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09th November 2022 Phoebe Mumby (2020, English)

A Visit to Helen Leith Spencer’s Current Exhibition at Wolfson College

A new exhibition of Emeritus Fellow in English Helen Leith Spencer’s work is currently on display at Wolfson College. Entitled ‘And so runs the year (in yesterday’s many),’ the exhibition is held in Wolfson’s Private Dining Room, overlooking autumnal views of the river, and is running until the 9th of December.

The exhibition expresses concern with development and change predicated on the changing seasons, making this autumn the perfect opportunity to visit the exhibition and engage with the transition of the external world happening all around us. Despite vivid depictions of this external world, familiar (or unfamiliar) places and various foliage, the paintings exhibit a sense of a deeper glimpse into the artist’s mind. Spencer remarks how, during lockdown, she turned increasingly inward when producing art. In the mix of vivid primary colours and dark, earthy tones, there is a search for something beyond the surface, beyond initial observations that lead us into our own introspection.

After many years as a Fellow in English at Exeter, Spencer’s work is infused with textual and mythological engagement, offering an opportunity for hidden interpretive gemstones. As an English student at Exeter myself, this is perhaps what I am most drawn to in Spencer’s exhibition: through a visual medium she offers not illustrations but interpretations. This allure to this is perhaps best surmised by Spencer herself in the closing lines of her artist’s statement: ‘[the paintings] wanted, even demanded, to be painted, whether I planned it that way or not – and usually I didn’t. Visual memories are very sneaky and can make the most unexpected connections. They often take me by surprise. That’s the exciting part…’

The exhibition is open to the public daily from 10am to 7pm from now until the 9th of December. Visitors are advised to contact the Wolfson College lodge on 01865 274100 before visiting.

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