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Artists show mettle in new Shipley Art Gallery exhibition

Print-maker Ruth Fettis is revealing her quirky take on fashion in the Shipley Art Gallery's Tales from a Forgotten City exhibition

An example of Ruth Fettis' work
An example of Ruth Fettis' work

A print-maker is showing her mettle in a new exhibition which reveals a quirky take on fashion.

Ruth Fettis worked alongside fellow artists Jo Palmer, Michelle Wren, Rusty Nut, Vic Cruz and Yvonne Pinkney for Shipley Art Gallery’s latest summer show Tales from a Forgotten City.

And “dress to impress” could well be the theme of the Gateshead gallery’s show which features spectacular frocks created from paper, metal and fabric.

For the commission, the artists jointly explored the idea that clothes carry a tale – a human history – about their wearers so each of the dresses on show tells a story, either real or imagined, about love, loss, unfulfilled dreams and memories.

They’re inspired by people going out to explore the world – full of plans, maybe taking risks, even going missing – and those who are left behind.

Ruth, who’s based in West Yorkshire, explained: “One starting point was old photographs I saw of migrants dressed in their best clothes, embarking on their huge journeys.

“Suit for my Son is about my son, with few possessions but wearing his only suit, travelling thousands of miles to make a new life in South America.

“I then made a Dress for a Missing Person, a response to a visit to the Monument to the Disappeared in Santiago, Chile and a tale of ordinary lives.”

There’s supporting material too, including prints, books and models of a theatre and boat.

The exhibition runs until December 13.

Julie Milne, chief curator of art galleries, said: “It is exciting to see the magical and theatrical costumes created by Ruth and her fellow artists.

“We commissioned this exhibition nearly two years ago and have watched it grow. All the artists involved have explored the limits of their practice to communicate all those threads of narrative which make up human lives.”

Meanwhile, another exhibition at Shipley is also inspired by travel: in this case, the poignant journey of artist Naomi Alexander to re-trace her family history.

Once Upon a Time in Lithuania is a collection of her paintings, watercolours and prints resulting from a number of visits she made to that country.

Her mother’s family came to Tyneside from Lithuania and Naomi herself, a London-based painter, print-maker and textile designer whose work includes portrait commissions from the Sultan of Oman, spent all her childhood summers at Whitley Bay.

In 2002 she was invited to be artist-in-residence at the Europas Parkas Sculpture Museum in Vilnius and, keen to record the remnants of Jewish heritage in the country, she travelled widely, including to Dorbian (Darbenai in Lithuanian) where her grandmother had lived and to sites of Nazi atrocities.

Along the way, she made drawings and watercolours of buildings she saw and people she met.

The exhibition features some of her original sketchbooks, reproduction of prints plus original watercolours and larger pastels and oils that she did on her return to London.

Once Upon a Time in Lithuania, running until November 2, has been organised by the London Jewish Cultural Centre, where the work was first shown to coincide with the publication of her book Once Upon a Time in Lithuania, published by David Paul Books.

For more information on what’s on at the gallery in Prince Consort Road, Gateshead, including its major Ralph Hedley exhibition, www.shipleyartgallery.org.uk

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