Fiona Curran, Yva Jung, Dave Nelson, Kirke Raava, Amanda Ralph and Imogen Welch

UH Arts is thrilled to present Poetics of Place – a group exhibition considering the ways in which our perceptions of place shape our thoughts, memories and dreams.

Curators' Introduction 

Curators Inna and Elizabeth introduce the exhibition and discuss its relevance in the current environment.

Digital Exhibition

Sit back and enjoy the exhibition! Artist labels and a text panel can be found below.

Discover the Artists:

Fiona Curran Yva JungDave NelsonKirke RaavaAmanda RalphImogen Welch

Fiona Curran

Fiona Curran

Born 1971 in Manchester
Lives and works in Hertfordshire and London

Colour, collage and pattern are central to Fiona Curran’s practice. Working across painting, textiles and installation her works explore real, imagined and sensed geographies where the relationships between external landscape and decorative interior, natural and technological, and figure and ground are blurred.

The exhibited body of work developed out of research undertaken for a temporary, site-specific public art commission produced in 2018 at the National Trust Estate of Gibside in Gateshead. The commission explored the hidden lives of women, botanical culture, plant collecting and the gendering of knowledge in the 18th century. Research revealed a large network of women who were exchanging plants and seeds, and recording their observations in what has been referred to as an early form of feminist science. The significance of women’s relationships to botany and plants has a long and overlooked history. It also permeated the decorative arts in the 18th century and enabled a number of women to practice creatively and to gain commercial independence as ‘designers’ when they were excluded from studying at art academies.

Curran’s exhibited work gestures towards these entanglements between the vegetal landscape, the domestic interior, the decorative surface and the gendering of the spaces of production and presentation.

Fiona Curran gained her PhD from Slade School of Fine Art, London in 2016 and currently teaches at the Royal College of Art. She has exhibited widely across the UK, and produced a number of temporary public art commissions for UK heritage sites.

Instagram: @fiona_curran_

Gather, 2019
Textile on wooden frame, artificial plant

Milkwood, 2020
Felt and fabric collage, embroidery on canvas

Shadowland, 2019
Photographic print

Tether, 2019
Textile on wooden frame

Tilt, 2018
Needlepoint, fabric and card collage, painted wooden frame

Treacle, 2019
Fabric, bitumen on artificial plant leaves

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Yva Jung

Yva Jung

Born 1983 in Seoul
Lives and works in Hertfordshire

Yva Jung’s practice is temporal, site-specific, performative and interdisciplinary. She works mainly with installation, moving image, digital print, drawing, and improvised encounters.

Jung’s work begins with a particular way of observing the external world. She is interested in planetary rhythms – the cycles of life and death. Her exhibited body of work is based on themes related to Monday, or ‘day of the moon,’ such as the cycle of the seasons, tide and female fertility. Jung’s work conjures a sense of journey, longing and rhythm based on the Moon-day. Moon is a symbol present in many of Jung’s works – in the concrete slabs of the ‘Mooned Noon’ and in the photographic piece ‘Spooning the Waxing Moon’ where the artist holds a spoon up to the moon as if eclipsing it in front of the camera.

‘Let it Simmer Over Summer’ examines the notions of journey, pause and composition. Often the slightly skewed observations of everyday situations are based upon placing herself in an unfamiliar environment or a particular place. Then, with drawings, sculptures and videos, Jung creates a composition that interconnects encounters, stories and places. This process is an ongoing, reflective dialogue with daily experiences and everyday objects that Jung subverts to add stories to.

Yva Jung studied Fine Art in Seoul and New York before receiving her practice-led PhD from Slade School of Fine Art, London in 2016. She has held artist residencies and exhibited in numerous exhibitions in the UK and internationally.

Instagram: @yvajung

Let it Simmer over Summer, 2016

Mooned Noon, 2019

Sit I Mean It, 2011

Spooning the Waxing Moon, 2020

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Dave Nelson

Dave Nelson

Born 1965 in Sussex
Lives and works in Hertfordshire

Dave Nelson’s paintings are layered with material. With inspection it is possible to see how every mark is made, every piece assembled. Natural and organic overlaying of structure and form – marks, scrapings, symbols, colour and collage building on the panels.

The exhibited works respond directly to the theme of place – the artist’s home in particular. Drawing from the emotional responses to Nelson’s changing family life, the series of paintings explore the empty nest syndrome, and feelings of loss, change and adjustment. Mid-way through the series, the sudden arrival of lockdown changed the family circumstances yet again, and elements of that re-adjustment and re-connection began to emerge in the work. The theme of place is inherently linked with the themes of time and memory, and Nelson’s works reflect this change in the tones of his home and memories of family life moving on.

Dave Nelson’s practice is concerned with the landscape, material, technique and texture. His work is a meditation of the world around him, and his role in it. After a career in mathematics, Nelson has been practising as an artist since 2013 and became an elected Arts Fellow at the Digswell Arts Trust in 2016. He has exhibited in numerous regional exhibitions and appeared on Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year in 2017. He will start on the Turps Banana Studio programme in 2021.

Instagram: @davenelsonart

A View from the Kitchen, 2020
Mixed Media

Expanded I, IV and VI, 2020
Mixed Media

Kitchen Plant, 2020
Mixed Media

Grey Constructions Series, 2020, Mixed Media:


La Sicilia


Old School



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Kirke Raava

Kirke Raava

Born 1984 in Tallinn, Estonia
Lives and works in Hertfordshire

Kirke Raava’s practice draws from her Estonian childhood, where memory and personal heritage both inspire and influence her work. She explores and re-imagines themes such as family and identity, combined with sentimental and neglected traditions – and how these relate to both contemporary objects and those of the past.

The exhibited body of work explores the concept of nostalgia through re-imagining and re-defining everyday objects. It developed in response to a set of handmade towels found at the artist’s ancestral family home, which has been handed down through generations, and subtly altered over time with lace trims, fabric patches and crocheted pieces. These additions not only prolonged the towels’ practical life but also recorded the owners’ touch, adding a delicate personal narrative to each object.

Taking this family tradition of 'adding to' as a visual starting point, Raava began to experiment with objects connected to her family’s past. The subtle subtraction or alteration of the recognisable elements of the original objects – a fork handle or the clasp of a purse – invites an unexpected dialogue to develop between the artist and the audience.

These new objets d’art, vaguely familiar and recognisable at first glance, are displayed within a gallery environment, removing them from their humble domestic beginnings and practical motivations into reworked delicate small-scale contemporary textile sculptures.

Following a career in design in the fashion industry, Kirke Raava graduated with BA(Hons) in Jewellery and Accessory Design in 2015 from the Middlesex University. In 2017 she become an elected Arts Fellow at the Digswell Arts Trust.

Instagram: @kirkestudio

Finding a Place, 2015-20
Found objects and crochet cotton

Shadow Dancers II, IV, III & I, 2015-20
Found objects, lace

Vanaema Ununenud Sahtel (Nana’s Forgotten Draw), 2015-20
Found objects, crochet lace linen and silk

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Amanda Ralph

Amanda Ralph

Born 1968 in Liverpool
Lives and works in Hertfordshire

Amanda Ralph was described by the late poet and artist Adrian Henri as ‘The Poet of the Discarded’ – a phrase which has been used extensively to describe her work in newspaper articles and magazines, including Art Review. She is an installation artist whose practice is concerned with finding ‘ready-made art’ within the everyday landscape. Her meticulously arranged assemblages suggest new readings of familiar objects, offering a respectful nod to the past, yet grounding the viewer in the present moment.

The assemblage sculptures on show in this exhibition draw on anthropological, architectural and theatrical set traditions. Ralph deploys a collection of treasures found in gutters, scrap yards, skips, junk shops and car boot sales. ‘Like’ and ‘unlike’ are juxtaposed, reinforcing their individual poignancy. Thus, the pathos and odd beauty of these castaway objects are both maximised and celebrated. The works have been carefully installed by the artist to ensure effective use of interstitial space, paying close attention to the relationships and negative spaces between each object. Consequently, Ralph’s work invites us to question the narrative of these objects and how they are perceived in a wider context.

After graduating from Coventry Polytechnic with BA(Hons) in Fine Art in 1991, Amanda Ralph was an active member of the Arena Studios, and exhibited widely across UK and internationally including The Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, where she exhibited alongside Doris Salcedo – one of her inspirations. 20 years later, after taking a career break to raise her family, and diversifying her skills as a stylist and interior designer, Ralph has returned to art and is currently studying her final year of MA Fine Art at the University of Hertfordshire.

Instagram: @artist_amanda_ralph
Create it Share it: Create a Home Gallery

Family, 2019
Found object installation

Hoop La, 2019
Found objects

Hung out to dry, 2019
Found objects

Maze, 2020
Found objects

Screen, 2019
Found objects

Straw House, 2019
Found objects

Stray, 2019
Found objects

Tree, 2019
Found objects

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Imogen Welch

Imogen Welch

Born 1961 in Chichester
Lives and works in Hertfordshire

Imogen Welch’s practice is concerned with recycling, re-presentation and transformation, often with autobiographical elements. By incorporating techniques more commonly found in craft, such as collage, frottage, mosaic, casting, and upholstery, her practice also references 'women's work' and folk art.

The works on show in this exhibition question Welch’s past life, and her sense of place and belonging. ‘Muffled Tableau’ presents replica components of the artist’s teenage bedroom clad in felt, whilst ‘Shoe Fossils’ are casts of the space inside the artist’s own shoes. The normally hidden internal surface textures are revealed, to capture and preserve lived moments and memories.

Welch’s work concentrates on the relationship between surface and object, past and present, and often involves the transformation of real world objects by the addition of everyday materials to make the ordinary 'uncanny' and take the familiar into new territory.
Having first studied geology, Imogen Welch pursued a career in IT. She later returned to education, graduating with BA(Hons) in Fine Art from Buckinghamshire Chiltern University College in 2005. She studied at a postgraduate level in the artist run The Other MA (TOMA) in Southend in 2018. Welch has exhibited widely in group shows across UK.

Instagram: @imogenwelch_artist

Muffled Mirror, 2005
Gilt mirror and felt

Muffled Tableau, 2005-20
Found objects and felt

Shoe Fossils, 2007-09
Papercrete and plaster

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Poetics of Place

Stay at home. It is the message we have heard countless times during this unprecedented period. Home has always been the foundation to our daily lives but suddenly its importance has amplified. We have perhaps never been more in tune with our senses of place than now, in this current environment.

The exhibition, which considers autobiographical thoughts, nostalgic narratives and re-interpretation of ideas, takes inspiration from French philosopher Gaston Bachelard's seminal book The Poetics of Space. The book, written in 1958, applies the method of phenomenology to architecture, basing emphasis on lived experience in architectural places. It focuses especially on the personal and emotional responses to buildings and home objects. For Bachelard, domestic objects are charged with mental experience – a cabinet opened is a world revealed, drawers are places of secrets, and with every habitual action we open endless dimensions of our existence.

As part of the Hertfordshire Year of Culture, this group exhibition focuses on works by six artists living and working in Hertfordshire. With varying visual languages, artists Fiona Curran, Yva Jung, Dave Nelson, Kirke Raava, Amanda Ralph and Imogen Welch all share an inherent interest in the process of moulding and re-shaping experiences of memory or place. Consisting of assemblages, textile works, painting, photography and installation, the exhibition showcases layered, meticulously constructed works that consider the undercurrents of value systems, social histories and image-making.

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