Exhibition visit: Free Words at Mayfair Public Library

When I went to the Free Words exhibition at Mayfair Public Library it was a grey Friday evening, and consequently did not see the works at their best. It was the last day of the main show, and the artwork seemed to have been forgotten in a rather drab-feeling, unloved public-sector space on the top floor. Sumer Erek’s work, Newspaper House, was in an unadvertised and unlit side room which looked as if no-one ever went in there. The stairway and main exhibition space was dominated by Marko Stepanov’s fifteen life-size photographs of individual activists at Hyde Park’s Speakers Corner, clearly consistent with the exhibition’s main theme. Quieter but more thought-provoking were Marisol Cavia’s paper sculptures, the most striking ones having been created from intricately-cut prayer books – including a chandelier-like creation which hung in the stairwell.

Francesca Cho - Tree of WordsFrancesca Cho - Tree of WordsAround the main exhibition space, affixed to the windows, were Francesca Cho’s ‘stained glass’ drawings Fruit of Words and Tree of Words, (coloured pencil on tracing paper). Aimed at children, they contained Ghandi’s adage: ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’ – a couple of words from the motto were inscribed on each of the panels, so that as you walked around the room the pictures told a story. Deceptively simple in style, yet nevertheless containing a powerful message. In a welcome attempt at education and multiculturalism, some of the panels contained Hangeul script as well as English (above left – click to enlarge), and one afternoon earlier in the week Cho had spent an hour in a workshop with local school children explaining her work and encouraging the children to explore their own responses, which were displayed in the library the following week.

Francesca Cho - A Little Dream Garden 1Francesca Cho - A Little Dream Garden 2Westminster Library porchway

Francesca Cho’s Little Dream Garden, tucked in to the porchway either side of the front door, looked somewhat dark and forlorn when I visited, a consequence of the time of day: with the candles unlit, the work was full of potential, but without the magic and spirituality that the work takes on as soon as the flames are brought to life. Presumably a combination of cost and the potential fire hazard meant that the work could not be seen at its best the whole time. The use of feathers hung on nylon threads suspended above the candles seemed to symbolise free-floating spirits waving in the breeze.

Fortunately Jo Seong-hee visited the exhibition at a more auspicious time (or took her own matches) and fully captured the impact of the installation, as it was intended to be experienced.

Francesca Cho - A Little Dream Garden 1Francesca Cho - A Little Dream Garden 2Francesca Cho - A Little Dream Garden

Peaceful and uplifting.

Free Words was at Mayfair Public Library 15 – 31 July 2008. Francesca Cho’s installation was sponsored by Rolawn, and mentioned on their blog here.

Photo credits: images with candles lit, plus top right “stained glass” picture are all by Jo Seong-hee.

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