Art - Shelagh Wakely: Imaginative installations were inspirational

PUBLISHED: 08:00 07 May 2016

Picture: FXP Photography

Picture: FXP Photography

Photograph: FXP Photography, 2016. Copyright of the artwork belongs to the artist

The late Shelagh Wakely, who lived in Falklands Road, Kentish Town, made installation art which encompassed elements of architecture, painting and drawing.

Her imaginative work found a new audience with a retrospective at Camden Arts Centre two years ago.

Now the Richard Saltoun Gallery further revives her reputation with an exhibition highlighting her collaboration with Brazilian artists Lucia Nogueira and Tunga.

Shelagh Wakely: spaces between things presents, for the first time since its creation in 1986, the beautifully delicate Spring Snow, a floor installation made entirely of coloured tissue paper torn to resemble cherry blossom. This poetic work, which occupies a whole room, embodies her concern with surface texture, organic shapes and the ephemeral.

The evasiveness of memory and the natural arising of impermanence and decay were recurrent themes. Critic Sarah Kent has observed that Wakely’s installations infiltrate space rather than occupy it and that though a sense of loss permeates her work it also has “a delicious sense of longing”.

Kent has contributed to the publication which accompanies this engaging exhibition, curated by Wakely’s close friend, the artist Antoni Malinowski. Born near Cambridge in 1932, she spent much of her youth in Kenya, returning to England to study agriculture.

She switched to painting and screen-printing then worked as a textile designer before turning to sculpture in the late 60s. Wakely died in 2011.

Curator Sandie Macrae, who helped compile her archive, paid her this tribute: “Shelagh and 23 Falklands Road used to glow like a big dot on the map, as a reliable focussed place of inspiration.”

Until next Friday (May 13) at 111 Great Titchfield Street W1. Weekdays 10am to 6pm.

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