Cloth & Memory (2)

On Saturday I attended a curators tour of Cloth & Memory (2) at Saltaire.  Professor Lesley Millar is incredibly knowledgeable and very engaging and I am so glad I attended the tour rather than just viewing the work of the artists as I got a much better insight into how exhibitions of this scale are curated and also into the stories of the individual artists.

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The work of Diana Harrison I personally found amazing both in concept, aesthetics and composition.  Harrison was drawn to the industrial stone flagged surface of the spinning mill and therefore created work that was to be placed on the floor to be viewed from above.  She collected cotton handkerchiefs, that were once a precious item usually used for Sunday best or special occasions, dyed them all black and then worked back into them bringing their individualism back into play.  Faded patterns, monograms and embroidery came back into view.  They were all different sizes, different weights and qualities and it was the sizes that dictated how they were all stitched back together

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It is the life the handkerchiefs once had that represent the lives of the people who generally lived out their working lives in these spinning mills that I find so evocative.  The black and white seemed very appropriate as did the chalkiness of some of the handkerchiefs, they seemed very much like memories; some strong and fresh, some fading and slipping away.

This exhibition was quite an eye opener for me, even though I am studying contemporary textiles I do feel that sometimes I just don’t ‘get’ textile art, I often wonder why people choose to express themselves in this way.  Sometimes I get quite an old fashioned feel from women who use textiles but the work in Cloth & Memory illustrated the appropriateness of the medium in particular environments.  There was no other way that the memory of the people and the place could have been conveyed in any other way.

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