Structure at Neo Gallery
I am often asked many questions about living in China.
- What is it like to live in Macau?
- How does it affect my life?
- Does this mean that this new environment influences my work?
In response to these I can say “Yes! Life is so different here and this is parcelled up with how I work today.”
This is what I have been up to in 2016 so far…
Everyday in Macau is noisy, busy, frantic, urban, grimy, pushy and grubby. Coming from the South Downs of England where I was really beginning to engage with the attitude of Japanese textile artists towards subtle, subdued, quiet and restrained works, China was a huge jolt. I felt a need to reconcile myself to my new surroundings and approach them positively.
- Macau is a special administrative region of China and officially the world’s most densely populated country. More than 600000 permanent residents in an area of 11.6 square miles. Cramped rooms in high rise tower blocks are normal life for everyone here.
I missed nature and familiar flora and fauna, so I explored what little there is here and found abundant sources of natural dye to use in my work.
Collecting the dye materials were a process of reconciling myself to this new environment and finding tangible ways to be grateful for my new home.
Even though these pockets of nature are small, the sources I found grow prolifically and abundantly in areas such as undisturbed building sites and rocky uninhabitable hillsides. I managed to create a colour palette of yellows, golds and browns with a surprisingly harmonious interaction, I had forgotten how natural dye colours can work so well together.
So, in terms of dye Macau can provide some interesting elements, but next up was researching the rest of China and seeing if the internet and courier services could provide me with more.
This is the point where I discovered Ramie, a linen like material woven out of a particular species of Chinese grass. It is native to China and grows the best in the province of Hunan, which was my neighbouring province last year. This is inland central China and the extra cold winters (yes, I would agree with that description!) combined with very hot and humid summers gives the Ramie plant the perfect conditions for growing abundantly and with great speed. The fibre is relatively slubby and rustic but the strength is remarkable. The handling is so intriguing and I found a supplier that supports traditional local hand weaving. I found lengths of natural ramie, undyed and handwoven for the base of my work.
By using my lengths of Chinese silk existing already in my high quality textile collection, and also the indigo supplies from Guizhou province I used in my last collection of work, I was able to naturally dye lengths of silk and create a composition on a handwoven ramie wall hanging for my part in the first group exhibition by “Eleven” at the Neo Gallery in Bolton, U.K. The exhibition is entitled “Structure” and by using these material elements and dye materials I was able to work through the particular qualities inherent to this media and focus on the integrity of these with minimal and sensitive intervention. Have a look at the unfinished raw edges, see how each fabric is different and understand this through the juxtapositions I have created.
Creating this work felt like a huge leap forward in understanding the motivating factors for why I create artwork in the first place, and finding my articulate voice using themes that I really engage with on more than just an aesthetic level.
The other members of the “Eleven” group are all artists and despite using a variety of textile media and processes, we are all united in our approach to media and have curated an exhibition together. I so wish I could be there in person to see with my own eyes the strength of our work together, but perhaps you could make it instead…
Structure, by Eleven
27 The Market Place
Bolton BL1 2AL
7 April- 29 May 2016
Private View 9 April 2-4pm