Winding my way around the narrow streets of Lyme Regis in Dorset on a dark November evening my mind fills with fantasies and dreams of such a seaside town entwined with reading the first passage of Dylan Thomas’s novel Under Milk Wood;
A moonless night in the small town, starless and bible black, the cobble streets, silent…A Slow, black crowblack, fishingboat-bobbing sea.
The streets are virtually empty; holiday makers have long gone back to their boxes in the cities. I’m not here to enjoy the fantastic, dramatic views or to walk along the cobb in the dark hours; tempting as it is to feel and hear the waves crash so close that I could taste the salt in the air. No, I am longing to get out of the dark night into the welcoming gleam emitting from the Town Mill Gallery that draws me nearer with every step I take. I’ve come here to view Fran Norton’s work on the opening night of her current exhibition, ‘Unbound’, which runs from 26th November 2011 – 3rd January 2012.
Fran is an artist who submerges her very soul into her work. Her subtle and exquisite mark makings using a bradawl and other such implements which she uses to gouge into pure white paper are sculptural in their execution. These delicate drawings contain such a relationship with her emotions and the time taken with their creation that they are almost a metaphor for her very breath, they become part of her. The viewer is drawn to step closer and closer to the work; each step reveals other subtle marks not apparent at first. I find this series at once entrancing and calming.
A second almost opposing set of images on show are from her Lick series. Moving from the subtle sculpturing with sharp instruments these prints are created from prints of the tongues of large animals such as cows, pigs and sheep. During the process of creation there is a direct connection between the tongue and paper, as it is rolled across the virginal white surface; the marks of the animal’s individual characteristics, its consequent life, its death and butchering as the tongue is ripped from its mouth are drawn upon the surface. There is an uncanny gentleness within these works which by their very nature of the tongue being separated from the body are actually signifying the brutal death of the animal. Again Fran has succeeded in submitting to paper the very essence of the animals being.
Fran’s art is unique and holds within each piece an original performance of life and what it means to exist and die. If you can’t get to see this show do visit her website for more information about her work; http://www.frannorton.net