A review of Poppy Moore's exhibition - from Poppy Moore’s TRAY SCHOOL
ROAR! gallery, Wellington
24 April – 10 May 2008
Poppy Moore is a friend and colleague, so I am quite familiar with her work. She crosses creative disciplines freely, her well-crafted work layered in meaning and execution. I had seen beginnings of '
in her home—viewed as a large group the visual impact was impressive. The painted letters and punctuation marks on variously coloured wooden serving trays arranged as words and statements are pleasantly eye-catching. Letters are chosen to complement the tray shapes, and trays hunted to fit necessary letters. The colours are 1960s, vintage match for the dishes.
This all began with Poppy’s response to John Donne’s poetry in the film 'Wit' by Mike Nichols, and a small wooden tray in the shape of a comma from the nearby Dump Shop. The comma after death indicates that there is more, with death a pause and not the end of life. Poppy quotes ‘Death and Life are in the power of the tongue’ from the Bible’s Book of Proverbs. Hence 'POWERTOOLS': small things with great potential for good, or destruction. She likens the tongue to a ship’s rudder, another biblical reference.
Poppy is a private person and reluctant to be seen or heard publicly. She admits to having once contemplated being voluntarily mute, but here some thoughts and beliefs are on bold display. 'Life death (,)' as Power, ‘true ffibs:’ for 'A True Word', and 'Let your speech be better than Silence' (Dionysius Exiguus) can speak volumes. The letters ‘me’ on wooden spoons for 'Self Serving' and ‘paws for Pause' might provoke thought or amusement. And 'TRAY SCHOOL' offers another word quirk.
Although the words on the painted trays have obvious literal meaning, Poppy does not lecture her audience. At the opening, guests enjoyed her yummy home-made alphabet biscuits. Poppy had served H O P E at a Pablos Studio workshop, but this time she brought random edible letters so partakers could choose their own words. Poppy has learnt from using her tongue destructively, here she shares words creatively and thoughtfully. Her message is quite clear—it is about choices. She writes:
Will I use my tongue as a firing gun or a glass of water?
Will I tear down or build up?
Will I bind or loose?
What shall I serve you for lunch? A lie or truth? Life or Death?
What will I eat? What will I believe? What will I become?
In presentation, perhaps the main wall was rather full in the modest space with 'Let your speech be better than Silence' serene in colour and well placed to the side. I puzzled awhile about stray letters in 'Bollocks!' and 'Numbo Jumbo', obtuse by design. 'Mouthy Soap Box' and 'Hard to Swallow' are plastic bathroom soap trays, contrasting with the wood. They sat a little uneasily in the collection, but their visceral, even menacing look brought home that this was about spoken words, irretrievable and potentially dangerous. Poppy says, 'In this light I wrote a Maker’s Caution for Tongue Owners: "Careless use can ground large ships and set forests on fire. Used wisely, your tongue will bless and bring life. Consult manual before operating."’
Poppy Moore, designer as artist, philosopher, poet, and biscuit-maker, I salute you. She does not serve these words lightly, they come from a faith tested and grown.
Reviewed and written by Anne Marie Verbeek
'POWERTOOLS' was part of the group exhibition 'Insert thoughts: designer as artist'.
Other exhibitors were Peter Marmot, Chris Barrand, Paul Bradley, Shar Young, Sam Broad, Kiran X and Steve Templer.
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