Joanne Thompson’s exhibition ‘Cognitive Dissonance’
10 January – 13 February 2015
Gas Gallery, Aberystwyth.
Attracted like a butterfly to a flower, I was drawn to the Gas Gallery by a riot of colour visible through the window. It was Joanne Thompson’s exhibition ‘Cognitive Dissonance.‘ There was no option but to go inside. I went straight to ‘Limpets at Waterwynch’, bursting out of its space with energy, and ‘Sunshade’, the most painterly of the whole show, with its panoply of techniques and bold colour. I found myself looking forward to summer as I looked at them. Just the thing in the middle of a grey and frosty winter.
Joanne Thompson’s work appears not to take itself too seriously at first glance. It is bright, light-hearted and witty. Combining collage with painting, she uses a variety of supports from canvas to furnishing material and upholstery fabrics, all of which have their part to play as layers of texture are built up. Acrylic and oil paint are tossed into the mix with collage, textiles, glass, buttons, wool and swirls of gold.
Some images are immediately recognisable: a kettle, a sewing machine, a pair of armchairs, all represented as silhouettes, embellished with a rich variety of materials ‘Maid to Measure’ and ‘The Sweet Tree at Llansilin’ being visual puns, a chance for the artist to display a lively disposition and a sense of humour.
But is there more to the exhibition than this? The title ‘Cognitive Dissonance’ suggests that there is, that there is a disjunction between the familiar accoutrements of domesticity (1950s style) and the perceptions that these memories evoke. This is particularly evident in ‘Polly’. The image of a kettle would seem to be quite unassuming, except that this one sports a length of metal chain. Is the artist playing with the cliché of ‘being chained to the kitchen sink’? Is this a comment on how society has moved on from the 1950s? Or is it more of a visual alarm, a warning of the incipient threat to the women of households in our own day? Yes, no-one would claim that there hasn’t been progress in the life of women over the past fifty years, but the stubbornly continuing disparity between how men and women are paid for doing exactly the same job demonstrates that there is still a long way to go. This exhibition, in its own deceptively playful way, brings that reality back into focus.