DIS/rupt in Oldham – posting from the Gallery

DIS/rupt is now in its final few weeks at Gallery Oldham – it closes on 24th February – and you will have to travel to the Minerva Art Centre, Llanidloes in lovely mid Wales to see the work. More information about that in a future post.

However before it leaves Gallery Oldham I thought it would be interesting to hear what it has been like to have the TSG exhibition in the gallery from the people in whose care it has been since before it opened at the beginning of December and I have received this from the Gallery’s point of view.

There are nearly 2 weeks left to see the DIS/rupt exhibition at Gallery Oldham. It’s been on display for nearly 3 months and will be touring the UK, its next stop will be Minerva Arts Centre, Wales. Here Visitor Experience Assistant Rachel Ford gives us an insight in to what’s been involved from Gallery Oldham’s side of the project.

After months of planning, the gallery team had 1 week to prepare the gallery for the DIS/rupt exhibition. This included moving walls and painting them. Rebecca the Exhibitions and Collections Coordinator (Art) worked with Sarah Burgess from the Textile Study Group on the challenging tasks of laying out all 23 artists’ artwork, giving thought to the design layout and allowing each piece of artwork to have its own identity. The collection of artworks although fragile were quite easy to hang and the natural light from Gallery 2 complemented the artists chosen colours.   

Just before the grand opening on 2nd December 2017 the artist Sarah Burgess gave the front of house team a prep talk on each piece of artwork. This talk with Sarah gave us the opportunity ask questions and explore the exhibition. I was very interested in the research involved to obtain statistics relating to rising sea levels across the world for Sarah Burgess Artwork Drowning By Numbers: 2 Degrees and 4 Degrees. Sarah explained that various studies had taken place by university groups and the studies showed that if the temperatures rise globally by 2 or 4 degrees it is likely to have a devastating impact on at least ten cities worldwide, this would then have a knock-on effect destroying crops, homes and industry. The Textile Study Group are a group of nationally and internationally recognised textile artists and tutors based throughout the UK. The group are well known for innovative and challenging approaches to art practice and contemporary teaching.

The exhibition explores the concept of disruption in its widest sense. Through extensive research the group decided to explore several themes, including global conflict, concomitant problems of migration and the refugee crisis; climate change and ecological disruption; conflict within domestic relationships; and disruption within traditional fabric making processes.

My favourite piece in the exhibition has been Sian Martin’s, Dispatched With A Kiss. I found the story and the beautiful array of colours very moving. Inspired by a true story, the piece of artwork represents a timeline about a boy named Ahmed. Ahmed lived in Afghanistan when aged 15, ISIS came to his village and stole his two sisters and killed his father. His mother told him to run away and gave him a kiss on his cheek.

Fragments, detail Sian Martin

The piece itself is about 4 meters long. It begins with bright colours that represents Ahmed peaceful life. The colours then fade and bright orange fabric is threaded onto the steel, this represents Ahmed’s journey as he travels to France and Britain. Towards the end the fabric becomes much less. A pair of lost shoes represent the journey that many other refugees will continue to take.

The exhibition has been very popular, with visitors travelling from all over. The workshop with Artist Sarah Burgess sold out within the first few weeks upon opening and The Textile Study Group catalogue has been selling like hot cakes.

But before it leaves Gallery Oldham on Saturday 24th February, come and take a look at this amazing talent.

Catalogues for sale at £10 each

Thank you Rachel. It is always good to hear other view points of artists’ work and having your account from the perspective of the Gallery will be of enormous interest to readers.

Remember, the exhibition ends 24th February and our next post will give more information about its move to the Minerva Arts Centre. Catalogues can also be purchased through a link on the group’s website.

TSG website




Studio Postings…

In just over three weeks DIS/rupt will open at Gallery Oldham. It’s time therefore to have another posting from a TSG member’s studio to find out about the work visitors will see in Oldham. Shelley Rhodes will be well known to many of you through her membership of TSG but also through her teaching. Always interested to hear where ideas come from, as before, I asked Shelley what area of the DIS/rupt project she had been exploring. The piece is titled ‘Only Five Percent’ so I was keen to know what lay behind the title:

My work explores climate change specifically in relation to warming sea temperatures which are affecting the world’s coral reefs.

I am a great beachcomber and on some of my travels I had collected a few tiny coral fragments from the beach. They were beautiful, mainly bleached white with interesting marks, pattern and detail.

I had already begun to draw and use these as a source of mark making. So it was a natural progression for me to develop this interest.

Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt

I focused my research on coral bleaching, which is thought to occur when water temperatures rise for a sustained period of time. Coral is a living creature and the most obvious sign that coral is sick is coral bleaching. This happens when the algae on the coral surface dies or leaves the coral. The algae give coral its colour, so without it the coral has no colour and the white of the limestone shell shines through the transparent coral bodies.    

Whilst researching the project I came across a lot of statistics, mostly relating to percentages linked to the amount of bleaching on reefs around the world. One shocking statistics that I came across was ‘only five percent of the worlds coral reefs are in pristine condition’. Another stated that ‘fifty percent of the world’s reefs are damaged through bleaching’. I wanted to portray these statistics, so I decided to create one hundred small components with each representing one percent of the world’s coral. Half of the units are shades of white which represent the bleached coral. Five of the units are very brightly coloured, with the rest somewhere in between.

What are the materials and processes that you are working with?

I made marks made by printing, scorching and stitching. The marks were inspired by marks and patterns found on coral. I used a variety of lightweight and transparent fabrics which I fragmented, manipulated, shredded and layered.

Some of the pieces are very distressed as I tried to portray the skeletal qualities and fragility of the damaged coral. I also discharged colour to emulate the bleaching.

I wanted to refer to the many written statistics that I discovered during my investigations. So I included text relating to my research. I did this using image transfer methods and digital printing directly onto fabric. I also had some mini thermofax screens made, so that I could print the text easily throughout the piece.

 Are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?

The one hundred units are displayed in a block 4 deep x 25 wide. The overall size is 1metre in depth x 3.75m wide

Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?

It is wall mounted. Each individual piece is hung separately so there is space between each component. The individual pieces are for sale. The pieces that were sold in Stroud have been replaced with a ‘ghost’ image of the original piece printed onto tracing paper. I like the way that this represents the fact that some of the world’s coral species are slowly disappearing. These ‘ghost’ images may increase if sales are made at each venue!

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

I hope they will become aware of the catastrophic bleaching events that are taking place on the world’s coral reefs.

Thank you Shelley. I think people seeing your work in the gallery will be struck by how you have visually represented global warming and how the warming oceans are effecting coral reefs, such a fragile environment. If you want to see more of Shelley’s work in DIS/rupt then remember the dates.

Hope to see you there.

Studio Postings

The countdown to Oldham is in full swing, labels and packaging being checked and in just over three weeks DIS/rupt will open to the public in Gallery Oldham. Fine time therefore to find out from some more members about their work. I recently managed to chat with Janet Edmonds, author of several very popular books, about the work she will be submitting in Oldham.

First of all I asked Janet about the specific area of the DIS/rupt project she was investigating or exploring?

I have chosen to explore the global warming category and investigating extreme weather around the coast in particular. I began by looking into the Dawlish railway collapse as I use that line down to the West country fairly regularly so have a personal interest in what happened there in February 2014

Can you tell us something about the piece you are working on for DIS/rupt

I did some drawings to explore the idea of huge waves hitting the coastline but had great difficulty in trying to workout how this could be made. Over a period of time I began to consider the wider issue of the power of the sea as it makes landfall. Originally, I wanted to create a piece that would appear to burst through a wall which would mean making two pieces, one for either side. Due to life’s complications, I have had to modify my ideas and make something that I could do in the time I have available.

What are the materials and processes that you are working with?

Finding the right material to support my ideas took some time but eventually I made a breakthrough to the problem I had in supporting the fabric. I discovered Varaform, a material that can be moulded and shaped using heat or spraying with water. It becomes sticky so enables fabric to be fixed to it and retains its shape when cooled or dried. It also remains possible to hand stitch through it. I intend to make some fabric by machine to add to the piece and I am knitting with clear monofilament, again, to add to the hand stitched waves.

That sounds really interesting Janet, are you able to give us an idea of the scale of your piece?

The piece is not as large as I would like but is a metre wide and should be almost as high although I have not yet reached that stage. It will extend outwards from the wall.

Is the finished piece to be free standing or wall mounted?

The piece will be dimensional but wall hung and may be lit from within if the work goes according to plan.

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

Recent world news has brought us many horrific images of the damage and destruction that the sea can wreak when it reaches landfall. The energy within the waves heightened by adverse weather conditions is terrifying, even more so at close quarters. I hope that viewers will get a sense of the power of the sea and reflect on how small and insignificant we are against its might.

Thank you Janet, it will be of great interest to visitors to see the finished piece. If you would like to see Janet’s piece and all the other work in DIS/rupt when it opens on Saturday 2nd December then remember the dates for Gallery Oldham and the other venues and check earlier blog posts for dates and information about the workshops and artist talks on offer. Full information, about Gallery Oldham can be found here Gallery Oldham and the gallery can also be found on Twitter @GalleryOldham.


The countdown begins….

During the months that have passed since DIS/rupt closed after its successful run in Stroud, the group has been working to put together a programme of gallery dates, including workshops and artist talks, for DIS/rupt to tour. Here now are the dates for your diary:

We will resume our series of Studio Postings very soon, so please keep an eye on this blog as the weeks pass in the countdown to the DIS/rupt exhibition opening in Oldham.


DIS/rupt Tour information

Over the summer much work has been going on behind the scenes to organise the DIS/rupt exhibition tour and we are now able to give you some information about galleries and dates which is very exciting. Please check precise dates and opening times with the venues.

Gallery Oldham:         2 December 2017 – 24 February 2018

Opening by Dr Melanie Miller, 2-4pm Saturday 2 December

Artist Talk by Kay Greenlees, Wednesday 6 December. 2pm

Workshops by Sarah Burgess, Saturday 17 February 2018 10am and 2pm

Minerva Arts Centre Gallery, Llanidloes:        21 April 2018 – 28 May 2018

Workshops 28 April -Sarah Burgess. Lost and Found, (full day)
8 May Bobby Britnell, Barking up the Right Tree day (morning) 10-12.30
25 May Ruth Issett, Disrupting Repetitive Pattern, half day (morning) 10-12.30

Futher venues to be announced including:

Tweedale Art Gallery, Peebles:       June – July 2018


Keep watching the website TSG for information about the project and of course this blog for more information. Studio Postings coming soon…..

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