Pleasure, Pain & The Liminal Space

Janna Kovak created her installation Between two worlds by digitally projecting florescent light onto two pieces of fabric that she suspended from the ceiling. Visible as I entered the gallery, the work immediately grabbed my attention and encouraged my interaction. The wavering green light beckoned me forward, and as I approached, I was struck by the transparency of the material. It reminded me of the mosquito net that hung over my bed as a child, and provoked by this memory, I stepped through the first veil and into the liminal space.

The liminal space is the point between pleasure and pain, happiness and sadness, the rational and the irrational, the past and the present. We live our lives between these conditions – these personal and emotional states. The exhibition Pleasure, Pain and the Liminal Space brings together the artworks of six female artists to reveal how Art Therapy can help propel people ‘across the threshold, through the liminal space, and into the here and now.’ Each artist explores this process in different ways. From physically creating the liminal space, to depicting what lies on the other side of this space, their highly personal works confront and capture their individual journeys through pain, trauma, and suffering, in search for, and to ultimately find, a new consciousness.

This consciousness is seen in the vibrant canvases and whimsical jewellery of Jessica Edwards. She created these works to help her come to terms with the realities of post-traumatic stress disorder. An all-consuming force, PTSDoften restricted Edwards from seeing the pleasure, beauty, happiness, and strength in her life. Her artworks became a space where she could explore these opposing emotions, as is captured in The Tulip, which references both endings and new beginnings, as well as in her brass jewellery, which features fictional mushroom figures, and explores the void between isolation and togetherness. To complete this body of work, Edwards has cleverly included her grandmother’s mirror. It alludes to the role of her art in reflecting what PTSD masks, and in turn, provides a contemplative space where the viewer is invited to confront their own realities.

The intricate constructions of Melissa Stannard also require the viewer’s in-depth engagement. She uses an assortment of disregarded objects to create challenging works that reflect her personal journey. In Memory Box, Stannard explores a series of painful memories. Reminiscent of a child’s dolls house, it features a selection of familiar items, such as family photographs, vintage rulers, tape measures, clocks, feathers, a birds nest, eggs, nails, bottles, plastic doll parts, crosses, OHT film, cap gun caps, newspapers, and a death certificate. The artist lost her mother when she was two, and her upbringing thus became a period of trauma and homelessness. Memory Box reflects this suffering, whilst also appearing playful and hopeful. This is seen in Stannard’s ability to identify with things that are abandoned and useless, and yet turn them into something with purpose and meaning.

This sense of transformation is also seen in the sombre tones and harsh lines of Jen Chester’s paintings. They are transformative processes, which allow the artist to let go of something, piece the puzzles together, and confront difficult issues. Next to her work Anomie, which features a red figure surrounded by other ghostly outlines engulfed in a blue and black landscape, Chester has placed a response book in which she poses the question what do you see? In doing so, I believe the artist extends the process of Art Therapy to include both the act of art making, as well as the act of looking. Viewed in this context, the artworks in the exhibition take on a heightened dimension – one that allows the viewer to step into the liminal space and reflect on their own past and present, pleasure and pain.

– Review by Alice-Anne Psaltis