Anne Kelly: Art that inspires

Anne Kelly: Art that inspires

Anne is an award-winning artist, author and tutor living and working in the UK and abroad.

She launched her second book Textile Nature at the Knitting and Stitching Shows in London, Dublin and Harrogate in the autumn of 2016.

In 2017 she is an invited tutor for Fibre Arts Australia and New Zealand. Her solo exhibition Folk Tales can be seen at the Old Chapel Textile Centre, National Needlework Archive, in Newbury, Berkshire next July and August.

Art that inspires is a series for, in which established textile practitioners discuss artists and pieces that have been influential on their own creative journey. In this edition, Anne chooses five artists and explains how their art has informed and shaped her processes and work.

Louise Bourgeois – Ode á la Bièvre

Louise Bourgeois, Ode á la Bièvre, 2002, Textile book

Louise Bourgeois, Ode á la Bièvre, 2002, Textile book

Anne Kelly: I saw an exhibition of her textile work at Hauser and Wirth’s London gallery a few years ago and was bowled over by the simplicity and strength of her pieces. This cloth book is typical of her work, a limited palette and minimal shapes but still very evocative. I also like the way she combines stitch and colour.

From a recent exhibition catalogue, Ode á la Bièvre was made by Louise Bourgeois in 2002 as an embroidered book from fragments of cloth. In the book, she reminisces, through images and text, about the impact the river had on her.

Her family moved next to the Bièvre in the suburbs of Paris when she was 8 years old in 1919. Years later, Bourgeois was to go back to that house with her own family only to find the river to no longer existed:

Only the trees that my father had planted along its edge remained as a witness.

My homages to her work My LB and Baby Spider are included in my second book Textile Nature as is a quote from her.

I love making cloth books and the tactile and colourful qualities of hers are inspiring.

Joseph Cornell – The Hotel Eden

Joseph Cornell, The Hotel Eden, 1943, Wooden box, mixed media and found objects, Collection National Gallery of Canada

Joseph Cornell, The Hotel Eden, 1943, Wooden box, mixed media and found objects, Collection National Gallery of Canada

Joseph Cornell lived all his life in his mother’s house in Queen’s, New York City, where he spent every evening taking care of his invalid brother.

During the day, Cornell scoured second-hand bookstores and antique shops in Manhattan, collecting images and objects for his work. Birds often feature in the intriguing small wooden boxes for which he is best known.

I wrote a dissertation on Cornell’s work when studying for my BA in Fine Art many years ago. Seeing a selection of his small pieces at the Royal Academy last year reminded me why I was drawn to it originally. The craftsmanship and detail of his objects are impressive but it was his organisational craft that struck me.

He kept boxes for all his passions and themes and was able to dip into them at will. I have advised students to follow his example as it seems a sensible way to work! My birdhouse and Nature Block series are inspired by his work.

Eva Hesse – Sans II

Eve Hesse, Sans II, 1968, Fibreglass Sculpture, Collection San Francisco Museum of Fine Art

Eve Hesse, Sans II, 1968, Fibreglass Sculpture, Collection San Francisco Museum of Fine Art

Eva Hesse’s organic sculptures are enigmatic and troubling as was her life. Her work is a reminder that life is not always pretty and neat around the edges.

As the New York Times says in a review of her work:

Using materials then new to sculpture, like latex and fiberglass, she made work that hung, draped, dangled, looped, drooped, slumped, webbed, imitated skin, suggested bodily orifices, spilled or just lay on the floor.

Art that wasn’t ‘art’ was her aim. The following she wrote in an exhibition statement in 1968:

I wanted to get to non art, non connotive, non anthropomorphic, non geometric, non, nothing, everything, but of another kind, vision, sort, from a total other reference point,

Her life and art have inspired many contemporary practitioners and she was a true pioneer in textile sculpture. Although not directly influenced by her work I find it moving and atmospheric, and a great reference point for students to look at.

Anselm Kiefer – Lilith and Roten Meer

Anselm Kiefer, Lilith and Roten Meer (detail), 1990, Lead, clothes, steel wire and ash on canvas, 2.8 x 4.9m

Anselm Kiefer, Lilith and Roten Meer (detail), 1990, lead, clothes, steel wire and ash on canvas, 2.8 x 4.9m

I first came across Kiefer’s painting in London at a group show of German artists in the 1980’s. His use of materials and mark making made his work distinctive and unforgettable. His work has evolved into more sculptural pieces whilst he has exploited a connection with the spoken word, even only by using fragments of poetry.

This interaction of work and image to create meaning interests me and his exhibition Wallhala at White Cube in London this winter was one of the most powerful I’ve seen lately. His large vitrines echo Cornell’s boxes.

In the catalogue for his current exhibition it says:

Several new vitrines, in different scales, continue these themes, through assemblages of soiled bleached clothes, stones, stacks of institutional metal beds, bicycles or small trees set upon squared off, cut-out sections of earth. Sealed off and displayed, these objects appear like fossils or unearthed artefacts entombed in glass and lead cases.

I also love the way he uses clothing to represent people as in the picture here.

Mary Delany – Floral Embroidery

Mary Delany, Floral Embroidery, c.1750, Hand stitch on cloth

Mary Delany, Floral Embroidery, c.1750, Hand stitch on cloth

Mary Delany was an extraordinary woman, who started embroidering during her first marriage. She developed her unique method of paper cut out art later in life after the death of her second husband.

Her sentiments regarding women could now be interpreted as feminist but at the time she was merely expressing her thoughts based on her experience as a twice-widowed woman. Her love of gardening and botany can be seen in these finely cut collages of plants and flowers, often based on her gardens or those of those she visited.

These were exhibited at Sir John Soane’s house in London in 2010 and examples of her work are held at the British Museum.

I love the stark contrast between the black background and colour of the embroidery, the accuracy of her observation of plants. She was noted for working from live specimens when producing her paper cuts. I encourage all artists to work from life and collect natural objects as she did.

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We would love to hear which artists inspire your work. Please leave your thoughts below.

Friday 18th, October 2019 / 14:19

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3 comments on “Anne Kelly: Art that inspires”

  1. Carol Naylor says:

    lovely article and such a great range of inspiring artists Anne

  2. Raine Phillips says:

    Always interesting to read what inspires others.

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