Studio postings

Following the success of the DIS/rupt exhibition, the symposium and workshops, the show came down on the 22nd May and many of the TSG will now have their work back at home, or in storage ready for the next stage of the tour. This begins in Oldham later this year.

Sheila Mortlock has been so busy interviewing other members that she hasn’t had the opportunity to share her work on the Blog. It’s relevance to the DIS/rupt topic is particularly moving this week as we come to terms another shocking terrorist outrage, this time particularly aimed at the young enjoying a concert. It seems to me Sheila, that under these particular circumstances your personal ‘take’ on ‘DIS/rupt’ has a renewed poignancy – can you tell us how you started your research for these touching pieces?

How did the idea develop as you made the pieces?

From the different areas of interest that formed the basis of DIS/rupt I was immediately attracted to the idea of conflict-created migration, not because it was an easy topic but because it wasn’t. I think, in part, that was because at the time of discussion the plight of migrants trying to flee oppression and war was in the news almost daily. The final thing that crystallised my response in my own mind was the distressing publication of a child’s lifeless body on a beach.

Original drawing, pencil, graphite and charcoal

When I did an Open University degree some years ago, I became interested in Mary’s various hand positions in the Annunciation paintings of the Renaissance and worked on a large graphite and pencil drawing of my own hand clutching fabric, expressing my interest in the universality of that gesture. My idea for DIS/rupt brought these diverse things together as I considered how any mother under extreme stress would desperately clutch at her family to keep them safe with the obvious distress when they were lost.

 I know you have particularly enjoyed using newer technologies for this exhibition. How has this affected the work?

 I was keen to explore different technologies and DISrupt my normal practice. I am principally a hand stitched, sometimes with print, so these pieces were certainly outside my comfort zone. I worked with hydro-chromic and thermo-chromic inks although neither ended up in my pieces, however the real challenge was the use of fibre optics and e-textile techniques. I was helped in my research by staff from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art here in Dundee and I feel I have learned a lot – although I knew nothing before, so not difficult to pass that bar. I also worked with iPad apps to DISrupt my large hand drawing and had the result digitally printed on silk crepe de chine. Being so far out of my comfort zone was uncomfortable and I only realized how uncomfortable when I returned to an unfinished piece once I came home from Stroud. That being said I will continue to develop these techniques and maybe use them in future work.

digital print on crepe de chine
If Not Now…1, detail

 What thought affected your choice of scale for the pieces?

 The digital print was the full width of the fabric and the other pieces were both a metre long. Working with hand stitch, my pieces can be smaller just because of the time it takes to produce but I am going to try to upscale!

Sketchbook page

 As we move the show ‘on tour’ will you make any alterations to the work?

If Not Now…3, detail

I think the main thing will be finding an alternative means of powering the fibre optics. I used lithium batteries in Stroud but a full day being switched on and I discovered that the batteries quickly ran out. A lead to an electric socket is obviously the best solution but I will need to find out how to do that. It is all a learning experience and it has been fun but not without its challenges.

If Not Now…2, detail

What message do you hope that viewers of your work will take away from the exhibition?

I hope that viewers will have responded to the pieces without necessarily needing to know all the details of what they are about although I hope they are interested in that too. I wanted the strength of the hand image to be central and how the gesture of holding, clutching and grasping cloth is common to us all, across all cultures from the minute we are born until the day we die. And the little fibre optics represent the glimmers of hope in an uncertain world.

 Thank you for sharing your views Sheila, it’s a really interesting response. Next stop Gallery Oldham!

Kay Greenlees

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