Sarah Mayhew Craddock revels in the past, in the hands of three Oxford artists showing at RE:collections at The North Wall

Sometimes steeped in an intangible sense of loss, or fondness, or blurred memories, ‘the past’ is a difficult concept to pin down.

Sonia Boué, Claudia Figueiredo and Rose Wallace are three artists working out of Oxford’s Magdalen Road Studios using different media and taking inspiration from different subject matter, yet their work is united by the past. For Figueiredo, Wallace and Boué their idiosyncratic artistic explorations are brought together in RE:collections an exhibition at The North Wall in Summertown, which marks the first time the three artists have exhibited together.

Using contrasting techniques and materials such as the found object, paint, collage and ceramics Figueiredo, Wallace and Boué explore recovering memory through artefacts resulting in equally contrasting responses.

“We don’t work in the company of one another, just under the same roof,” says Wallace. “We share ideas of memories, objects and the past, and relationships with those then go off on different tangents from similar starting points. Exhibiting collaboratively enhances and strengthens the message. The message is to do with the object and the resonances that come from it.”

Wallace creates medium-scale ceramic sculptures from casts of contemporary packaging and discarded domestic ephemera. The muted tones, reminiscent of Hornsea and Withernsea Fauna Ceramic Ware, and familiar shapes of each object d’art create an aesthetic that could go unnoticed in a great-aunt’s china cabinet yet each work possesses its own narrative that immortalises the minutiae of modern life. Central to Wallace’s display at The North Wall is a cabinet, reminiscent of a museum display case, containing objects that Wallace has casted from to create her work.

Wallace says: “My father was a gardener, in school holidays I would go with him.

"I wasn’t interested in the plants, but in the clay pipes, bottle-stoppers, the dormant discarded bits that were under the soil and unearthed; they set my imagination alight. I valued them greatly despite the fact that others had discarded them.

I live near Aston’s Eyot [wildlife reserve in East Oxford] and take inspiration from objects that I find there. I use those found objects to animate my work.”

Profoundly influenced by her own personal history Boué is the daughter of a refugee. She uses loaded objects to make allegorical mixed-media installations. Fascinated by the resonance of objects containing a meaning that is beyond their domestic use and the way that memories can hook into the imagination or memory in an almost Zen way.

“My work makes a show of permanence, a semblance of coherence from what is essentially temporal and chaotic," she says. "I believe that excitement, beauty and hope can coexist on the surface of any object."

In RE:collections Boué presents paintings on one wall and a christening gown with embedded objects on another. Below the gown old suitcases have been positioned leading up to the christening gown like steps – together the arresting physicality of these objects appear as portals that draw the viewer into other spaces full of memory.

Figueiredo’s prints, paintings and collages pop with colour and memories like a remembered Christmas cracker. Responding to old and unwanted objects and serendipitous fleeting moments encountered in her life she plays with colour, form and texture on the flat picture plane immortalising that perfect composition or that perfect combinations of colours in her work where memories are jogged and new narratives are made.

Reflecting upon the exhibition as a whole, Figueiredo remarked on the aesthetic harmony that unites all three bodies of work,

“It has surprised us, on an aesthetic level, to see the thread of ochre shades in Rose’s glaze, in my painting, Pink Poodle, and throughout several of Sonia’s works. This tonality leads the visitor through the exhibition.”

RE:collections presents the opportunity to lose oneself in art and exercise one’s ability to remember.

• RE:collections is on display at The North Wall until August 26 at The North Wall Arts Centre, Summertown Oxford