We had a bit of a day out last week – the first for ages as we’ve been hard at work on the WOWbook. It was great to be out in the world again, particularly as we went to see Alice Kettle’s ‘Thread Bearing Witness’ at the Winchester Discovery Centre. This is the first venue for the touring exhibition which will conclude in the Autumn at the Whitworth in Manchester.
The exhibition is quite breathtaking as many of the works are huge and you feel as though you are walking with giants when you enter the gallery. I love Alice’s work and many of these pieces were made especially for this show. Working around the space, I will try to describe some of the pieces.
The Dog Loukanikos and the Cat’s Cradle
Here we have three girls playing cat’s cradle with a golden thread. Loukanikos was a real dog who was a symbol in the Greek anti-austerity riots of 2010. He is shown here defending the girls from the riot police who are also tied with a gold thread. The glass ‘hedge’ in the foreground is made by Kirsteen Aubrey and acts as an intriguing barrier – perhaps another level of protection.
Sea 792 x 284 cms
This is a massive piece of work. Alice has often produced very large and monumental textiles and this must be one of the biggest. It is a reaction to the refugee crisis, tempered by the glare of publicity from the media, conversations with her daughter Tamsin and, later, first-hand meetings with refugees, especially women artists among them. This is the first of a series which, if I understand correctly, will have work added as the exhibition tours. Alice aims to give a voice to the refugees and to capture the feelings of a (once strong) community now reduced to helplessness.
Orphrey 200 x 245 cms
This piece was made, using a Schiffli commercial embroidery machine, for the exhibition Mechanical Drawing – The Schiffli Project. As we know from our domestic machines, the automatic patterns can look very ‘static’ and the aim of this project was to show how they could be used in a different way. By changing threads, varying the thickness and generally causing stitching havoc, Alice showed how this could be done. The large figures also work well in this respect. Although shown only in outline, they provide an intriguing contrast to the deconstructed patterns. Alice herself feels that this was a turning point at which she realised that she no longer had to cover the base fabric with her trade-mark heavy stitching. She described it as ’letting the marks breathe and liberating the fabric’.
This piece provided a reminder of the contrast between the massively stitched works that have been ‘Alice trademarks’ and the new, more open, pieces. I have always loved the fact that this is based on the story of how Penelope, waiting for the return of Odysseus puts, off her suitors by weaving his shroud. Having vowed not to wed until it was finished, she unpicked it at dead of night. Good use of a textile technique, I say.
This is a lovely exhibition. If I am right in my assumption that it will grow before its final showing in October, I think I might be having a little trip to Manchester to see the final pieces.
Going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I popped into Marks and Spencer while we were in Winchester and found that there was a sale going on. As I said to the checkout lady while I filled four bags with sales purchases, ‘I only came in for some socks!’
Coming right back to earth I must remind you that we have free tickets for the Craft4Crafters show at Westpoint Arena, Exeter in February. Go to the d4daisy facebook page to enter.