Embroidery and Stitching

My practice centres around ideas of beauty and ugliness and the conventions which determine our definition of each. I am interested in how we see things and how we interpret what we see: does my particular way of representing bodies, using fabrics, stitching and embroidery, affect how the content of the work is seen? To some extent I see my work as an investigation of the divide between craft and art.

I love bodies. And it is not the conventionally beautiful bodies that take my eye, it is bodies which show their history, that have been altered by their experiences, that are decorated with bruises, scars, spots, stretch marks, freckles, pigmentation, veins. Bodies that have the marks of life on them. But also bodies which have been deliberately altered and decorated - by man rather than by life – scarification, tattoos, plastic surgery, fillers, etc. Are some characteristics of bodies inherently beautiful, or ugly, or disgusting? Or because we see everything through the veil of culture, fashion and convention is it almost impossible for us to see bodies objectively?

I am planning a series of medical/surgical pieces, showing bodies that have been altered by disease or surgery. My granny (an upholsterer and seamstress of great skill) had her breast removed as a result of cancer and was hugely grateful to the surgeon for saving her life. But she was almost equally appreciative of what a beautiful stitching job he had done. She was very proud of her scar.

2D TO 3D

In these pieces I am translating two dimensional images from well-known paintings into three dimensional objects. The painters whose work I have used translated three dimensional objects into two dimensional images creating something original and new. My translation from the two dimensional image to a three dimensional object is not a copy but the creation of something new. Even though I could not have made the objects without the painters’ images, I am translating rather than copying.

I want to investigate how the transformation affects how both the new three dimensional objects and the original two dimensional images are seen. Are the objects I have made recognisable as coming from the images in the paintings?

Part of my concern in this work is how fleetingly we look at paintings, particularly famous paintings which we have become so accustomed to seeing copies of. I wanted to spend time with the paintings and to overcome the indifference that their familiarity had induced in me. In naming the pieces as I have - using the familiar name of the owner of the objects - I want to reflect how 'everyday' even the most extraordinary paintings can become when they are reproduced ad nauseam.


In this group of paintings my initial interest was in the nature of the surface – how one looks through the surface of a painting to what lies beyond. I used several layers of primer rubbed down to form a very smooth surface. I worked with the surface placed horizontally and started adding colours to the wet, smooth surface. It was at this point that my interest moved on from the surface and I started to notice how the paints behaved. Not only did the colours I was using affect each other in the way that any colour affects the ones surrounding it, they also affected each other in a physical way. One of the reds pushed every other colour away; when I dropped Portrait Pink onto Prussian Blue the blue contained the pink in a small circle; navy blue burst into a wavy, expanding circle. I used those characteristics to allow the colours to make their own way on the surface and also experimented with the effects of detergent, salt, vodka, vinegar, baking powder, oil, masking tape. Left overnight what appeared in the morning as the result of drying, separating, solidifying, splitting, combining, attracting and repulsing was sometimes extraordinary. Not quite making gold from base metal but making something which could not be planned and was always a surprise.

I see my role in the paintings as one of alchemist – I add the chemical elements but it is their reaction with one another and with H2O that creates the painting. There are no marks which indicate gesture or authorship.