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In this, our  International Marquetry Exhibitions series, we bring you a report on an amazing one woman Marquetry Exhibition put on at the end of last year by highly talented Spanish Marquetry Society member Susan Bart at the prestigious Stowe School Art Gallery residing in the leafy county of Buckinghamshire.

The exhibition was a highly qualified success and introduced a great many future influential people in the shape of the students, their parents and copious visitors to the wonders of marquetry in conventional and advanced artistic forms.

We featured a preview of Susan’s exhibition in the Winter edition of the Marquetarian magazine and told you that you were going to see something very special in the medium of marquetry in the very next edition, so here it is.


We start with the piece on the left below entitled “Portfolio” which is in the form of a book in that it is hinged and holds the marquetry decorated illustrated ‘pages’ within its own covers. A very clever and unique way of applying marquetry to an art form.¬†
Portfolio
Portfolio

Susan’s personal approach to marquetry moves on from the conventional ‘copyist’s’ approach to the art (not craft in Susan’s case) and investigates and explores completely new avenues from where marquetry can move on to today and in the future.

For too long marquetry has been rather, shall we say, staid and hidebound in only accepting wooden interpretations of other peoples work originally done in paint and print as marquetry art.

Anything new in approach and vision has unwittingly been viewed with suspicion and (we are again, afraid to say) quite often rejected as “not true marquetry” - but we have been wrong, we have unfortunately condemned marquetry, without knowing it, to becoming no more than a craft, we have not allowed it to truly flourish and become an accepted artistic discipline.

We have done this ourselves and we have almost stifled any chances of marquetry being adopted as a true art form.

Susan however does not accept any of those restrictions and she gallantly pushes the boundaries of marquetry to its limits. She doesn’t do this blindly and without any knowledge of what such approaches could herald for marquetry. Indeed Susan’s vision of what marquetry could eventually become is fully backed up by her academic qualifications.

Su at Stowe School
Susan welcomes visitors and guests to her marquetry exhibition

Susan is a Bachelor of Fine Arts, has a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Industrial Design, has studied Modern Art history at St. Martins College of Art & Design in London, and has invested valuable study time in several more periods of tuition under the guidance of various international artists throughout Europe.

So as you can see, Susan doesn’t approach marquetry without knowing what the art world will desire of it in its artistic ambitions.

Flowing elements feature heavily in Susan’s work. Intertwined curves balance gracefully with geometrical angular supporting structures for her decorative marquetry designs and make for some unique styles of applied marquetry.

Much of Susan’s work displays a 3D appearance. This is deliberate and it takes marquetry into realms it has feared to previously venture into.

Even the title illustration for this article shows us what this 3D approach to marquetry can do. Don’t you feel it adds an interesting depth to the picture?

In the past some marquetarians have tentatively attempted to “dip their toes” into the tricky depths of textural or innovative marquetry, but it has generally come to naught when they have ventured to enter it into a National Exhibition. However, with Susan’s important Marquetry Exhibition at prestigious Stowe School, this interesting form of marquetry has gained an important level of recognition in the upper realms of the conventional art world. Don’t forget that Stowe School produces many established artists of world renown.
Large Mural
'Mural'
(Note the door and the ceiling, this is a very large marquetry work!)
Marquetry needs all the help it can get if it wants to become recognised as a true art form in its own right. Susan has certainly done us proud with her exhibition.

An exhibition such as this demonstrates to the world that marquetry is willing to experiment and venture into new forms and disciplines, it can be adventurous!
The Exhibition Opening
Susan Bart's Marquetry Exhibition Opening at Stowe School Art Gallery

Although Susan can and does produce conventional marquetry she likes to investigate the extremes and limitations marquetry can venture into. Applied work in unusual forms (at least to our eyes) makes up a lot of Susan’s work. A good example is this piece on the left below which Susan titles “Cequia”.

Cequia

A first impression of "Cerquia" is that it is a collection of curves and angles, but when you study it closely, things become more understandable.

Cequia’ is a form of artistic sculpture (Susan prefers to call it “air art” as the space around the piece is part of the theme of the work) but the structure and shape is actually very important to the integrity of the meaning of the artwork.

Once Susan has completed the base assembly, which is the keynote of the piece, she then applies her marquetry in the normal fashion. Veneers are carefully chosen to complement the theme of the piece and enhance its visual appeal.

The two pieces you see further down on this page are, left: “Seaweed of Wood” and right: “Clef of H(Susan invented a new musical key!)

They both make use of Susan’s “air art” theme where the space around each element of the work is as important as the work itself.

You have to appreciate that the space surrounding the wooden forms has as much importance in the appreciation of the work as does the solid elements of each piece itself.

Seaweed
Seaweed of Wood
Clef
Clef of H
The natural flow seen in each of the marquetry pieces is carefully planned and designed by Susan long before the work itself gets underway. Many drawings and designs are considered and evaluated in preparation for the final template drawing which will form the basis of the actual work.

Many extra skills are required for this form of marquetry work. For a start there is the wood bending process to consider.

Now, if you read the first part of world famous bespoke furniture builder Paul Schurch’s article in the Winter edition of the Marquetarian describing how he goes about making that impressive bespoke furniture of his, you will see just how difficult it can be to make pieces incorporating unique shapes deriving from the basic wooden format.

All of that bending requires things like steam and formers to make the wood pliable enough to take on shapes.

Susan uses incredible levels and styles of ‘bends’ in her work, some even crossing over others!

To achieve this takes tremendous skill and knowledge of the materials you are using for your art. So not only is Susan promising to be an artist who uses unusual materials for her art, she is also a cabinet making woodworker as well, how about that for a mixture of skills and art?

Fira
Fira
Swan
Swan

The piece on the left, which Susan titles “Swan” is a particular favourite of ours. It is a rather large piece, but is very decorative and most pleasing to the eye.

All of the marquetry pieces displayed on this page appeared at Susan’s Stowe School Art Gallery Exhibition and were much admired by all the visitors to the exhibition.

The photo a few levels above showing the opening of the exhibition demonstrates how popular the exhibition was. At first, many visitors were unsure of what marquetry really was; but after viewing Susan’s exhibition they soon realised that marquetry is a lot more than just furniture decoration.

Of great interest was the magnificent piece seen from two slightly different views below. This is titled “Structure of Thinking” and it uses all of the techniques Susan has developed and mastered over many years of experimentation.

Structure of Thinking Structure of Thinking

As this short review of Susan’s Marquetry Exhibition demonstrates, you don’t need to keep to a standard formula, you can venture into new areas of marquetry and reap a most rewarding level of success.

So, to summarise, as you can see from Susan's example, you don’t need to feel intimidated by marquetry’s conventions, you are indeed allowed to try new styles and forms of marquetry if you wish to.

Marquetry isn’t just flat surfaces and decorated tables and furniture, it can be an art form of exquisite beauty.

Susan has proved that marquetry has the ability to take on a completely new form that the art world would recognise as true art. They certainly could not claim any copyist elements in these pieces!

Marquetry such as Susan produces is still a new concept, but it is already gaining notoriety and is building up its own following of enthusiastic collectors. Before too many moons have passed we will be seeing such things as Susan's "Air Art Marquetry" becoming a norm which others will endeavour to replicate, but Susan's work is the original in this art form.

We hope you enjoy Susan's work as much as we do, we think you will find it is most pleasing to the eye - enjoy!


For more of Susan's work click these links to visit her own dedicated website galleries:

For flat series gallery: http://www.susanbart.com/flat_series_gallery.html

For relief work gallery: http://www.susanbart.com/relief_series_gallery.html

For air series gallery: http://www.susanbart.com/air_series_gallery.html

 

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