Fragments Exhibition Held In Craft Bar

Hanley's Bottlecraft Showcases Olivia Rowland's Unique Art

REBEL Editorial || August 24th

If ever I doubt the cultural progression of Stoke on Trent, this type of event restores my faith. Would I have thought I would be attending an Art Exhibition – in a bar a few years ago? No way. And yet, here I was on a Friday evening viewing the works of local artist Olivia Rowland at Bottlecraft.

Now, by no measure is Bottlecraft simply a bar. This small craft ale joint is far more about the quality and diversity of the liquid refreshment on offer than the amount and speed that alcohol can be consumed. Knowledgeable and friendly staff are there to advise and the atmosphere lends itself to conversation and relaxation.

However, this night was an exhibition of art. Olivia, a Stoke on Trent native has returned to her roots after studying Fine Art at The Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford. Having exhibited at her place of study before, this was her first solo showing in Stoke on Trent. 

Only five pieces were to be viewed from the collection, but the depth of the work meant that each etching could be viewed and considered in its finest detail. Indeed speaking to Olivia, you get an absolute sense of the story behind each piece.

"The five etchings exhibited for the show ‘Fragments’ are based on a series of narrative monologues, written from the perspective of three fictional characters witnessing a real-life event. Originally read out by voice actors and mixed as an immersive sound piece, the combination of narrative voiceover and abstract imagery formed the installation I exhibited as my final degree show piece, titled ‘Rupture’."

"The narrative behind the images is based on a real-life event: a family story that my grandfather  told me, about the fall that led to the untimely death of his own grandfather, who worked as a bookies’ runner during the Second World War. He was on his way to place the bets when he tripped up on a steep street. At the time he was also wearing a pair of new hobnailed boots with slippery soles. What intrigued me about this story was the manner in which a set of mundane events suddenly escalated and resulted in unprecedented tragedy – his grandfather contracted hypostatic pneumonia whilst being treated for a broken femur."


"The original sound piece comprised of one main voiceover, recounting the events in manner of storytelling or prose. This voiceover was continuously interrupted by the three characters, recounting where they were and what they were doing at the time of the event. The three characters interjected with their own accounts in a manner similar to a radio play, heavily influenced by the performance of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. This staggered, fragmented recounting forced the viewer to construct their own interpretation, piecing together both aural and visual information." 

"This is where the etchings came into play, acting as tangible clues whose incorporation of fluid, abstracted mark-making provided allegorical imagery, representing the setting, the characters and certain turns of phrase within the sound. One print, Polished Lino Floor Patterned with Checkers, depicts a bleak, institutional corridor occupied by a number of ghostly figures passing through: similar to the hospital where the man might have been taken. The use of continuous and often frantic line throughout the series of prints demonstrates a visual and aural unfolding of narrative, and straddles the boundaries of what we consider to be ‘abstract’ and ‘illustrative’."