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Three women share their obsession in Norwich exhibition

PUBLISHED: 10:57 14 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:13 14 March 2019

Julia Cameron

Julia Cameron

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Sculptor Vanessa Pooley, painter Mary Mellor and photographer Julia Cameron have spent decades perfecting their art - see the results in a Norwich exhibition.

Mary Mellor   Picture: Pete HugginsMary Mellor Picture: Pete Huggins

Vanessa Pooley has been honing her flowing female sculptures for 40 years. The have been exhibited around the world but this month there is chance to see her work at an exhibition she is sharing with two other Norwich artists.

Art, Obsession and Maturity opens on Friday, March 22, with work by Vanessa, Mary Mellor and Julia Cameron. All three women are in their 60s and admit to being increasingly captivated by a recurring theme.

“It’s an exciting time. Art critics, curators and collectors are suddenly taking notice of older, women artists – many of whom have worked quietly under the radar for many years,” said Vanessa.

Leading art critic Waldemar Januszczak recently wrote “Young is out. Old is in. The YBAs (Young British Artists) are being turfed out by the OBAs. Today, if you want to be a fashionable and successful artist in Britain, my advice is to wait until you are entitled to a bus pass.”

Vanessa PooleyVanessa Pooley

He highlighted the emotional sincerity in their work. “If you are still making art in your 70s, you are doing it because you have to. Older artists are not in the business of doing work to raise their profile or make them look good. They have a deep sincerity and are working on projects and themes that have obsessed them all their creative lives.”

The three Norwich artists are also united by a lifelong passion for a theme.

Vanessa said she has been obsessed with the female figure for 40 years. “I feel guilty that I am going to make yet another female figure but in all honesty it’s the only thing that interests me,” she said. “Even at nursery I remember repeatedly drawing female figures and it has continued as a lifelong obsession. As you mature as an artist you simplify and simplify yet again and you have to be older to realise that less is more. All three of us are working towards knowing more and more about less and less.”

Vanessa’s first solo exhibition was in Southwark Cathedral more than 30 years ago. Her work, in ceramic, silver and bronze, sells around the world and she said: “I have been making larger female figures recently; aiming to hone each work down to the simplest of elements and imbue it with a sense of serenity. The simplest forms are often the most peaceful to the eye because of their lack of complication. They have space around them. One feels this sense that one should keep changing one’s artistic focus – there’s pressure on artists to constantly reinvent themselves. But I have found my voice and I’m concerned to perfect that voice.

Art, obsession and maturity: work by Julia Cameron, Mary Mellor and Vanessa PooleyArt, obsession and maturity: work by Julia Cameron, Mary Mellor and Vanessa Pooley

Mary’s paintings reveal her fascination for the geometry of the rectangle. “People tell me I should move on, so I experiment with other subjects. But, I keep coming back to this same fascination with the geometry of the rectangle that has gripped me for nearly 20 years.” Inspired by a book about composition in art, she became intrigued by its mathematic illustrations. “I began to use the diagrams as an end in themselves, rather than to decide where to place, say, the church tower, or a small but important person, in a figurative composition,” she said.

Her deeply patterned paintings are composed of shapes expanding and contracting, flowing, turning and intersecting.”

Mary Mellor originally trained as a barrister but after having children went to art school in Norwich in her 30s and has worked as an artist ever since. “In each painting my intention is to create a small world that is under tight control and makes sense,” she said. “The outside world, especially in our shifting and turbulent times, is in terrifying flux. In contrast, each of my reliefs is a microcosm of organisation and balance. I never tire of endlessly toying with the geometry of the rectangle.”

Photographer Julia Cameron repeatedly visits the same sparse Norfolk coastal landscapes: “Photography is all about capturing light and these places have a quality that is special: misty, murky and washed out,” she said.

Her work will be on show at The Crypt Gallery at Norwich School later on this month. Picture: Julia CameronHer work will be on show at The Crypt Gallery at Norwich School later on this month. Picture: Julia Cameron

Her pictures break with photographic conventions as she shoots towards the sun, or in drizzle. Some of her favourite views are saltmarshes on wet winter days, and a patch of land between Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach and the outer harbour. “To find the picture you want you must be a hunter, deciding what you are going to capture. It’s all about capturing light and my light is a misty, murky almost pastel light,” said Julia, who began working as a professional photographer after a 34-year career as a teacher and lecturer. “It is an obsession. We have all spent half a century obsessing.”

Art, Obsession and Maturity runs at The Crypt Gallery, Norwich School, The Close, from March 22 to April 5. Monday to Saturday, 9am-5pm.

Seasons in the sun by Mary MellorSeasons in the sun by Mary Mellor

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