Finding the perfect something in Addiscombe’s Aladdin’s Cave

On show: Gillian Fielden’s work – and her meals – feature prominently in the new gallery

KEN TOWL has been back to a local gallery for a bit of artful Christmas  shopping

It is not every day that the councillor from the next-door ward sends you an email reminding you to pick up a limited edition print.

I had ended up buying the print after reviewing the Isolation exhibition the Croydon Art Space at 41 Lower Addiscombe Road back in October, and then forgotten to pick it up.

While Sean Fitzsimons is not my councillor, he does represent the ward that the Art Space is in and Sean is one of those precious few politicians who instinctively, naturally and habitually promotes art and culture, so he also suggested I take a look at the new exhibition there, “especially the glass pieces”.

Ephemeral: some of Tracey Nicholls’ bowls

So off I set down the Lower Addiscombe Road and I found out that he was of course right, and that “glass pieces” hardly does justice to the quite stunning almost ephemeral eggshell-thin bowls that Tracey Nicholls produces from glass powder and gold and copper leaf.

Curator Paul Hall invited me to touch one of the bowls. It felt like a transgressive act. Some things are there just to be looked at.

These bowls are a visual delight but unlikely to be of any practical use in a kitchen. If you buy one (they cost from £300 to £800), keep it somewhere visible but safe from children and other potential transgressors.

Gillian Fielden, the creator of the lockdown-inspired Anatomical Sun which I had bought, has been busy during 2021, busy with a series of works collectively titled Bread or Fresh Air, an allusion to Albert Camus’ The Plague, all of which, in one way or another, play with a representation of Gillian’s diet.

Some of her limited edition prints function as infographics that document the food she ate every day for 90 days (from January 1 to March 31 this year), with the meals represented as colour-coded circles or balloons or segments of a circle.

Detailed realism: Jenny MacDonald’s work, ideal for a Christmas present

For a series of retouched photographs of the aftermath of each meal, she describes how “every plate was licked clean”, and the resulting brightly coloured and smeared circular prints take on the guise of planets or x-rays.

The characteristic bright colours of her work was evident, too, in a pair of collages that blended images of modernist concrete with plant life with a depth of colour that lent it an almost hyperreal character.

By contrast, the gentle pastel colours of Jenny Macdonalds’s painstaking depictions of small objects lend themselves perfectly to a sympathetic, detailed realism.

A couple of her works depicted marbles; the representation of light through glass was particularly impressive. I also liked the Hook and Eyelet, Button and Pin, in which the pin seemed to pierce the background of the picture itself. There you go, original Christmas present sorted for £175.

Home-cooked pigments: one of the works by Ema Mano Epps and Jyoti Bharwani

The curious collaborative work of Ema Mano Epps and Jyoti Bharwani is worth a mention, too.

They collaborate with each other of course, but aspire to collaborate, too, with the earth. From the concept to the framing, their art is consciously sustainable. They mix their own colours – “home-cooked pigments” as they put it, using iron oxide and natural earth pigments. They forage and they recycle. Even the frames are re-used. Their self-described “unapologetic effeminate aesthetic” seems to work; the pieces they create have a quiet, natural beauty.

At the end of the visit, I thanked Paul for helping to make Croydon an even better place than it already is.

Then I picked up my bubble-wrapped limited edition print of Anatomical Sun and carried it home.

If you are stuck for an original Christmas present for someone you love very much (in my case it was myself), you could do worse than visit the little Aladdin’s cave that is Croydon Art Space.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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