Christina Hesford: Art that inspires
Christina Hesford is a hand weaver focusing on woven artwork for galleries, public, and private spaces, with a particular interest in the traces of humanity’s passage on earth. This year Christina is exhibiting her new work at the 16th International Triennial of Tapestry in Lodz, Poland, opening May 9th – October 30th, 2016. She’s also a teaching assistant on textiles in practice at Manchester School of Art.
‘Art that inspires’ is a new series for TextileArtist.org, in which established textile practitioners discuss artists and pieces that have been influential to their own creative journey. In this edition, Christina takes on the challenge of selecting 5 works of art that have inspired her.
Artist: Susie MacMurray
Other information: Site-specific installation at Keddleston Hall, Derbyshire; 105 miles of fine gold embroidery thread
The December 2008 issue of Selvedge magazine led me to the work of Susie MacMurray. The article was about ‘Echo’, a site-specific installation at St. Mary’s, York, which captured me through its soulfulness and sublimity. As I began to research MacMurray’s work, I realised that these qualities are evoked in all of her work and that her creative identity is evident in everything she makes.
For me, ‘Promenade’ is one of the most beautiful and simple of her works. MacMurray’s use of one material, gold embroidery thread, transformed through the quantity of thread used, heightens the sense of story and of place for the audience. ‘Promenade’, or indeed any of MacMurray’s work, is a reminder of the power that one or two well-chosen materials can have. Interestingly, I think of MacMurray as a textile artist, although she does not define herself as such. For me, this is because of the artist’s self-control with regard to material choices and her engagement with tactility.
‘Promenade’ has also taught me to appreciate the perspective of the general public. By making work which is appealing, attractive, and has a story, MacMurray helps the audience to relate to her works, and therefore makes art an inclusive experience, when so often it is exclusive. I believe that this has also helped MacMurray’s work to become a part of the public’s consciousness.
It is not only MacMurray’s artistic endeavours which inspire me but also her journey into becoming an artist. Whilst at university, I attended a lecture by the artist. I discovered that originally she had trained and worked as a classical musician and later re-trained in Sculpture and Fine Art. I was encouraged to hear that her journey to becoming an artist had not been straightforward, but that her varied experiences had all contributed to her success.
Artist: Sachiko Abe
Materials used: Paper and pen
Other information: Produced during A Foundation residency
During my Foundation year in 2010, I visited the Liverpool Biennial. In a huge industrial space of brick and concrete, I came across Sachiko Abe. She sat on a ledge above the viewers, cutting paper into millimetre wide strips which fell to the floor beneath. Abe’s performance would take place all day, every day, for the length of the biennial. It was not, however, the calm, meditative repetition of the paper-cutting which caught me, but the drawing which I found in an adjoining room.
Abe’s drawing was composed of minute, rice-shaped marks that covered the surface of the paper, with an unfinished edge on one side where the paper extended in a roll, and where the drawing would be continued. Although Abe has said, ‘Be warned, my work is neither beautiful or meditational’ (Abe, 2010), I was awed by the meditative beauty and precision of the marks, and the fact that each mark should be perfect and exact, despite the monotonous repetition. I also felt that the artist’s commitment to this work was visible.
For me, this drawing is not necessarily about the visual appeal, but the obvious commitment of time and patience; and the idea that many small things make a whole. I often think about Abe’s drawing method when I am weaving, as each pass of weft is equally important to the finished cloth.
Artist: Adam Buick
Notable exhibitions: Jerwood Makers Open 2013
Other information: Porcelain and rope; originally hung in caves around the Pembrokeshire coast
Buick’s ‘Veneration Bell’ hung in a darkened space accompanied by a video showing the bell hung in a cave on the Pembrokeshire coast. As the tide came in, the chimes of the bell, which had been clearly audible, were drowned by the incoming tide. I was impressed by how emotionally resonant the video was. It clearly conveyed a beautiful idea, without being over-indulgent; allowing the simplicity of the clay form and the location to discourse with one another in order to create meaning. On reflection, Buick’s ‘Veneration Bell’ contributed largely to my exploration of textile art viewed in outdoor landscapes.
Buick’s skill as a potter is evident in all of his vessels. I was interested to learn that he only makes moon jars, a specific vessel form that are highly complex to make. This mono-focus approach provides him the opportunity to perfect the craft of this clay form. Additionally, Buick sources clay and other elements and minerals from his local area, giving him total control over his primary materials and his final outcomes.
The quietness of Buick’s ‘Veneration Bell’ and moon jars has instilled in me a recognition of the ability of a work to speak gently, not forcing its point onto a viewer, but allowing the audience to approach things in their own time. Buick’s practice impresses upon me the skill involved in being a maker of any kind, as well as the importance of using the appropriate materials for the purpose, and also the understanding that the context in which an artwork is seen or experienced can entirely change its meaning.
Artist: David Nash
Year: Planted in 1977 – ongoing
Other information: Site specific artwork at Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales
The work of land artists has always spoken very strongly to me; from Richard Long’s ‘A Line Made by Walking’ to Andy Goldsworthy’s ‘Beech Leaf Line’. However, it is David Nash’s ‘Ash Dome’ that has had the most long-lasting impact on me and which has given me to the most food for thought. Although I have never seen ‘Ash Dome’ (and not many people have, as it is planted in a secret location near Nash’s home in Wales), it is the story of its creation and the relationship of the artist with his artwork which I find so compelling.
In 1977, Nash planted 22 ash saplings in a ring. Over the years, he has tended to the plants, fletched them in order to shape their growth into a dome, and honoured his stewardship of the artwork. So far, Nash has committed nearly 40 years to its development.
‘Ash Dome’ challenges me. It makes me rethink what constitutes a material in an artwork and reminds me that anything I find can be used to draw with, or to make something from. It makes me reconsider the term collaboration. Instead of a person, Nash collaborates with nature, which can grow, breathe, and respond of its own accord (see his work, ’Wooden Boulder’).
This piece of land-art reminds me what it is to be considerate of the future, as well as the present. Although ‘Ash Dome’ is a long-term commitment for the artist, eventually it will disappear as the trees die and decompose, returning to the earth, reminding us of the ephemerality of the world.
Chromatic Landscape Warm
Artist: Ptolemy Mann
Size of piece: 180cm x 150cm x various depths
Other information: Hand-dyed ikat process
Ptolemy Mann is an exceptional hand-weaver, whose eye for colour and manual skill have led her to produce exquisite colourful works for galleries and private and public commissions. This has also led to a presence in the commercial design world, as well as consultancy work for healthcare projects, schools, and building interiors and exteriors.
Mann’s use of colour is what captures me most: her use of colour theory to illicit a response is entirely effective. It is also powerful; Mann challenges the viewer to think about colour in a new way, not only according to Pantone colour blocks, but as shades, tones and hues which merge together, sit alongside, contrast, and create relationships with one another. Mann’s use of 3-dimensional forms as vessels for her cloth is also very innovative. Her precision presentation methods always challenge me to re-consider how cloth can be presented.
Mann’s practice has also shown me that it is possible to have both an art practice and a commercial practice: two sides, for some, of the same coin. By not shying away from the commercial potential of her work, Mann encourages a recognition of the pride which can exist in the art world and uses her creative skills to benefit other areas such as healthcare environments.
Choosing only five artworks which I have found inspiring was quite a challenge. Narrowing the list down to works by these 5 artists, Susie MacMurray, Sachiko Abe, Adam Buick, David Nash, and Ptolemy Mann has been a wonderful opportunity for reflection, and also provided some surprising revelations.
In choosing these five artists, I was not only reflecting on specific artworks, but also the artists’ practices. As I wrote, I realised that there are large similarities between all of these artists’ practices, despite their diverse fields: the use of repetition; commitment to a material, process, or form; use of simplicity, and allowing space for viewer interpretation. These are all qualities which I believe underpin my own practice, and consequently I have been left asking: have I absorbed these qualities from the artists I have admired, or have I been drawn to the qualities in others which exist in myself?
For more information visit: www.christinahesford.com
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