The Standing People Exhibition – Aug 2018

An extensive collection of drypoint etchings form The Standing People, a powerful bibliographical series by Sharon Whittaker.

Influenced by her local landscape and featuring a stand of twisted old man pine, the series is a representation of stability and strength. A constant in the ordinariness of everyday life and immortality, the trees are symbolic of Whittaker – her convictions and her nonconformist and courageous stance against the harshest elements of life.

Buckled and bowed, yet whole and complete, the underlying power of the trees is evident. There is a sense of wisdom and goodness. These trees are formidable survivors of time in a landscape that is striking, arresting and atmospheric.

Shadowy and distinctive, the series is archetypal Whittaker. Photographic influences are clearly at work and there is a strong play on the use of dark and light.

While much of the series is black and white, several works are hand-coloured in sombre greys and palest blues – a literal reference to the poetry of Janet Frame, The Tree, and Whittaker’s favourite line “Night and day and night and day.”

Like the poem, Whittaker’s trees are personified. They are “astir: branches colliding, brushing leaf-tips, evading one another, helplessly rocking to and fro in the overpowering entirety of a tree’s night and day and night and day.” Whittaker’s skill and control is evident as she layers movement, depth and balance, as well as surprise and incisive wit.

However, unlike Frame’s poem in which the tree is “senselessly alive”, Whittaker’s work breathes life and longevity. Immortalised by Whittaker, The Standing People shall live on in the “blue surrounding swirl and stir encounters of pleasure and danger.”

The Standing People opens at Susan Badcock Studio 3-5pm SUNDAY 26 AUGUST and will exhibit until 9 September.

Pip Goldsbury