Exhibition October 2020: Central Portugal

“Roses in January?” 2020

My exhibition is now closed. Thank you to everyone who visited Casa da Mutualidade, Galeria de Arte e Centro do Mutualidade, Rua Dr.º Manuel Rodrigues, n.º 5, 3000-258 Coimbra Central Portugal


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.


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.

The installation comprises five individual pieces: each piece made from two elements which can be displayed in different groupings.
Total length 120 /180cm, width at the widest part 60 cm narrowing to approximately 45cm, extending outwards from the wall where appropriate to 40/45 cm.

Cut and constructed from high tech materials: Lutrador, Tyvek, Zeelon in various weights and degrees of opacity.

Making techniques included layering. surface manipulation and stitch to create relief surfaces. Hand printed patterns, from woodblocks hand-cut by the artist and printed by hand on a screw top book press.

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.

Shadow Play 2018 and 2019

A series of five large scale visual studies in monochrome. Dimensions including frames are 110cm x 80cm for the four largest pieces and 90cm x 70cm for the remainder. Media includes graphite pencils and sticks in varying degrees of hardness and softness. 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. See above. 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, 200cms long and 70 cms in width, 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.

Some more images of selected areas: detail of hand stitching, scrim layered over hand made silk papers, wood block prints onto lutrador, laser cut lutrador layered over silk papers.

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. Dimensions: length 200cm length x 70cm width

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, Central Portugal. Constructed from distressed and stitched handmade silk papers, laser cut Lutrador, bark cloth, block-printed and distressed Tyvek using a small soldering iron: this piece resembles a strange, ethereal landscape from an ancient era. Silk fibres speak both of luxury and earthiness. This multi layered piece measures 200cm in length and 70cm wide.

The piece is overlaid with a string of free hanging. three-dimensional, distressed rose-like constructions in unreal colours of blues and whites reflecting the cold and decay of roses blossoms in January. Measuring 120cm in length, each rose is approximately 12 to 14cm in diameter. The image below shows an alternative placement for this string of roses.

Black Roses and More 2020

Mutant roses in a dark colour story. Rubbings from hand carved wood blocks, layered and worked on the front and backside of various surfaces. Three pieces were included in the show. Dimensions including frames were two at A1 size and one A2 size.