The elephant in the room: Cause and Effect at the NCCD

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Meandering through the streets of Sleaford lined with quaint old shops and eateries I came across the National Centre for Craft & Design perched on the banks of the River Slea. There aren’t many museums or galleries I know of that you can opt to reach via a tiny bridge. Even fewer with a rooftop gallery and two outdoor observation decks, from which you can enjoy almost 360˚ views of the town. We were visiting to see the current Cause and Effect exhibition my mother had raved about the week before and how kind the staff were for taking leaflets for our touring theatre company.

Cause and Effect  explores eleven artists’ responses to adversity. The selected artists in this exhibition (including Neil Brownsword, Luke Jerram, James Maskrey, Claire Morgan, Paul Scott, Julian Stair and Emma Woffenden) take inspiration from personal tragedies, international disasters and unfortunate events, sometimes of a more light hearted nature.

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The first piece which caught my eye was Emotional Leak  by Jeffrey Sarmiento and Erin Dickson. Like the elephant in the room, this tall, black monolith of a sculpture refuses to be ignored. 291 pieces of waterjet cut float glass appear to emanate from the ceiling, undulating and pooling on the gallery floor. Jeffrey and Erin share a fascination with cultural and emotional connections in architecture which they explore through their personal perceptions of space and the philosophy of home. In this sculpture they have visualised what might happen if an ‘emotional leak’ were to burst in the architecture, releasing a bubbling surge of glass; a physical manifestation of the ominous atmosphere within the room.

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Standing silently nearby were the two ethereal forms of Memory I & II  by Annie Cattrell. Annie is drawn to the poetry of where art and science meet. She works closely in dialogue with specialists in neuroscience, meteorology, engineering, psychiatry and the history of science. Memory I & II  were made using brain scan data which relates to the anatomy, shape and location of the hippocampus and amygdala, the structures that support the functions of emotion and memory. The sculptures were cast in a creamy-white aggregate that resembles onyx; peering inside the forms we find the hippocampus and amygdala surfaced with silver. This silvered quality reflects the light and it appears as though memory and emotion are glowing with life. 


With so many striking installations and sculptural pieces around you it’s forgivable that you may not immediately notice the sweet melting ice creams of Anna Barlow winking at you from the corners of the room. Anna Barlow uses moulds, slab building techniques and glazes to create what she calls “visual edibility”. She is fascinated by the rituals we have developed around food, particularly celebratory or indulgent treats and the way they are assembled, displayed, then eaten. And there is no more momentary dessert than ice cream. Yet here, these melting dreams have been frozen in time, allowing us to recall our own fond memories of a cooling ice cream on a hot summer day, incite our desires for a naughty treat and perhaps even remember the misfortune of when the sweet temptation is lost, never to be enjoyed.

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Cause and Effect  will be exhibiting at the National Centre for Craft & Design in Sleaford until the 18th September. The centre also hosts a whole array of courses and workshops for both children and adults so do check out their website!

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