During the Christmas break I had the pleasure of visiting The Hepworth Gallery for a family Twixmas day out in Wakefield. I had heard quite a bit about this new prize for sculpture but had not investigated the artists or their work so arrived open minded and ready to learn. Unsurprisingly all four artists and their works excited me but as a textile practitioner and educator two pieces stood out. I felt the need to spend more time with them in a way that was different to the other works; they had something to teach me about my own practice.
The first is A Stich in Time by David Medalla, a participatory piece of work that involves the audience sewing small objects of significance onto large stretches of fabric. It is playful and experimental, challenging the notion of the creative hierarchy by facilitating work that develops in the hands of non-artists. Being in the space required a different sort of engagement from me – a creative concentration as I diligently sewed my shopping list (unusually the only disposable object in my bag) to the suspended fabric. The pieces of cloth were embellished with a variety of personal objects including bus tickets, photographs, sweet wrappers, business cards and even a single Polo mint. The work communicates the rhythms of life, memories and our relationship with the world. Whilst attaching my shopping list I felt I was part of a performance, viewed with the work by the other visitors who wandered through the gallery. I considered how my small contribution was going on a journey and taking on a new significance as it became part of this collaborative artwork.
Since 1968 different versions of this work has been created by communities across the world including Johannesburg (South Africa), London (UK), Texas (USA), Kassel (Germany), Lisbon (Portugal) and Kiev (Ukraine). Medalla sees the work as both public and private at the same time. The work exists in a public space but the “act of stitch is private, it is just you.”
The second piece of work couldn’t have been much more different in both scale and power. Scree by Phyllida Barlow is sculpture of great size, filling and breaking up the gallery space. It is a raised angled platform made from metal, wood, concrete, scrim, paint, PVA that appears to be perforated with monumental sewing needles. What draws me to the work is its presence in the room – you can walk below it, exploring the dark grey knobbly underside but also view the upper side that is full of colour and detail. I am also attracted to the frank use of materials; the surfaces are textured with layers of boards, scrim, concrete and paint to create a seemingly haphazard structure. This investigation into materiality, form and process the artist admits does not necessarily produce aesthetic qualities but does encourage the viewer to engage and relate to the work in a more honest way. It feels playful and expressive not allowing itself to be confined by classical standards in finish and beauty.
These and the other artworks are on display until 19 February 2017 at the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield with a talk by David Medalla on Thursday 2 February.
What did you see over the Christmas break that inspired or moved you?
Images: Featured: Phyllida Barlow, Scree from above,
David Medalla, A Stitch in Time,
Phyllida Barlow, Scree from below.
The Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield http://www.hepworthwakefield.org
The Hepworth Prize of Sculpture: David Medalla. Hepworth Wakefield (2016) YouTube Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gty5WppNEqg
The Hepworth Prize of Sculpture: Phyllida Barlow. Hepworth Wakefield (2016) YouTube Video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fmnDCwBHDi8