A Distorted Clarity

Mixed-media artist Heather Wilson goes pro in Lisburn, writes Lee Henry

Heather Wilson’s first professional solo exhibition, An Interruption In The Way of Things, at the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn invites the viewer into a world of distorted views and shifting perceptions. A mixed media artist – working with all things from glassware to object installation to photography - Wilson uses light, water, glass and other materials to present a playfully obscured vision of everyday life.

She arrives on the NI art scene keen to carve a niche for herself. Having previously worked as a primary school teacher, Wilson brings an infectious enthusiasm and carefree attitude to her work that makes it all that little bit more accessible.

In An Interruption In The Way of Things you find no stuffy, pseudo-intellectual descriptions attached to the wall below her photographs or light installations. ‘I like imperfections,’ she says, after disclosing that a crack in her glass installation ‘Icelight’ occurred whilst in transit. ‘You can’t plan for little mistakes or blemishes. I see them as surprises. It keeps it all interesting.’

Despite its rather glamorous Lagan Valley Island surroundings, inside the Island Arts Centre has as much personality as a bird-watching Young Unionist, more leisure centre than Louvre.

And yet Wilson’s work manages to capture the viewer’s attention even from a distance, mercifully drawing you into another world where interactive light installations and photographs of life through a lens make the trip worth while.

The first part of An Interruption In The Ways of Things is a heady mix of media. Little tiny copper dresses in frames conjure images of Gulliver’s Travels and hint at a possible future in fashion design. Strange sculptures invite viewers to read inscriptions through lens provided separately.

‘I’m interested in art that crosses boundaries between children and adults,’ Wilson explains, and her first ‘touch box’ should keep everybody occupied. A large, cylindrical installation that uses light and what Wilson describes as ‘retroflective fabric’ to magnify and multiply objects, it’s something you could imagine both children and inattentive office workers getting hours of fun from.

The second part of the exhibition resides behind closed doors, free from distraction and noise, and is more singular in form. Here Wilson indulges her love of light and shifting perception in a number of installations. Light boxes mounted onto the walls combine photography, glassware, light and text to create enticing, shape-shifting images.

These too are interactive in their own way, forcing the viewer to duck and dive to see past glass globes in order to read quotes taken from the work of writer John McGregor. Eventually Wilson manages to read one in full: ‘These moments are there always, but they’re rarely noticed, and they rarely last longer than the flicker of a thought.’

With her finger in so many pies, it will be interesting to see where Wilson goes next. Somewhere bigger and much better than the Island Arts Centre, no doubt.