LIVE WIRES: THE SCULPTURE OF PAMELA STOREY
"Not only technically and materially but also conceptually sculpture possesses a built-in versatility and adaptability. Within the plastic arts sculpture lies somewhere between painting and architecture, integrating the subjectivity and even spirituality of the former with the engineered concretion and environmental aspects of the latter. Though normally like painting being non-functional and fulfilling similar decorative intentions to the pictorial or graphic arts – albeit in an outdoor urban or rural as opposed to domestic setting – sculpture has an empirical richness at its disposal courtesy of the technical possibilities of carving, modelling, or constructing on the one hand, and the imaginative speculations of poetry on the other.
Cheshire-born (b.1981) and Liverpool and Falmouth trained, Pamela Storey, a 40 year old artist currently residing in her native Cheshire after a cosmopolitan itinerary taking in London, Liverpool, Hamburg and Cornwall, makes 2D works on paper inspired by the figure or landscape and sculpture using materials like bent stainless steel or copper wires that have, as she puts it, “the capacity to change: their fragility and corrosion being an intentional aspect to the life of the work.” The life of this work resides between the sewing box and the mills of industrial fabrication. In her colourful and powerfully evocative works on paper, on the other hand, she uses mixed materials on the basis of what she describes as their expressive possibilities “and ability to flow”. In other words she is, on paper at least, a lyrical artist. Lyricism implies freedom and an almost musical movement – not only in terms of a full-blooded, spontaneous ease of execution letting the process dictate and the medium unfold organically and naturally, but in terms of a diversity of international landscape subjects. These take in Iceland or Denmark and, closer to home, Cheshire and Cornwall. Her eye is trained on nature in flux, heaving oceans or swollen fast rivers, through woodland as in ‘Deep into the Forest’ (2020), a pastoral, even romantic subject orchestrated in russets and pale muddy greens.
Given her propensity to use materials that have the “capacity to change” Storey has unsurprisingly favoured malleability through a kind of metallic knitting or aerodynamic stitchicraft crafted with deft yet well-worn and determined hands. ‘Drawing in space’ is a procedure recalling mid-period Anthony Caro with his bent, curvilinear steel ‘table pieces’ of the mid – 1970s, Gabo’s post-war transparent perspex and nylon thread planar constructions which in turn led to the evocative internal stringing of Moore and Hepworth. Yet Storey’s concoctions have a contemporaneous conceptual and post-modern feel, a cheeky, whacky sensibility predicated on a fin-de-siècle return to nature and the figure after the orthodoxies and formalist cul-de-sac of post-cubist abstraction.
Consistent with the light industrial and home craft tie-ups is a charming and intimate work like ‘Come to Me’ (2017) – a classic, even academic, set piece depicting the artist’s hand in signalling mode. A similar pent-up energy animates ‘Woman in a Box, Too’ (2019), a lilliputian composition of a figure seeking freedom from the transparent confinement of a glass cube. Glass confinement recurs in the titular ‘Nearly ½’ (2016), a message-in-a-bottle theme comprising a ubiquitous (Oldenburgian?) milk bottle half filled with black sand into which a wire figure is buried waist high. A continuing sub-plot of danger or entrapment is apparent in ‘Bird on a Wire’ (2017), a human rather than ornithological subject of lithe tightrope walker precariously balanced between survival or death.
The titular ‘All that Lies Between Us’ (2020) is similarly a staged drama entertaining allegorical, narrative or literary associations while touching on the essence of space – a Giacomettiesque theme of existential gravitas and meaning. Space is the defining element of a two figure scenario grappling with conundrums proper to sculpture – enclosure and openness, separateness and conjoined togetherness, line and form in a dancing graphic interplay. Storey incorporates space and light as vital, defining elements into the very fibre of the images. Her diminutive figures positioned in a fictive, theatrical as well as literal space indeed invite comparison with the great Italian Swiss sculptor whose nervously probing drawings into the true perceptual nature of the body as agents of distance, time and space her obsessively delineated wire figures so tangibly recall. Storey even transcends Giacometti’s closeted academic studio-paradigms of a timeless universality – to appropriate the magical transformations of the Japanese rock garden in which the microcosmic mimicks real life landscape. In ‘For Lily’ (2018) and the axiomatic ‘Woman on an Island’ (2017) she posits her diminutive wire figures on small rocks, theatrical and toy-like ‘models’ for islands or a vast mountain range.
Storey’s characteristically modestly-sized domestic figures are made for domestic mantlepieces or window sills. But in their intimate environments her beautiful wire figures belong to the imaginative transformations of sculptors like David Mach, Antony Gormley or Coventry City of Culture prizewinning sculptor Favour Jonathan, whose large mild steel figural adornment of architecture pays homage to black actor Ira Aldridge. While similarly subjecting the figure to surrounding space, Storey’s anonymous and generic forms have less specific symbolism."
- PETER DAVIES, November 2021
Well-known modern and contemporary art critic, author and artist Peter Davies has been regularly contributing art reviews and obituaries for many years, writing for The Independent, The Guardian, and St Ives Times & Echo as well as art journals and catalogues.
His previous books include the critically acclaimed A Northern School (1989); St Ives Revisited (1994); Arthur Ballard: Liverpool Artist and Teacher (1996); After Trewyn: St Ives Sculptors since Hepworth (2001); St Ives 1975 - 2005: Art Colony in Transition (2007); A Northern School Revisited (2015), and Arthur Berry: A Ragged Richness (2021).
THE GUARDIAN - REVIEW:
If Not Now, When? review – a timely tour through feminist sculpture by Hannah Clugston
PAMELA STOREY b. Cheshire, UK, 1981.
2023. If Not Now, When? The Saatchi Gallery, SW3, London. ------- Opens 15 November - 22 January 2024
2023. If Not Now, When? Generations of Women in Sculpture in Britain 1960 – 2022, The Hepworth Wakefield, West Yorkshire. -------- *** 31 March – extended until 15 October 2023 ***
2023. Featured '23 - Appetite and Arts Keele at Newcastle Common High Street, Newcastle - under - Lyme, Staffordshire.
2023. Awarded ACAVA Studio Artist Development Residency Prize at Spode Works, Stoke on Trent.
2023. Shortlisted for Arts Keele Three Counties 2023 Appetite Audience Choice Prize.
2023. Arts Keele Three Counties Open Art, Burslem School of Art, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire.
2022. Creating Spaces - Cotswolds Sculpture Association Group Show at The Gardens at Miserden, Stroud, Gloucestershire.
2022. Arts Keele Three Counties Open Art, Burslem School of Art, Stoke on Trent, Staffordshire.
2022. Lady Petchey Sculpture Finalist's Show: The Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize - Lauderdale House, Highgate, London.
2022. Take Off! - √2 Group show at The Puzzle Factory, Eccles, Greater Manchester.
2021. 'Come to Me' shortlisted as Finalist for The Lady Petchey Sculpture Prize (part of The Holly Bush Emerging Woman Painter Prize) - Virtual exhibition.
2021. Home - Group collaboration project by Klaas Rommelaere’s at Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall.
2021. Macclesfield Open - Virtual exhibition.
2021. Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture - Joint exhibition with Sheila Scholes at St Ives Arts Club, Cornwall.
2021. Wish You Were Here - Group exhibition at Fronteer Gallery, Sheffield.
2020. Ready, Steady, Write! - short story winner, On Form Sculpture, Asthall Manor, Burford, Oxfordshire.
2020. Extraordinary Postcards for Extraordinary Times - Group exhibition at Newlyn Art Gallery, Cornwall.
2019. Wilmslow Art Under One Roof - Group exhibition at Wilmslow Art Trail, Cheshire.
2018. Wilmslow Art Trail - Solo exhibition at The Green Room Theatre, Wilmslow, Cheshire.
2009. Hackney Wicked Festival - Open Studio at Mother Studios, Hackney Wick, London.
© Pamela Storey 2023. All Rights Reserved.