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No. 5.

Critical Review: ‘Pip Dickens: New Work’ Leeds Student Newspaper

By Claire Naylor

Exhibition:  ‘Pip Dickens - New Works'
Solo Exhibition  | The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery, University of Leeds

"In appreciating and celebrating a lost art, Dickens has in fact created her own, full of life in vibrant, rich technicolor"

Thought shawls were only for your Nan? Think again. Pip Dickens’ oil paintings, in The Stanley and Audrey Burton Gallery, are inspired by the Kashmir Shawl Collection from The University of Leeds International Textiles Archive. The exhibition forms part of an ongoing celebration of Sir Michael Sadler’s artistic legacy here at Leeds University.

The history behind the shawls is echoed in Dickens’ work. After being discovered by Europeans in the 18th Century, the shawls became fashionable and British mills quickly imitated the style. However, as with all fashions, they fell out of popularity in the late 19th Century. This, coupled with a devastating famine in India, resulted in the loss of a traditional craftsmanship. A subsequent sense of isolation and upset is projected onto the ‘botehs’ or the paisley motifs that feature in her work. They appear almost human, as bowed and weeping figures or companions. Dickens also uses a grid like pattern of stripes and backgrounds of woven cloth, upon which sit her botehs. In Fabricator, a small curled boteh sits alone, conveying the idea of a prison, its trail of thread could be a chain attached to bars.

However, for all this sad history and deep thinking, her paintings really are joyous to look at. In appreciating and celebrating a lost art, Dickens has in fact created her own, full of life in vibrant, rich technicolor. A prime example being Mother and Child; as threads entwine a flame headed boteh, inside which is a squashed heart shape, energy radiates from it like an orange and pink sun. Moreover, the texture Dickens crafts using thick paint gives a marbled effect, making the botehs to appear as glass, shimmering with light.

If only there were more paintings in this feast of colour and vivacity, to counteract those winter blues.

Detail from ‘Dreams Nascent’, oil on canvas, copyright Pip Dickens

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