Jenny Blyth marks the reopening of The North Wall with a bold show

THE sheer beauty of nature and its liberating effect on the mind is the subject of an engaging new exhibition on show at Oxford’s North Wall arts centre.

Contemplation: Snow into Water, features the work of painter Chloe Fremantle and textile artist Cassandra Wall and looks at beauty in patterns.

Lockdown has enforced a slowdown in the pace of life in all its noise and complexities, giving us a unique opportunity to re-engage with the voice of the natural world around us, and the transience that makes it so precious.

Paring down and patterning creates great strength. American minimalist painters such as Frank Stella, Robert Ryman and Agnes Martin of the 1960s were formidable, creating a stillness and sense of transcendence through repetition and constrained palette.

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Fremantle’s practice is rooted in figuration, in the pure essence and beauty of nature that manifests as abstraction, a dialectic of markmaking. Paring back from the detail of her subject, she has created her own hieroglyphic language of symbols and shapes that reflect the world around her.

Oxford Mail:

Her interpretation of the rhythms that reoccur in nature originated with leaves and petals, seeds and pods. Focussing in on the biology of her subject, she incorporated references to cellular structure – an inner, microcosmic world. Looking out, she then embraced a sense of topography – of contouring, incorporating the lay of the land.

In recent years, her work has marked a return to figuration in terms of subject, with urban and rural vistas infused with an alphabet that she has developed over years in her exploration of micro to macro.

Aesthetically the interplay of all these elements together transforms into a sublime celebration of unexpected colour and form, a ‘jazz fusion’, a Memento Mori in Blue, that challenges and delights, inviting us as viewers to explore the artist’s kaleidoscope of the natural world. In Birch Copse, abstraction morphs to figuration: one reads birch trees with the seasonal peeling of its silver skin where another perceives a street café scene. Essentially as one’s eye unravels the patterns and marks within Fremantle’s compositions, so the mind is free to explore and interpret.

Oxford Mail:

Quilting brings to mind the Amish Culture where strength is enhanced through simplicity. The repetition in patterning, of colour and shape, and the juxtapositions inform that simplicity and strength.

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Wall’s quilts, each created over months, present as contemporary textile paintings floating in tray frames, unglazed. Her methodology is hand-stitched quilting, but her language is of tessellation and colourfield abstraction towards a state of meditation, delighting in the journey of colour and shape that nature presents dancing towards that end. All is beautifully expressed as Snow Into Water.

Oxford Mail:

Cassandra Wall has been working with textiles since childhood. All her compositions such as Heather Hills are initiated sur le motif capturing the spirit of the landscape - the crests of purple heather-clad hills with backdrafts of golden green mosses. Initially, she creates collages in torn papers, precursors and hints of the patterns and tessellations to come. Transposing her ‘sketches’ to cloth, the tessellation begins and her textile paintings are stitched.

They are things of great beauty.

Contemplation: Snow into Water. Paintings by Chloe Fremantle and textile paintings by Cassandra Wall. Until October 10 at The North Wall, Oxford. Mon-Fri 10am-4pm. Sat 12-4pm.