Lie of the Land Exhibition by Lise Bech

Rochester Art Gallery, Kent 2 December to 14 January 2007 - Reviewed for BA by Alan Sage

Lise has been weaving with natural materials for over 18 years now in the southern uplands of Scotland. In more recent years her work has left symmetry & function behind & started to focus on much more organic shapes which as the title of the exhibition suggests, are inspired more from her surroundings & the materials she grows & uses.

The curving fluid forms in her work express many thoughts to the viewer, the lines soften the rigidity of the finished piece often reflecting a textile bag rather than a willow basket. The small openings at the tops luring you to peep inside to see if its occupied. The pregnant looking forms were brightly lit from several directions, often creating rolling shadows on the walls around, which appeared alive with flowing lines & curves with subtle woven textures reflecting a rolling landscape.

Colours & tonality are also strong features in Lise s work, the soft white silky buds of the Nigricans appeared like a light dusting of snow on the surface of one of the landscape pods , in contrast to the very light straw looking Continental Reeks of another larger Celtic coil basket. The shades & texture of the willows always been a delight, especially in the two hedgerow cauldrons which also included Blueberry, Alder & Hairmoss.

There were several garlands on display, which are an excellent & effective way to show the many different colours & textures available in willow & in this case, dogwood as well. These were also highlighted in the jewellery pieces made from an assortment of contrasting willow species. I noticed that the Scottish willows appear denser in colour, making them seem darker than willows grown here in the rest SE ÜK Technically the works were intriguing & well thought out, the shapes require a lot of manipulation & for-thought with stakes been omitted or doubled to create space for form, then curved in another plane for textural effects whilst new weavers are been added all the while to create yet more shape & texture.

The baskets move in several planes at once, yet they do so with a pleasing gracefulness. I also noticed Lise had a preference to always move left before moving right with the lean of the stakes. With all this movement most baskets ended with a very small opening, sometimes still curving & folding in every plane, there was one larger basket with the border completed inside out with an interesting effect.

I was particularly taken with the Catalonian style bases present on most of the works as well as with the six way Celtic (or Turkish?) knots. All showing respect for traditional form & pattern. There was also good variation in terms of scale & size ranging from small jewellery pieces to large 4ft high contour vases or very wide rimmed coiled bowls.

The exhibition was obviously very popular with the public as many people who came after the 15th December were disappointed to find many of the pieces had been sold & were no longer on display. The workshops Lise held along side the exhibition were also hugely popular both with the public, basket makers & the staff at the centre. Thanks Lise, both for the wonderful workshop & the lovely exhibition, not to mention the delicious willows we ate!!