In just over two weeks the team who are charged with the task of hanging the DIS/rupt work will be starting to assemble in Stroud and the enormous job of making the exhibition come together after all the months of planning and the production of the work, will commence. So it seemed timely to ask another member about her work and I cornered Kay Greenlees one day to tell me what she has been working on. Kay is well known as a teacher and author of Creating Sketchbooks for Embroiderers and Textile Artists. I asked her first of all what area of the project she was exploring.
“What fresh hell is this?”
Much to my surprise I’m working within the ‘ecology’ category. This came about largely by accident as I explored the brief and looked at DIS/rupting my work pattern by using the idea of ‘chance’ happenings. These happenings also cause disruption to our countryside and ecology by threatening landscape and the survival of species; a sort of double DIS/rupt! I selected the topic because I was appalled when I heard that we had already lost six species of Moths since the turn of this century. I then chose to use ecological news items that I heard via the Radio 4 Today programme, therefore I have no idea how many issues there will be before the exhibition; it’s a chance that the items occur at all, and a chance that it is featured on the programme. I started recording these in March 2016 and for the Stroud exhibition I will stop at the end of this month.
That sounds really interesting, can you tell us something about the piece or pieces you are working on for DIS/rupt?
All the ecological news items have a focus that is to do with the British landscape and species, nothing ‘global’ such as warming. I hoped that this emphasis would provide several issues, each of which is the focus of a small ‘book unit’ which in turn builds into a ‘Library of Lost Causes’. Currently there are twelve with three new ones being added today – that’s three issues, not three of my book units! I have made eight so far but I may not use all of them. The ‘books’ are displayed ‘open’ and in fact do not actually close. Some individual units have taken a month to work on. The units are all the same size and on a small scale that has been selected so that the pages can be kept open, if you lay an ordinary book open on the table it will just ‘flop’ open, I’m hoping that my pages stand up. This technical problem of how to keep the pages open has been part of the vehicle for exploring the topic. I initially hoped to make this an abstract response but alas it’s had to be more representational than I hoped otherwise, the issue isn’t successfully communicated to the viewer. I have had to try to avoid a too obvious inclusion as this just leads to a really trite or clichéd response. I also kept the scale small so that I would have the chance to address as many issues as possible across the timescale I selected.
What are the materials and processes that you are working with?
I always try to use whatever I need to get my idea across. The book units are made in paper and include threads, stitch, objects trouve, or whatever allows me to focus on the idea, it’s not necessary (for me) that the piece is embroidered, although there may be a bit of that! I’m just hunting for my soluble fabric and fear I may have given it away.
Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your pieces?
I am hoping there will be between eight and twelve book units in the piece for Stroud, for subsequent exhibitions there may be more – or less if someone buys some!
Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?
Initially I envisaged that the piece would be displayed on a plinth but after several experiments with this I have decided to have it hanging on the wall. At the moment I am hoping that each unit will have a small Perspex shelf, but that is still to be finalised.
What message do you hope the viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?
I could have chosen some very positive environmental messages. There are instances where we have been able to reintroduce species and to rescue some landscapes but ‘Library of Lost Causes’ speaks for itself, although it could have ended with a question mark. It’s the cloud rather than the silver lining. Each page of the units is hand written and it is overwritten so that original sense is lost. The writing represents the rules/laws, research, scientific papers, news items, blogs and other debates that surround each issue. The book form, which traditionally contains writing, also provides a way of containing each disparate cause, and helps makes a link between them. My opening title ‘What fresh hell is this?’ both misquotes Dorothy Parker (who said this when answering her doorbell) and also makes a nuanced reference to my wrestling with the problems in making the work, my problems in dealing with the lack of control in using ‘chance’ as a response to DIS/rupt and the ‘bad news’ represented in each little book. On second thoughts it could make a good title for the piece! Back to work now, some winkles need polishing.
Thank you Kay. I know visitors to the exhibition will be fascinated to see how you have expressed these ideas through the books. The idea of the Library of Lost Causes is intriguing but so relevant to many aspects of contemporary environmental causes.
Information about the exhibition can be found here TSG
Information about the SIT select festival 2017 and booking details about the full range of workshops being run by TSG members during the exhibition can be found here SIT select 2017