A couple of weeks ago, I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park to catch the final few days of the 'FABRIC-ATION' exhibition by Yinka Shonibare MBE.
The textiles he uses are brightly coloured and made into items of clothing often worn by headless figures.
Patterns printed on the fabric relate to the idea behind each figure. A figure given the title of 'Air' had the patterns of birds printed on the fabric, similar to the sketch above. On her head, was a weather-vane, its arrow topped by the metal die-cut owl landing to catch the mouse.
The story of the fabric is fascinating; Shonibare first became aware of it in Brixton Market, and it's lineage
' was fantastically rich in meaning and metaphor, as the wax-resist batik cloth originated in Indonesia but was copied and manufactured in Holland and Manchester and sold to the African market. Hence the material exemplifies trade routes and legacies of a colonial past.'
The fabric was gorgeous; vividly coloured, and with complex patterns. Shonibare uses layers and layers of them, in different items of clothing. To see such fabrics used in the formal outfits of an C18th footman, was laugh out loud funny!
I had a lot to think about with this exhibition, not simply the ideas presented by Shonibare.
My work with textiles over the last few years has resulted in a narrowing of my palette; whereas once I would have splashed colour around in the way it is done on these fabrics. This has affected my paintings too; I'm not using as wide a range of colour as I used to. Here I was shown how effective the mass use of colour can be. Juxtaposition and contrast can create complexity; and also, joy. My friend Ann would've loved to see this exhibition.