Lace and war artefacts inspire UWE artist

Issue date: 21 November 2008

Cryptocephalus by Nicola Donovan Cryptocephalus
Whitehall Gallery Milton Keynes 15 November to 11 January 2009

A Visiting Lecturer from the University of the West of England has fused her skills in the craft of lace making with inspiration from the history of code breaking at Bletchley Park for her first solo exhibition. The exhibition entitled 'Cryptocephalus' is taking place at the Whitewall Gallery in Milton Keynes from 15 November to 11 January 2009.

The Whitehall Gallery is situated in close proximity to Bletchley Park, a site that has shaped modern history. Nicola Donovan has used artefacts such as genuine World War II gas masks and blended these with antique and modern lace. In the forward to the catalogue, UWE colleague and artist Deborah Southerland, describes how the techniques of code breakers and lace makers are so complimentary – “... code breakers cerebral and cognitive methods are similar to those found in complex knitting and lace making.

“The methods and motifs brought together for Cryptocephalus are intended to speak to people and events connected to the area; lace workers, wartime brides, home guards, wrens and code breakers.”

Nicola Donovan describes her work, “My work is generated from research undertaken at Bletchley Park Museum and The Cowper Museum Lace collection. It is meticulously made using pins and deconstructed antique and modern lace. I made links between encryption/codes/decryption, and the process of bobbin lace making which is traditional to the North Buckinghamshire area in which the gallery and Museums are located.

“Imagining the lives of people who worked at Bletchley Park during WW2 and how it must have been for them during this time has informed much of the imagery. The works are fairly large scale, 120x120cms and use latex paint as the base. The work references craft techniques which, pre industrialisation were particular to women and girls.

“The show is special to me as it is an opportunity to 'voice' my interest and empathy with the past.”

The exhibition has received sponsorship from John Lewis who have provided the gallery space and contributed financially to the fee and costs of the exhibition.


Editor's notes

For a PDF file of the exhibition catalogue please contact the UWE Press Office.

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