• claregeeorkney

Visible Repair

My front

My back

Scatter-gunned scars

Tell two of my stories

Part of my tale.


They don't make me

But they have shaped me.



I was lucky enough, recently, to be able to take part in some online workshops about mending and repair, led by Molly Martin https://mollymartin.uk/the-art-of-repair, who I discovered (neatly) is also a graduate of Falmouth (School of Art and Design as it was in my day, and University in her more recent past). I say lucky because firstly pre-pandemic they would have been in person, in London, and completely out of both physical and financial reach. And secondly because Molly was an excellent, gentle, thoughtful and thought-provoking workshop leader.


Slow fashion and mending rather than wear once and dump are de rigueur these days and I am acutely aware of the environmental and geo-political issues around our over-consumption of the planet's resources and the appalling human exploitation that cheap clothing manufacture forces on people who have few or no choices about their employment options. I am interested and pro-active in trying to do my bit where this is concerned. But my interest in repair cuts deeply in to my art practice and it is this that I want to concentrate on here.



Visible repair celebrates history, damage and wear. It reflects the preciousness of fabric, the holding on to memories and shows care and respect to those who make, and those who make important to us, the physical object, be it clothing, a tablecloth, a piece of crockery.


In 1988, a Cleveland College of Art Foundation Course visit to London included a trip to the Courtauld Institute and an epiphany for me. Modigliani's Female Nude https://courtauld.ac.uk/highlights/female-nude/ clearly showed the layers of its making. One of the arms had been scrubbed out and re-painted but Modigliani clearly didn't care that you could see the imperfection and the 'workings out'. I had just painted a portrait of my Gran where I had done the same thing with one of her legs and I thought it meant I was a crap painter. Modigliani demonstrated to me that exposing the process is as important as seeing the finished result. It's a no-brainer really but I was 18 and had no confidence in myself, so this was a true revelation.


From then on, layers, history, workings out, memory and arbitrariness have been constants in my work, and the visible mending workshops were a comfortable place for me to think about this in relation to my current work with textiles.





It reminded me that I have also welcomed the opportunity to revel in the celebration of 'ugliness' or 'brokenness' on a day to day domestic basis. Whenever I broke anything as a child my Mum, instead of being angry or openly upset (which I am sure she must have been at times) always said "well now we have 2 beautiful things" which always made me feel better.




This slow exploration of repair and the celebration of wear and tear kicked off by the workshops has naturally made me think about my own repair as a person following a challenging decade of mental ill health, a catastrophic physical 'failure' of my body and bereavement. I am scarred physically and mentally, and my body shows its wear and tear.






In 2005, Rik Hammond and I worked on a series of work called tattoo/stigmata under our collaborative USSR1049. And since Rik's death in 2018 I have known that I wanted to mark his importance to me as physically as it is possible to do - by using a piece of his work as a tattoo. Partly to celebrate him, partly to add to the physical presence of my history on my own body, and partly because I want to show in a totally literal way, that Rik is etched in to my soul, whatever happens next and whatever direction my life post-Rik goes in.


In May, during the same trip as heading off on pilgrimage to Ghent to see Van Eyck's altarpiece https://visit.gent.be/en/see-do/ghent-altarpiece-supreme-divine-art (something Rik and I always promised ourselves we would do as devoted pilgrims of Northern Renaissance art), I will get that tattoo and it will act as a visible mend for my body and soul.




Images:


  1. Hand block printed Indian cotton purchased in December 1993 at Central Cottage Industries, Delhi, repaired using sashiko stitches, with Seasalt cotton and embroidery thread.

  2. Ikea cotton furnishing fabric from the 1990's, repaired using sashiko stitches, with sashiko cotton.

  3. Hand block printed Indian cotton purchased in December 1993 at Central Cottage Industries, Delhi, repaired using sashiko stitches, with Seasalt cotton and embroidery thread.

  4. 1970's(?) kitchen tiles, broken through to create flue for a stove in 2002, repaired using acrylic paint and gold leaf in 2016.

  5. Garden steps made of Orkney flag, repaired using slate tiles (by Paul Dews) 2020.

  6. tattoo/stigmata - his by USSR1049, 2005

  7. tattoo/stigmata - hers by USSR1049, 2005

  8. Untitled drawing on paper using ink and pencil, Rik Hammond, 1994.


To see more of Rik Hammond's work, visit https://www.facebook.com/rikhammond.artist and http://rikhammond.com/





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