Art That Reads Between The Lines At Touchstones Rochdale

By Tristan Parker | 14 December 2006
Picture shows a piece of art constructed of textiles, buttons and books.

Betty Pepper 'The Memoirs of a Dressmaker' (detail). Photo courtesy Touchstones © the artist

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Rochdale Observer, a series of exhibitions entitled Start Spreading the News has been organised at Touchstones Rochdale. Read Between the Lines, which runs until March 11 2007, is part of this series.

The exhibition focuses on three separate artists, Betty Pepper, Cheryl Pilling and Fiona Zobole, who all use text as a key medium in their work. Betty Pepper uses ‘orphaned’ books from charity shops to house and create stories about her handmade textile jewellery.

The series, which she calls ‘Book Keeping’, explores ideas about how stories and characters are created and also examines the physical journey undertaken by books as they are passed from owner to owner. Her work, which reveals the way an ordinary book cover can be transformed, is the very embodiment of the old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover.’

Picture shows a book sculpted into a jagged concertina shape.

Cheryl Pilling 'Zigzag'. Photo courtesy Touchstones © the artist

Cheryl Pilling’s work focuses on our familiarity with books, and how such everyday objects can be turned into unusual and intriguing forms. This is achieved by folding and cutting pages of the books to transform them into three-dimensional sculptures.

The text of the book then becomes illegible and Cheryl’s sculptures force the viewer to focus not on the meaning of text, but on the decorative function that it serves, thereby distorting our ideas about the function of books.

Fiona Zobole uses her own visual impairment as an inspiration to create large layers of screen-printed text in neutral colours. Her work explores the accessibility, or lack thereof for some, of printed text, and challenges the sighted viewer to explore an everyday format in an unusually tactile way.

Picture shows part of a printed canvas with jumbled raised lettering.

Fiona Zobole '20-20 vision'. Photo courtesy Touchstones © the artist

The text that Fiona prints onto canvas can be seen by the naked eye, but is not recognisable in a familiar way, so the viewer must temporarily enter Fiona’s world and use the sense of touch and a distorted perception of sight, to explore the work.

Each of the artists use text to put across a different personal message and although this is done in different ways, a common theme of the exhibition is the manipulation of the familiar. All three bodies of work require the viewer to engage with text in a unique and tactile way.

Visitors to the exhibition can also create their own origami sculpture, inspired by the work on display.

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