3 - arbitrary divisions

An increasing interest in the way that the cloth constructed ‘bag’ forms were beginning to articulate the space of the gallery and the body of the viewer in a more pronounced way gave rise to new speculative bodies of studio enquiry. Investigations surrounding the interaction of optical and tactile registers within the context of painting prompted more general thoughts about the significance of touch and our physical engagement with space. Ubiquitous and often unnoticed features of the built environment such as light switches, handrails, handles, which mediate between the body and space, instigate repetitive corporeal habits, define boundaries and mark points of transition, provided a stimulus for this new body of studio enquiry.

Searching for an alternative to the bag form, the handrail provided both a sculptural device and spatial metaphor through which to think about the physical articulation of space together with its implications in relation to traditional discourses of power. As a support, the handrail directs us through space, but it also operates as a barrier which divides space, defines boundaries and alternately either denies or allows access. An interest in the way that space is physically shaped and bounded prompted research into the poetics and politics of space. Recognition that borders are not natural and secure but are arbitrary and socially and historically determined, means that they are also subject to critique and revision. If we acknowledge a socially and historically constructed system of inclusion and exclusion, then it follows, as the critic Brian Wallis suggests, that ‘there may exist within any system not only margins which may serve as sites for resistance, but also whole fields or communities of interest which might be inhabited and invigorated.’ 1

The introduction of canvas work and needlepoint used within the work, developed as an alternative to the quilted gesso encrusted surfaces of the ‘bag’ forms. The slow accumulation of hand stitches worked onto the grid of even-weave cloth provided a means of generating subtly modulated monochrome surfaces that were activated by the play of light whilst at the same time referenced the historical and social conventions of textile.

  1. Brian Wallis, Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, 1984, p.xvi

See also:

  • Bristow, M. (2004) Material Trace - Marking Time and Defining Space. In: Through the surface: collaborating textile artists from Britain and Japan. Farnham: The Surrey Institute of Art and Design University College.

  • Bristow, M. (2003) Reflective journal entries, Through the Surface: collaborating textile artists from UK and Japan http://www.transitionandinfluence.com/throughthesurface/throughthesurface.html

  • Bristow, M. (2007) Delegate pack statement, Pushing Boundaries Symposium - a partnership between Craftspace, Staffordshire University and Designer Maker West Midlands, developed to accompany the ‘Made in the Middle’ national touring exhibition. 

3a - Darn ref no. 648, 3 x 146 cm division

3b - needlepoint: ref no.7510, 3 x 63cm surround

3c - Barrier ref: 9774-14