We love letters here at Creative Towers. No one except the bank ever sends us one. And so I was rather looking forward to the latest exhibition on at the Malt Cross’s Henderson Gallery – The Imagery of Letters.
The tiny gallery space hosts a small group of artists who each produced some pictures inspired by letters and keepsakes from the First World War. There seemed such care and detail in some of the items sent through the post in those days – delicate sketches, illustrated cards and so on. Even the writing and the old paper seems to offer an aesthetic experience.
I found something fascinating or moving in each one. Corinne Lee-Cooke’s mixed media collages were delicate and haunting, and her collection and translation of letters home from a French officer to his wife were terribly sweet. There’s something about sight of old letters, handwritten in a spidery hand that immediately draws you in to read them. The voyeur in all of us perhaps wants to stumble across an old secret, a shared memory or a loving word. Yet these often talked about the weather and other mundane details – driven by necessity or boredom perhaps.
Christopher Cooke’s simple silhouette line was a striking way to echo those images we all have when we think of the First World War, and his pencils from shell cartridges reminded me of the grisly keepsakes made from later wars that I’ve seen in movies.
I especially liked Emma Eratt’s embroidery piece. Drawing on the sewn pieces that were often sent at the time, she chose to do a piece in cross stitch and applique, flowers and curling lettering. Yet the words shield the truth that a wife may have felt, rather than said to her husband on the front line: “Can’t help but feel a little anxious dear.” Perhaps it was a line offered to the neighbours when they enquired, or at the end of a letter.
The exhibition runs until 25 May – do stop in and have a look, it’s well worth a visit.
Malt Cross Cafe bar and event venue centre, St James St, Nottingham