Cathie Pilkington & Marion Adnams
25 May - 23 June 2019
Notes from the bunker: Talking with Marion.
I have been building an installation in the cave-like space of Transition Two. It’s a coast-like assemblage. It’s a direct, personal response to the (little known) remarkable paintings and drawings of Marion Adnams (1898-1995).
‘I am attracted to things which create an atmosphere or period of time such as skulls, shells and objects from the natural world and it is always their form which fascinates me as though I were a sculptor’
Strange Coast, photo Perou
Marion was an artist and teacher in Derby. She is mostly known for the images she painted in the 40s, which are usually described as ‘surrealist’. These extraordinary paintings start from really intensely observed studies of found and made objects. They are bristling with a kind of sublimated energy and claustrophobia despite their imaginary ‘outdoor’ setting.
It has been interesting working in this subterranean space on sunny days thinking about Marion’s account of the war years and being with some of the paintings she made during that time. (Alter Ego, 1947 and Serpents in Your Tides, 1940).
Marion Adnams, Alter Ego, 1945, oil on panel Derby Museum Trust
‘after that the lights went out and the doors closed. I knew the frustration and privation of the war years without any of the excitement.... the large windows through which one saw a vast expanse of sky were covered with the thickest possible net…’
I have absorbed Marion’s work into Strange Coast. Paintings, drawings, photographs and significant objects are deeply embedded into an obsessive dialogue with our shared pre-occupations, material processes and biography.
‘I went back again and again and found the most fascinating things, curious, beautiful, even horrible. I drew them all – I drew them again and again until they became part of me’
I am beginning to feel that picking through the formal compositions and carefully orchestrated debris of pegboard structures and ribbon curtains is like a form of conceptual beachcombing. It feels a bit like a burial chamber or a make shift shrine. I am returning to images, thoughts and materials guided by a strange inner logic - over and over like a ritual process.
Cathie Pilkington, Still Life with Hessian, photo Perou
‘I made a model of thick white paper, cutting freely with a large pair of scissors, folding, rolling, and pleating it at I had learned as a child’
The paper doll, domestic ornaments, the ‘nature table’, are all shared vernacular starting points. Marion presents these in tightly controlled pictorial compositions – but sculpture is altogether a more mixed in and messy affair. Objects and stuff are always restless and porous, part of the real world.
What makes a ‘sculpture’ more meaningful than a garden ornament?
In Strange Coast these ever shifting registers of painting, sculpture, domestic, museum, studio, storage, display and works in progress merge to form a kind of ‘art room on speed’ - the meeting point of so many things.
‘My unusually vivid imagination causes things to become active in my mind and when I begin to paint ‘seriously’ I am always drawn to some particular thing which I paint out of its proper setting and my original subject is relegated to the background’
Cathie Pilkington, 2019
Extracts from Marion’s autobiographical writing courtesy of Derby Museum and Art Gallery.