Simon & Yvonne Sonsino




Newbury Weekly News arts review

Husband and wife Simon and Yvonne Sonsino are showing work in a joint exhibition in the bar at Ace Space, Newbury.

Simon Sonsino, who has a design background, works in calligraphy and watercolour.  Taking as a theme the fragility, transient beauty and alarming decline of butterflies, three large works share a delicacy and evanescence, with watercolour eddying around, over and beneath the text. All mark-making by human hand carries connotations beyond its form, so here, text is never just text: it conveys meaning and memory, expression and emotion, movement and rhythm.

There is a varying sense of openness and freedom, as if these compositions are not quite stabilised, the areas of virgin paper as important as the painted and marked areas. This is particularly so in ‘A Memory’, where the composition feels as if it is in flux: coolly intangible forms and the movement of the watercolour give a sense of mystery. ‘Silent Pageants’, the most concentrated composition of the three, has more of a sense of closure. It combines two forms of calligraphy: the capitalised form suggests a settled, universalised meaning; the flowing, rhythmic ‘handwritten’ form a greater sense of particularity. ‘On Painted Wing’ is harsher in colour and tone, with amorphous yet more defined forms.

In ‘Time’, the text is dense and less immediately visible, the composition tighter, the palette more varied and saturated, with skeins of white drawn to the centre. In the vibrantly coloured ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the tightly organised design strongly contained within the frame suggests both passion and constraint, a metaphor for the situation of Shakespeare’s lovers.

Some works are purely calligraphic. Here the inks are used like watercolour, with the arrangement of the letters creating form, as in the eponymous ‘Cascade One’ and’ Cascade Two’ , in watery reds, blacks and greys, and the heavier colours of ‘Alphabet Burst’.

Yvonne Sonsino, a passionate gardener, shows straightforward botanical drawings in watercolour, as in ‘Lavender’ and ‘Tulipa Parrotia’, and black and white pen-and-ink drawings, whose starting point is botanical form, but with non-realistic pattern added (‘Magnolia in Paisley’ and ‘Orchids in Paisley’).

Most successful, however, are her six works in painted silk: freer compositions, sometimes inclining towards a pleasing semi-abstraction. Here colour is used both boldly and delicately, with the motif often isolated and centred, as in ‘Dahlia’, a burst of reds and golds against a black background. In ‘Datura’, the black background emboldens the motif, which has become an almost totally abstracted form with a sense of physicality. The strongly diagonal ‘Peacock Feather’, in a rich palette, is a magnified, semi-abstract composition of form and colour.

The show runs until the end of September, and can be viewed by those attending events, workshops and classes at Ace Space, or by appointment with the artists.