In our series of interviews with TSG members I took the chance to call on Alison King recently to see what she was working on for DIS/rupt, the group’s forthcoming exhibition that opens in Stroud in May. Alison, who studied Fine Art/Painting at Edinburgh College of Art, discovered her love of textiles while teaching art and found that the qualities of working with fabric and thread could enhance her painterly style.
As with the other interviewees I first of all asked Alison which area of the DIS/rupt project she was investigating or exploring?
In my work for the Dis/rupt project I decided to look at the plight of migrants. I think everyone is hugely conscious of the terrible situation with refugees in the world, particularly those from Syria. However, with “Food Chain”, I have focused on the plight of the Chinese who came during the 1960’s to Britain to escape the abject poverty of the Northern Territories of Hong Kong. Nothing could be more disruptive than leaving all your family and your very special cultural traditions. By no means always welcome, these immigrants struggled to find success and very many achieved this through their restaurants and takeaways. Chained to a life of incredibly hard work, unsociable hours and even racial abuse, these migrants went on to reach extraordinary goals. Chinese Restaurants and Take Aways are in every town and village in the UK – an amazing achievement.
Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt?
In the installation “Food Chain” a long table is draped with an embroidered cloth. At one end are images of a past left behind, lost friends, family, traditions and at the other those of the new life with all the brash colours of the Chinese fast food industry. Between lies a symbolic painted sea. The table is set for a meal served initially in porcelain bowls but then in the cardboard boxes of the takeaway.
What are the materials and processes that you are working with?
The table cloth has a patchwork quality. Some sections have traditional Chinese embroidery, others reverse appliqué that recreates ancient designs . These are alongside images of the past and packaging from today’s fast food supermarkets. Machine and hand stitch, embellishment, paint and paper are all included. I am particularly pleased with the central area where I used sheets of Chinese recipes, painted and bordered with traditional wave patterns.
Incorporated into the cloth are two images of my Chinese daughter in law, whose knowledge and advice made this project so worthwhile.
Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?
The table itself is 2 metres long and I am hoping the spectator will perhaps be able to imagine sitting down at it to eat a banquet of two parts. A short film will also accompany the installation that shows the heat and intensity found in the Chinese kitchen .
What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?
Although “Food Chain” appears decorative, even sumptuous in places, it is a serious reflection on the problems of migration. Do we really appreciate how immigrants need to work so hard, particularly in the food industry? Do we always welcome these outsiders with the necessary compassion.?
You are one of the TSG tutors running workshops during the DIS/rupt exhibition, briefly, what can your students expect from the class?
This should hopefully prove an entertaining workshop. We will be experimenting with letter shapes that spell out the words of life’s contradictions. This is a class aimed at both the beginner and the more experienced. A lot of colour, glue, thread, fabric and mess will probably be involved!
Thank you Alison, I can’t wait to see the finished piece and how interesting to have such a personal connection to your subject. People interested to participate in Alison’s Stroud workshop can find information and booking details here SIT select 2017
There are also links for booking on the TSG website here TSG
Further information about Alison’s work and a link to last year’s TextileArtists.org interview can be found here TextileArtist.org