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Review: 'Halton Mill LECH series' - Dukes Art Exhibition

Chris Satori
Halton Mill LECH series
Industrial Decline and Abstract Art, an exhibition at
The Dukes Gallery, Moor Lane, Lancaster, LA1 1QE
Runs Monday 2 - Sunday 29 March 2015.
Free admission

Review by Peter Clark

Halton Mill LECH series is a selection of twelve canvases by the artist Catriona Stamp on display in the gallery at the Dukes.

The term 'Industrial decline' is not normally associated with artistic creativity, but for local artist Catriona Stamp, the decay of one derelict building resulted in the creation of a series of emotive abstract canvases.  The building in questions is Halton Mill, which in the 1950's, became the home of the Luneside Engineering Company or LECH.  In the late 1990s Halton Mill fell into decay.   Stamp seized the opportunity to photograph the interior of the building before its subsequent renovation to record the patterns of wear and deterioration.  These images she layered together, with some colour enhancement, to produce a series of digital prints on canvas.  The work is a celebration of randomness over photography and the beauty that can be found in the inconsequential.

Alongside the works is a poster of the history of Luneside Engineering in Halton Mill, and a statement by the artist outlining her technique and approach.

The exhibition gives the impression of a series of abstract paintings, some with rather blocky designs, others with a more linear form.  Colours are typically warm with orange, brown and red predominating, though whites and blues can be found.  All colours are rather muted, in keeping with the spirit of decay.   The works are referred to by numbers rather than names, emphasizing that these are more works of nature rather than created by human hand.

A purist might enjoy the pieces as they are, an abstract assemblage of form and contrasts.  For this reviewer the delight of the images lay in the pictures they evoked in the mind.  It is impossible to look at the piece LECH 4 without seeing an array of poppies.  The lines and whirls of LECH 108 conjures images of fountains.  LECH 128 simulates the dispersion of colour that would result from seeing a landscape through the distortion of a diffraction grating.

It is with piece 6A that some of the artists layering technique is evident as the canvas shows the colours and shapes of decay overlaid onto a maintenance document.  A personal favourite is LECH 9A where a line of brown stain falls, like a waterfall from a cliff, whilst in the distance one can sense a promised land beyond.

Stamp is a prolific artist, bookmaker, photographer ex coffin painter and counsellor.  Her work includes installations (objects and sound) and group vocal performances.  She writes that she is influenced by the Japanese Wabi-sabi philosophy or the aesthetic that beauty is found in the "imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete".  Catriona Stamp is a resident of Lancaster and, rather fittingly, has a studio at the refurbished Halton Mill.

All the works are for sale.  They come in two standard sizes, large and small, retailing for prices up to £220.

Monday 2 March 2015
Peter Clarke