My all-time favourite exhibitions have been at venues which have a sense of history; a space with a soul, and a special resonance presenting the challenge of both integrating my work into that space, and also how I can draw together a visual storyline from diverse sources, both past and present.
Ponto Sombre/Connecting the Threads 2018
The Recordatório Rainha Santa Isabel/Alfredo Bastos, which also incorporates the Posto de Turismo, is an ideal and evocative venue for me, It was one of those spaces into which one walks and immediately makes a connection. Much of the permanent collection in the room relates to Rainha Santa Isabel, and includes original works of art of the queen.
Recordatório loosely translates as “memories”. My thoughts were of memories as fleeting shadows, coming in and out of focus as the light changes. Fading colours; shadowy forms and fragile organic matter; ancient landscapes; fire-scarred landscapes from the previous hot dry summer. Memories of the wearer also ingrained into worn clothing and accessories. Memories of loss.
Here are some indications of the thinking behind four selected groups of work from the exhibition. A set of drawings Chasing Shadows; The large-scale installation “Spirit Dresses have left the Room”; “Gloves Fit For a Queen (Relics)”; “Paper Roses in Blue”; .
Chasing Shadows 2018
I had already been working on a set of large-scale drawings based on the concept of InOrganic in early 2018. I was recording memories of fleeting sun-shadows cast from organic plant matter; dried, branching stem-structures.
These were drawings in dense black graphite pencils, watercolour sticks and pure graphite. I was recording the shadows as they moved and elongated, seeing how the boundaries of the shadows became softer and harder as the light shifted, and turning the paper to create layered, over-drawn images.
Spirit Dresses Have Left the Room 2018
These cloak-like, multiple forms were developed from elongated versions of the glove patterns made for Gloves Fit For a Queen: Relics (see below). Barely there, semi transparent dreamlike ghostly forms roam the landscape like a memory from another time, suggesting perhaps the queen leaving her palace at night with bread to distribute to the poor.
These are constructed in handmade silk paper paper and laser-cut Zeelon. Darning and worn stitching in the handmade papers contrast with the delicate lace like insertions, reflecting the difference in lifestyle between royal life and that of the poor and disadvantaged (see the legend of the roses, below). Each piece is approximately 100cm height and approx 35cm across the bottom edges.
Considering my past work, I was interested in the contrast between the old, worn, darned socks, used as inspiration for an exhibition in 2008 called Let No Loop Down, and the seemingly delicate openwork continuous loop techniques used to construct Spirit Dresses 2005 in white wire and fine paper string.
These original spirit dresses, which sadly were lost after an exhibition, would have been included in Connecting Threads 2018 . The title of this installation is a personal comment on my loss of something that has precious and personal memories for me.
Gloves fit for a Queen (Relics) 2018
Made from Memory 2004 explored the idea of protection, along with a fascination for creating objects based on Georgian period shoes to give a sense of the rediscovery of ancient artifacts, as does Gloves fit for a Queen (Relics) 2018 .
I aimed to create a group of works looking like museum pieces, which might be a genuine part of a collection of known provenance — imaginary, yet convincing, curiosities. Constructed from handmade silk papers, block printed, shaped and stitched by hand, then finished with a coating of shellac.
This collection of gloves hints at the idea that once-worn gloves evoke the memory of the wearer and their social status, each glove wearing differently, moulded through wear to an individual hand shape, suggesting either a life of luxury or that of hard work.
Each glove-form was constructed from the same template (which also retains memory of the shape for each individual pattern piece) yet each glove has its own special trade mark and individuality. You the viewer are asked to construct your own narrative!
Blue Roses 2018
These are inspired by the “miracle of the roses”, linking the story of Rainha Santa Isabel with the city of Coimbra.
I constructed hand-printed, paper roses to decorate one of the statues of the queen in the museum. Printed onto heavy weight Tissutex papers using laser-cut wooden print blocks using Charbonel Agua wash inks, the varying blue shades reflect the colours of cold, January nights.
The legend states that Rainha Santa Isabel had left her castle to distribute bread to the poor. The king surprised her, asking what she carried in the lap of her dress, to which she replied roses. (the sovereign did not approve of her charitable actions).
Responding to the king’s suspicions (as it was January) the queen exposed the hidden contents; roses instead of the hidden loaves were revealed. This allegedly happened around 700 years ago and is still remembered today, on each even-numbered year, in Coimbra.
Creating a personal narrative.
My work creates a narrative using the visual language of textiles, drawings and print, communicating ideas but not always telling the whole story. Intriguing, tantalising, posing questions, drawing in the viewer to construct their own story line, which need not follow my own train of thoughts.
My work uses materials to explore how ideas evolve and develop through the making process, and the symbiotic relationship between materials, processes, concepts and individual creativity.
“Thinking with my hands” best describes my organic approach to the making process. Building, layering, multiplying, subtracting and adding to existing works. Changing scale, interweaving the many different elements to create a personal vision of the world, past and present, around me.