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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Emerging dialogues through the positioning of textile and visual arrangements Workshop

I attended an interesting online Textiles workshop led by Sukhwinder Sagoo-Reddy today. I was intrigued by the title of this workshop, especially considering my current creative development of introducing stitching to my abstract paintings – I also really enjoyed Sukie’s other Textiles workshops.

One of the tasks we were asked to do, was to share an image of a piece of textile art next to another image (ideally a photograph). I immediately thought of the “tufting” exhibition we saw during the Low Residency and found a photograph I had taken of the women’s body suit. I remembered the conceptual basis for this work was the traditional, medical mannequins used by trainee doctors (who at the time were mostly men) which were perversely “made up” (make-up and hair) like sexualised objects. I was thinking about this narrative and what image I could choose to complement it and the “inflatable dude” (a prop from a bizarre board game) which my best friend had shown me when I visited her at Christmas, came to mind. This board game is a bit like charades but involves using the life-size “inflatable dude” in various actions (I didn’t play the game, which seemed somewhat perverse, but we had a good laugh about the “Dude”). The parallel I saw between these two objects, was the objectification and utilisation of the male and female bodies – I also liked the contrast between the soft, dull texture of the tufting and the smooth, shiny texture of the plastic. My contribution to this task made Sukie laugh, a lot – Which I was glad about. It was funny and slightly ridiculous, as well as being a bit dark and perverse. But I am a fan of satire, so I would approve at laughing at the sinister.

The next task was to create a textiles build in response to the prompt ‘Chasing Shadows’. We had been warned in advance to bring textiles materials and since I have been testing out painting on loose (unstretched) canvas material – I decided to use these scraps for the workshop. I decided that I wanted the ‘shadows’ in my response to be real shadows – so I closed the curtains and turned off all the lights except for a ‘reading light’ I acquired from my father. I tore the painted canvas into smaller strips and pieces and pierced them onto a kebab skewer, ordering them by size – to give a sense of direction (this was the ‘chasing’ part of the artwork). I then adjusted the light, until I was happy with the shadow the piece cast on the wall and then photographed it. I was interested by the ephemeral nature of this build – as soon as I opened the curtains, it ceased to exist. The photograph was required to document the build as it was intended to be seen. What was left afterwards was some rags on a kebab skewer!

The final task was to create a piece responding to a chosen theme from a list of options. I had opted for the theme of ‘home’ but in the end, I think the build I ended up creating may have fitted better under the ‘identity’ theme. I guess, for me, the two themes are interrelated – the connecting element being belonging. I have been contemplating the notion of ‘home’ a lot recently and come to the conclusion that I don’t feel like a “belong” to anywhere other than a vague concept of “Europe”. I have lived in Sheffield since 2015, but I didn’t grow up here and I don’t feel a strong connection to the city – in many ways I still feel like an outsider. I grew up in Leicester, but I hated it and I don’t have a strong Leicester accent. If I had the opportunity I would leave the UK in an instance, I feel much more “at home” in other European countries. All this was going through my mind as I was responding to this task. I used a larger painted scrap, multi-colours representing cultural diversity and began stitching black embroidery thread to represent the arbitrary borders used to defined “nations”. Then, I took a bright blue ribbon (my trademark colour) and sewed it tracing a route across the different segments (nations), returning to some segments multiple times (to represent the fact that I go to Germany and Belgium far more frequently than anywhere else).

 I’m not sure I am happy with how this build turned out, but Boudicca seemed to enjoy it! The detail photographs I took seem to be more impactful that the piece as a whole.

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