After an inspirational evening at the Backlit gallery, participating in a Backrit the piece I cannot get out of my mind is Liz Sparks’ collection of hand-made fruit. Almost like walking into the kitchen of a rural farmhouse, purposefully selected foods are arranged and abandoned. On the wall hangs a sewn bag containing corn, a bit of which is escaping, a wooden table roughly covered with a white sheet holds woven, fabric foods delicately placed as though expectant of company. A furry pear on a doily blurs the boundary between our knowledge and our experience. A soft corn on the cob, defined by wire confuses the senses, for what we expect of the natural –nourishment and decay – has become unnatural.
A lingering sense of an unknown narrative pervades the piece, leaving the viewer questioning who has laid the table. Why have these particular foods been laid out so precisely? Each item seems to assume significance, separated out onto plates. Their distinctness suggests ritual and importance; a lone pear, three eggs in a thick plastic bag, categorised perhaps as the first fruits of the harvest. A thank offering for the golden goods that the mysterious owner has collected. This time, however, the fruits are eternal. Timeless and inedible, these synthetic objects will always be. Not deliberately part of the gallery’s exhibition ‘Hyper-Real’, Liz’s work still manages to depict a distorted reality where something so ordinary now defies what we know.
The combination of domesticity and the use of craft seem overtly feminine. The use of nature, the home, and the materials suggest a gender specific domain. Within this sphere the woman has roles and control, the poem in conjunction with this piece lists the tasks which were needed to end up with such produce, with words like ‘tied’, ‘boxed’, and ‘wrapped’. These words could be understood as the oppression of women, she is subject to these aggressive terms. The repetitive tasks become a chain to her freedom, yet all she has in response is not violence but soft fabrics and wool. The poem can also be interpreted as signifying the importance of the processes which have led to this piece, an older and gentile way of life, where the earth and its fruits were an integral part of a human’s life. The laid table then becomes a conclusion of the systems such as gathering, washing and storing, much like the final article at the end of a production line. In contrast, one could place a stainless steel table with Tesco’s pack of five bagged evenly sized pears, a box of six free range standardised eggs, frozen corn on the cob and a bag of ground refined flour ready to use. The way of life depicted in Liz’s scene of natural domestic provision has been abandoned.
In a world away from the hustle of Nottingham’s centre, Backlit contains treasures to be unpacked and discovered, a trove of unusual delights to inspire the mind.
Written By: Marie Betts, History of Arts Student, University of Nottingham