The Heart of Light, The Silence

Two works shown as part of online exhibition, The Heart of Light, The Silence: Artists in Norfolk 2020, Curated by Naomi Polonsky & co-organised by also exhibiting artist Jessie Stevenson. Above knots & ties, shirts & lies, wool, thread, fabrics, wood, September 2020
Bedtime Story, fabrics, wool, thread, direct dyes, curtain pole, September 2020

Text from the site of the online exhibition:

The Heart of Light, The Silence brings together the work of nine artists living and working in Norfolk.
Titled after a line from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, the exhibition explores the artists’ engagement with the Norfolk landscape during lockdown – a time of solitude and uncertainty, but also contemplation and creativity. Like T.S. Eliot’s Modernist poem, the artworks in the exhibition draw on a multiplicity of sources and experiment with a variety of materials. Featuring both abstract and figurative works in range of mediums, the exhibition demonstrates the ways in which different artists assimilate the contemporary moment and their natural surroundings in order to make broader statements on human experience.

Curator: Naomi Polonsky
Co-organiser: Jessie Stevenson

Here’s an interview from the curator and co-organise that I answered at this time of the exhibition:

1. Briefly describe your process and the materials you use in your practice.

My practice developed from collecting used materials from my workplaces or those I visited: textile factories, car mechanics, kite-making and piano restoration workshops, and costume designers. I’m especially into waste household and  industrial textiles, the offcuts, the worn and the waste bits, for their textural qualities, how they look and their previous life, purpose, and function.

I’m interested in taking stuff apart to see how it works and then assembling various materials together in a different way to see what kind of new life I can give them.

In the studio, I work on joining things together through processes such as casting, sewing, weaving, dyeing, and tufting. I work intuitively with materials and allow the process and the studio/exhibiting space to guide how my pieces develop.

2. What are the main sources that you draw on?

I’m drawn to objects with a social history and original function that has now been lost, so I find secondhand shops, junkyards and salvage yards really inspiring.

I’m inspired by traditionally ‘feminine’ craft processes such as quilting, handstitching, knitting, rugmaking, weaving , and felting. The accessibility of this domestic making particularly drives me, as well as using cheap materials, scraps, and remnants.

3. What is your connection to Norfolk and how does it influence your work?

I was born in Yarmouth and grew up in rural South Norfolk, studying in Norwich before moving to Brighton and London art schools. I have regularly returned to Norfolk and Norwich in-between houses and studying, and have been at my parents’ farmhouse throughout COVID-19. 

Norfolk is really arty, crafty place and in the state high school I went to it was ‘cool’ to be good at art which is a pretty rare stereotype. My dad is a piano restorer and his first workshop was next to an antiques centre located in the converted barns of a Tudor house. From an early age, I have been inspired by old, used objects that have a ‘magical’ feeling about them. 

The rented farmhouse I grew up in required continual maintenance and repair and my parents converted its barns. Like many others in Norfolk, this need to ‘make do and mend’, recycle, and re-use, rather than buy new, has hugely influenced me in both my life and my art practice. 

4. In what ways has the period of lockdown impacted your work?

I’ve moved back in with my parents and quit my hospitality job, signing on for universal credit and recovering from glandular fever. It has enabled me to focus on art full-time, creating artwork and learning new ways of making. 

I’ve started making textiles for the home under another name and gone self-employed so I (hopefully) don’t have to continue my thirteen-year stint of hospitality work to support my studio work. 

It’s allowed me to also continue my MA at the Royal College of Art online from home which is positive. But it’s also been a time that for the world has been such grief and pain and all still feels really new so I find it hard to go on about how positive it has been for me, but really, living in the countryside in an area with low cases, with a garden in being a family unit with space to work, has probably been the most privileged position anyone could have been in lockdown, so I feel very grateful.  

5. How do you think this time will influence your future work?

It has deepened my interest in domestic materials and what is available to hand. It has also made me think about the therapeutic nature of repetitive processes of making. So I want to take forward research into art’s potential as a self-care tool and explore the history of ‘feminine’ craft and making in more detail to inform my practice in the future.