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Skeleton Socks Carly Ralph © Tom Jarvis

Skeleton Socks Carly Ralph © Tom Jarvis

Second Use – exhibition of the old, the discarded and the beautiful

The medium artists chose to work with is always interesting. Two local artists, Carly Ralph and Lynne Bingham work in similar ways as they celebrate, the old, the disused, unwanted artefacts and give them new life in a way that the things themselves could never have imagined. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths visited their exhibition at Hastings Arts Forum to see how their differences and similarities come together. 

Carly and Lynne’s work is very different but somehow it chimes together, although with a different beat. They both love discarded, once loved objects with their patina, signs of use; materials that have existed in another context and were designed for another function have been repurposed into their art. Hence the title of the show Second Use.

Masquerade Lynne Bingham

Masquerade Lynne Bingham

Lynne explains: “The materials act as a trigger and start the creative process. By putting things together that don’t originally belong you see a new set of possibilities and a new meaning emerges.”

Lynne finds her materials in junk and charity shops, people give her things they think she might like; things that were useful but have fallen into disuse. In Lynne’s experience, “Something like an abacus, when introduced to architectural figures, becomes a new world. Due to the scale of the figures the abacus becomes architectural and the placement of the figures becomes significant. They can be used to illustrate human behaviour in some form.”

She likes “to tell a story about human frailties”. She also observes the passing of time, books are altered to reflect their titles or themes. She seals part of the book as the past that cannot be returned to, the right-hand side, the ‘unread’ pages, represents the future. The Specimens series is beautiful remains: bones, vertebrae trace an existence. Her work is also playful as she assembles a wry look at our lives: like a circuit board is a seductive, sparkling gem, but lurking under the surface are prying eyes peering ominously out.

Tidal Tablet Carly Ralph © Tom Jarvis

Tidal Tablet Carly Ralph © Tom Jarvis

Mining the seashore

Carly mines the seashore to find flotsam and jetsam washed up on the beach: plastics worn and transformed by the sea, rusty metal hinges, chains, nails. Going through her archive Carly found a very early piece of work she had made about the archaeology and geology of the Stade. She now realises that is what she does, tracing the culture, erosion – liminal area – of the shoreline.

She excavates washed-up finds from the sea. One great treasure she literally excavated was a sailing boat tarpaulin; once red, now long faded, torn, mended, battered and buried in the shingle. It took her several months, surreptitiously, often at night unearthing this huge sail to mark its existence. A life lived.

Carly has created a seascape out of washed-up plastic, emotive, meditative, strong and lyrical. She has made little skeletal, ghost socks – a tribute to the washerwomen who made, washed and mended clothes down the road in Lavateria. She also celebrates the workmen who created the glow that is Bottle Alley.

Both artists are recycling, giving objects a new perspective. New lives, stories. And memories.

Carly and Lynne have similarities in their background; both were teachers. Carly, a senior lecturer at Central Saint Martins College of Art, returned to her home town of Hastings after giving up teaching. Lynne migrated down from Manchester. After raising a family and teaching locally, she followed her passion and returned to art school at Brighton University, graduating with a BA in Fine Art.

Vanity Fair Lynne Bingham

Vanity Fair Lynne Bingham

Natural storytellers

Both are natural storytellers – it is no surprise to learn that Lynne is writing a novel. They both admit to having conversations with their work. I can see them talking animatedly to their creations. And their creations talk back. Carly explains: “When you go back to view the work the next day, there is always something different to say and the art  itself is often saying something different.”

It has been an exciting and intriguing collaboration. They have had hours of conversation. This has allowed them to come to a deeper level of understanding of what they are subconsciously creating – which was not, previously, completely understood.

Two artists coming from different disciplines have found common ground. The individual artist’s installations are not displayed separately but come together to highlight their similarities as well as their differences. Carly and Lynne’s art dovetails together and informs the other. There is much to look at and explore: a depth of intellect, experience and curiosity in both artists’ work. And narrative.

It is a layered, exciting, intriguing and creative exhibition.


Second Use is on until 4 August at Hastings Arts Forum, 36 Marina, St Leonards-on-Sea TN38 0BU. Open Tuesday-Sunday, 11am-5pm.

Jess Levine is also exhibiting her beautiful abstract drawings, paintings and collages.


Posted 15:10 Thursday, Jul 25, 2019 In: Visual Arts

Also in: Visual Arts

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