c2000 by Alison Neville
Curwen Gallery, from ‘Cathedrals, Mosques, Madrasas & Little Houses’
Discovering Neville’s etchings is like coming across an album of pictures from a different time. Fascinated by a new way of seeing our world, we are absorbed in seeing things differently. What is so wonderful about Neville’s pictures is that they are of our world, but composed so bewitchingly originally. The buildings of her travels, and she has travelled well, are etched with the precision of both likeness and personality. The repetitive arches of mosques or cathedrals dance and grow outwards fuelled with the awe of being beneath them, while buildings seem to swell with the pride of their longstanding history as they are shrunk to the medium of paper. Although Neville takes her inspiration from exotic travels — she has embarked on many remarkable journeys in order to document them with her etchings — her beady eye is not saved only for the milk of abroad. In 2007 she walked the Thames Path to draw (exhibited at Curwen in 2007), and here we have the Mathematical Bridge surrounded by the old colleges of Cambridge. It is the transformation of the everyday that leads us to intrigue, and Neville’s framing of the world is truly characterful. The notorious bridge appears lightly balanced on the river banks, its wood clinging together as if highly sprung and, as the legend goes, without any need for bolt or screw. The college in the background then scatters out from this commanding focal point; the texture of little brick on brick builds the walls and turrets that seem to lean back from the law-defying bridge. The colleges windows are oversized and wide open like eyes; dark, with the intensity of pupils, they are watchful over their prized adornment. The fact that Neville’s works are etchings only contributes to her playful viewing of architecture. It is an historical, long overlooked medium for illustration, and Neville uses it well to illustrate the monopoly of the world.