My visits to London are infrequent so I like to make the most of them. Hence I've had a long day criss-crossing the city from East to West and back again to catch three exhibitions. I'm tired, my feet ache and my head is buzzing but I want to take the time to collect my thoughts.
First, I went to Clerkenwell to see Gizella K Warburton's solo exhibition (finishes on Sunday). Visit her web site to see very good images and more information about her work. I last saw Gizella's work at Alexandra Palace in 2010 so was intrigued to see how it has developed. I noticed more three dimensional work and integration of wood and slate alongside the cloth and thread. The common ground is that we are both interested in marks - as she puts it, "the innate human urge to make marks ... to decipher the meaning of our physical and emotional landscapes, and the transient nature of the warp and weft of our lives."
One of the striking features of Gizella's work is the way she never disguises the true nature of her materials. Everything, cloth, thread, wood, remains exactly what it is even as she combines and juxtaposes colours and textures. The colours are monochromatic - mostly the natural colours of her materials. Texture is emphasised - creased cloth, scorched wood, frayed edges. Even where she coats the cloth with paint or medium, whether printed or painted, the original texture tends to be emphasised rather than covered.
What fascinated me most though was the breadth of stitch vocabulary she achieves within only one or two stitch types. Her stitched marks are as important as the cloth. They are nearly all variations on knots or straight stitches, plus couching of thread directly onto the surface. But she finds so many variations within this repertoire. Thread ends are often exposed - adding to the texture. I admire the way she varies the rhythm, density and placing of the stitches with such good judgement as to what each piece needs. Perhaps I was particularly tuned into noticing this since I am in stitch mode in the studio at present.
Next I squeezed in a visit to Erskine, Hall & Coe to see their exhibition of ceramics by Ewen Henderson. I always find ceramics very inspiring - I think it is something about surfaces, texture and marks that appeals to my own instincts. Also, when I look at other textile artists, I know too much about how it is done. Whereas when I look at ceramics I think more freely about how I would achieve similar effects in cloth. I liked the textures and marks of Henderson's pieces. I particularly liked one piece where fragments of dark blue glaze seemed to emerge out of the coarse texture of the clay - I watched effect of the changing light on this for some time. I also liked the forms of his large pieces. Complex, organic forms - some of them look like a collapsed piece of archaeology. He said this about his work that: