the works welcome an almost literary interpretation. With self-portraiture the focus of Linda’s work, does she feel the revelation of herself, often in an unflattering light, demands a degree of courage?

“Now that I’ve decided that self-portraiture is the main thing I do, I’ve tried to be realistic. In the new piece I show myself as a 47 year-old woman who’s got a big hooter and getting a bit jowly, but then again I didn’t have my glasses on and I had a bit of make up on. I wasn’t trying to look ugly.”

Writing narrative, creating stories, we choose characters to carry aspects of plot and meaning. With the new paintings, is Linda conscious of creating images with a view to controlling how they might be interpreted?
“In the new painting there’s a story as to why I’m wearing the headband with the narcissi on it, but I don’t walk around with that on my head; it’s not real life. It’s this thing between … I’m mindful of showing something of myself, but in other ways I’m making up a projection of myself. I am telling a story.”
“I’m an insomniac and recently I discovered that, if you put narcissi in your bedroom, you sleep. If you look back to the root of the word, it comes from the Greek narkissos, which is from narke: numbness. Also these things are as beautiful dead as they are alive and of course the self-portraiture has echoes  of the story of Narcissus, the youth who fell in love with his reflection in a pool.”

Open Series - Self Portrait Study 2, 2011

So the paintings, laden with symbolism over and above their aesthetic quality, offer a context and a space for the viewer to place their own thoughts and ideas. For Linda, there is a significance in the time of year, with the show opening at Easter.
“The opportunity of a show at Easter has helped me to move forward with an aspect in this series that uses circles and ovals as symbols of renewal and life cycle. The woven pieces (the headband) are reminiscent of Easter bonnets worn in days gone by, the ritual. So it’s a pun on me, this 47 year old woman not daring to wear an Easter bonnet, but daft enough to wear a headband: she’s not a maiden anymore and her flower’s a bit withered.”

Away from the more familiar self-portraiture, Linda draws great inspiration from a stretch of the Humber Estuary beach near her home. Much of the work in the new show is concerned with the pureness of the material as found and used, unchanged, in its original and natural form.

 “That’s the point when it is the most ‘itself’. It’s when working with these elements that I feel that I am the most myself. So, in the drawings, I’ve used a piece of silver to make soft grey marks that contrast with the brownish pigment of the piece of jet collected from the same beach.”

Open Series - Shell 3, 2010

These are landscapes, but not in a conventional sense. Linda refers to them as ‘shadow paintings’.

 “I went down to the area of the beach I like to go on New Year’s Eve 2011 and New Year’s Day 2012. And caught the colour of the sky and the atmosphere on those days and at the same time I trapped some of the air in the painted boxes.  They’re almost abstracts rather than figurative; I see them almost as reliquaries of time past. But my interest in that particular place is the way it makes you feel, you walk down there and it just opens up. That’s partly why I’ve called the series ‘Open’ I just think it’s an interesting title; it can mean so many different things, so many layers.”
And that is the key to the work in Open Series: meditations on place, self and time. Layers of allusion and metaphor, some perhaps misleading, plenty subverting convention and all with honesty and a story to tell.

Open Series: meditations on place, self and time: paintings, drawings, objects and artefacts evocative of self-portraiture, place and renewal - a work in constant progress – is on at Caistor’s 28 Plough Hill until 30th April.

Linda Ingham will be available to talk about her work at the gallery this Saturday 7th April from 11.00am.

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