” ROSES in JANUARY ? “2020

“Roses in January?” 2020. Now showing in Coimbra Central Portugal at Casa da Mutualidade, Galeria de Arte e Centro do Mutualidade, Rua Dr.º Manuel Rodrigues, n.º 5, 3000-258 Coimbra GPS 40,213876 -8,432092

Opening hours, Monday to Friday excepting Monday 5th October which is a national holiday here in Portugal. The exhibition finishes on Thursday 29th October 2020. The gallery opening hours are 9am -12.30 pm, closed for lunch 12.30 until 14.00, then open 14pm until 18.30pm


Fascinated by local legends, museum artifacts and their historical context, first in the UK and now in Portugal Roses in January? 2020 extends work first exhibited at the Recordatorio Rainha Santa Isabel / Afredo Bastos Coimbra, Central Portugal in 2019.

Ponto Sombra/Connecting Threads 2019 was a mixture of work created in the UK and latterly Portugal. Almost as an afterthought to the main exhibits, blue and white paper rose constructions were placed around the bases of the statues of Rainha Santa Isabel connecting the works on display with the museum

The legend of the Miracle of the Roses According to legend of the so-called Miracle of the Roses. Rainha Santa Isabel left her castle deep in the winter to distribute bread, concealed in her cloak, to the poor. Challenged by the king (who did not approve of her charitable work) Rainha Santa Isabel declared that she was carrying only roses. Suspicious, the king exclaimed, “Roses? In January?” Upon opening her cloak roses were revealed.

“Cloaked in the security of darkness” is a phrase which connects the Legend of the Roses with a more universal narrative about covering up the body to disguise, or to camouflage, someone or something from public view. A blanket of secrecy and concealment, capes can also seen as a symbol of humility, whereby the wearer of a cape can choose to disguise class differences between the higher and lower echelons in society.

Featured Works from the exhibition — Roses in January? 2020

Shadow Play (2019) A series of large scale visual studies in monochrome. Rose shadows, extended, elongated, small sections scaled up or down. Developed into images for wood block printing and applied for example to the large scale abstracted cape forms in Cloaked in Darkness (2020). The strong light and contrasting dark shadows of southern Europe, taken out of context and adding another layer of intrigue and visual disorientation to the secretive night-time journeys of Isabel.

Roses in January? (2019/2020). Three related panels, resembling a strange, ethereal landscape from an ancient era. constructed from handmade silk papers, stitched, block printed, hand-manipulated, distressed silk papers. Silk fibres speak both of luxury and earthiness. Spun silk with its lustrous sheen contrasts with the rough to handle, unprocessed gummy silk cocoon strippings. A metaphor for the poor and richer members of society, symbolic of royal hands that brought sustenance to the poor.

Fade to Nothing (2020) following on from Roses in January? (2019/2020) camouflaged mutant hand shapes, some still showing evidence of disintegrating gloves, looking like finds from an archaeological dig, all things returning to the earth from where they came. Silk paper shapes were hand stitched and block printed in off-whites onto the natural shades of the silk paper: manipulated and distorted, the hand shapes fade into the landscape-like background.

Cloaked in Darkness (2020) is an installation constructed entirely in monochrome. These stark, flattened, mysterious shapes owe their existence, firstly, to the traditional heavy capes and incredible oversized hoods from the Açores. The catalyst for this piece of work was an extraordinary graphical image of a shadow of a hooded cape photographed against a white wall.

Life-sized patterns of cloaks and hooded shapes were cut in multiples using various papers; some transparent, others opaque. Deconstructed, reconstructed and re-interpreted, transforming them to create a contemporary artwork worked in modern textile materials, block-printed patterns derived from elongated rose shadows. Strong imagery expressing a feeling of beauty but also very dark in mood.

Mutant Roses (2020) is the link with Ponto Sombra/Connecting Threads (2019), Ruth’s previous exhibition at the Recordatorio Rainha Santa Isabel/Afredo Bastos Coimbra, Portugal.

Here, distorted, mutant, three-dimensional rose-like constructions in unreal and modified colours, Strung together or displayed as garlands in nightmarish colour combinations, we are reminded that a pure blue rose does not exist in nature unless genetically engineered.

Ruth Lee October 2020.