Cos Ahmet: From conception to creation
The core of Cos Ahmet’s work is centred on the body. Recurring themes of self, identity, sexuality, gender and memory, are emotive features in much of his work, displayed as a complex set of body dialogues.
Since his successful exhibition Thread Is A Thought, supported by Theo Moorman Trust for Weavers Award was shown in the Textile Galleries at Knitting & Stitching Shows 2016, Cos has been selected for a variety of exhibitions including Heallreaf 2, curated by Margaret Jones, an international tapestry exhibition that toured The Edward James Studios at West Dean and The Brick Lane Gallery in London.
His latest, and largest exhibition to date, Points of Juncture is currently showing at Forty Hall Estate, a Jacobean manor house on the edge of north London. Points of Juncture was commissioned by Forty Hall Estate and supported by Arts Council England.
The exhibition displays recent works and specially commissioned pieces that reference Forty Hall’s very existence, ‘a place built upon a textile legacy’ by its former owner, Sir Nicholas Rainton who traded textiles across Europe.
In this article, part of our From conception to creation series, Cos discusses his installation Building A Legacy, part of his Points of Juncture exhibition. He reveals where inspiration was discovered, how the piece developed and what materials and methods Cos used to bring it to life.
Name of piece: Building A Legacy
Year of piece: 2017
Size of piece: Dimensions variable, site specific installation
Materials used: Plaster, paper, fabric scrim, various yarns, threads and fibres
Techniques used: Casting of hands, hand-made pirns, binding and wrapping
Forging a material identity
TextileArtist.org: How did the idea for the piece come about? What was your inspiration?
Cos Ahmet: My starting point for the new work was inspired by and references Forty Hall’s very existence, a place built upon a textile legacy.
I wanted to take a very different approach and not be literal or obvious, abstracting the information the way I see it. What emerged for me was a certain dialogue, a notion that the fabric or material, had become the Hall’s symbol, forging itself a ‘material identity’, and presenting its own metaphor, which draws parallels with how I see the processes in my own work and practice, and creating a new discourse where these two identities meet.
Building A Legacy makes particular reference to Rainton’s role as a mercer, through a series of casts of hands upon which spools or pirns of yarns rest.
These casts symbolise the hands in various ways: the hands that make the cloth (the weaver) and the hands of the creator; they also allude to the ships that imported the fabrics (the mercer), whilst the spools and the threads attached to them, suggest the weaving process, and the ‘boat shuttles’ used on the looms to produce the cloth.
What research did you do before you started to make?
I tend not to make any definite decisions, but rather let the ideas come of their own accord, forming its own voice. The research side came with several site visits to Forty Hall, to get a feel for the place, space and the reason for its existence. The hands didn’t come immediately as an idea or as the most obvious thing when walking around the house.
Forty Hall had recently undergone a huge restoration project, thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding. I was privileged to see the ‘before and after’ photographs of Forty Hall, which seemed to be in three different stages of restoration; before, in between and after.
What struck me while I researched its textile links, that many hands were involved in creating its dialogue. The hands spoke to me, and that is how I came up with the idea for Building A Legacy.
Sketches came next before experimenting with the shapes of hands and the making of the pirns (spools) that would sit in the hand to emulate the various symbolism that it would carry.
When it came to the use of colour, I wanted to keep it quite simple, which suits the current way I am working. For me the nudeness of these hands hint at a ‘faded history’ or ‘memory’, almost ghost like in their appearance, only giving a trace presence.
The hand of the creator
Was there any other preparatory work?
I made a number of test for my hands, looking at specific shapes for the hands, though the best one seemed to be the most simple and most elegant. A hand laid out flat, the thumb pressed against the hand, mimicking a boat shape.
The first thing I did was to take a photograph of my own hand to have a reference to the shape I wanted to develop.
I later took an additional image with the cast hand holding a pirn, with another bound in threads. I knew from that moment that the hands would only work with the pirns and nothing else, the message was clear and made so much sense to my initial idea.
What materials were used in the creation of the piece? How did you select them? Where did you source them?
After the initial experiments, I made a series of casts from my hand, making sure that I was constantly mindful not to deviate from the hand being recognisable as such, even though it carried a number of symbolic references: creator, mercer, ship, weaver, shuttle.
The casts were made from a combination of plaster, fabric scrims and paper, meticulously smoothed as I was casting. For me the plaster constructions hinted at the lathe and plaster constructions of the original walls that exist in Forty Hall, and talks about the ‘fabric of the House’ as well making reference to the very fabrics that were imported and sold, the very ‘making’ of the House.
The pirns were made from a type of paper that I have had for years and never knew what to do with. It perfectly mimics the cardboard bobbins or spools used in weaving which became my make-shift pirns.
A variety of threads, yarns and fibres are all hand bound and wrapped around each and every pirn! There are 75 plus hands and pirns within the installation.
What journey has the piece been on since its creation?
Building A Legacy was one of two specially commissioned piece by Forty Hall Estate, with the support of Arts Council England, and accompany recent works for my current One-Man exhibition Points of Juncture, so for this particular piece, it is the first outing within this new exhibition.
It joins a similar work, In The Hands of My Creator, which was originally made for Thread Is A Thought, exhibited at K&S Shows 2016, and has been reworked especially for Points of Juncture.
Both works look at the concept of the ‘hand’ as a metaphor for creation and span various notions from building legacies to acts of self-discovery, where two identities meet, sharing similar attributes of self and creation, inventing a new discourse between each other and sharing this narrative with its audience.
Points of Juncture: An Exhibition by Cos Ahmet, is currently showing at Forty Hall Estate and runs until 22 October 2017.
For more information visit: www.cos-ahmet.co.uk
Read Cos Ahmet’s interview with TextileArtist.org here.
Let your friends know about this artist’s work by sharing the article on social media. It’s easy – click on the buttons below!