Thursday, 21 April 2011

“Wabi sabi is an intuitive appreciation of a transient beauty in the physical world that reflects the irreversible flow of life in the spiritual world. It us an understated beauty that exists in the modest, rustic, imperfect, or even decayed, an aesthetic sensibility that finds a melancholic beauty in the impermanence of all things.”

Degree Show Brief

I went to see Future Beauty: 30 Years of Japanese Beauty in the Barbican a few months ago and have since become obsessed with the principle of wabi sabi! I'm trying to keep the key elements of it's principle of modesty and impermanence flowing through my work.

Impermanence is something I've been interested in for a long time, from my own personal experience. The way that a body decomposes; it's never permanent. Locks of hair, a tooth, a nail clipping - all traces of the body which now, doesn't exist. I want to explore this idea of impermanence through the manipulation of textiles. Clothing and other textile objects are often held onto after a person dies, and it's this idea of preservation of a physicality that inspires me. Even such intimate things as a hair become precious relics, which would normally be quite abject in terms of our reactions to finding a hair on for example, clothing or bedding.

On a much larger and more dramatically devastating scale, such tragic events as the tsunami in Japan offer elements of impermanence. I was horrified at the way that buildings - whole towns - that seems so permanent, so there could be wiped away, leaving nothing but the haunting residue of the lives lived before.
"The slightly discoloured fabric…resembles skin; fastening the scraps together are faint seams resembling scars"
– Anne Wilson


I became interested in the idea of cloth and clothing when my Dad passed away suddenly, when we left the hospital with a little bag of his clothing but not him, it opened my eyes to the power that clothing has. From being a huge sheet of fabric, to becoming a part of a person, of a time and place is something I am eager to explore.

It almost crosses over into the subject of memory, but I want to stay well away from that idea as I feel it is a subject that has been not necessarily exhausted but, it frequents many textile concepts. I’m more interest in a sense of history and the relationship our body has with cloth. From the way cloth is made, we labour over the warp and weft, essentially weaving a history within it.

Over the summer, I visited the V&A museum, particularly the Textiles room, where I was interested in the needlework samplers. Hundreds of years old, I was moved by the way the fabric was sodden with history, saturated with touch. It had been passed through someone’s hands over and over as they laboured over the embroidery. It was this that has made me want to explore that heavy, lingering sense of touch within cloth. There is a personal narrative with my concept that I think will always be there, which is about my Dad passing. It was so sudden that I think it’ll always be somewhere within my work, as I look at his dressing gown which harbours a musty slept-in smell, and crumbs from bacon and egg sandwiches!

I just want to explore our relationship with cloth; the one that most people, on a day to day basis, ignore. We aren’t really aware of how important cloth is to our culture. I am currently looking at the way skin and cloth combine, as skin becomes woven into the cloth, the warp and weft carrying our DNA, us and with that, our past.