Walking into this very unusual exhibition, the senses are overloaded. The sheer volume of wildly different items on display makes it hard to discern any sense of environmental order.

At the same time, we are invited into a world which is alternately familiar, traditional, scary and unknown. It is a disturbing experience but one which is well worth seeing through.

Anyone old enough to remember the wooden drawers and cabinets that secretively housed items required by those who shopped in gentlemens’ outfitters or ladies’ underwear shops will have a sense of recognition of the housing for many of these pieces. The contents are another story. Ranging from toys and dolls to religious artefacts, and from the playful to the macabre.

The juxtaposition of these items creates an unnatural and intriguing interaction and invites the viewer to create a story or reason. Comprised mainly of found objects, the resulting collections, framed with glass, are categorised as Cabinets of Curiosities and Wonder Rooms.

Mace, framed in wood and glass, is both menacing and highly decorative, calls to mind wealthy and ogreish, unelected rulers, past and present. In contrast, Shell Grotto with its construction of myriad sea creatures stirs a sense of childhood hiding places and a desire to be somewhere far away.

The artist, Sue Platt, is also a versatile printmaker with a huge variety of techniques to be found within her work: collagraphs and monoprints which look like drawing but are etched; lino cuts, drypoint, other etchings, drawings, rubbings and Japanese papers. Some objects are incorporated using a process called Chine Colle, making a three-dimensional work from a two-dimensional image.

Sue, formerly a teacher of art and design, but now concentrating on researching and exhibiting, also creates her own objects of myth and legend. As she says: “If I can’t find a mermaid, then I will make one. My mermaid is quite small and is preserved in a glass jar. It is said to have been discovered at the bottom of the Pacific ocean, in the Mariana Trench, the deepest in the world.”

This is an exhilharating show that is hard to place in context. It conjures a sense of the unknown and of suspension in time. Above all, it makes a lasting if disturbing impression.

Sue Platt – The Imaginarium of The Bizarre and The Mysterious
The Vitreum, Merchant Taylors Girl’s School, Liverpool Road, Crosby
Until 15 December

Gayna Rose Madder

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