Here are some pictures of the show for those of you who couldn't make it. Thanks to everyone who came, and thanks for all your comments. I will include a copy of the information I left up at the show here too.
In 2006 a close friend of mine died by suicide. The artwork in this exhibition documents my own search for meaning in the years after his death, and my search for a way to express the legacy I was left with.
It took a long time to begin to articulate the horrific and violent imagery that remained with me after this profoundly complicated death, in a world that was deeply uncomfortable hearing about it. Embroidery gave the words and thoughts that were so difficult to say aloud a space in which to be expressed. Somehow the softness of thread and fabric, the meditative quality of stitching, the flexibility of the finished product and the comforting nature of textiles - we use them to clothe ourselves, to wipe our tears, to rest our faces on as we sleep - made textiles the best medium through which to start conveying the violence of the images, the nightmarish quality of suicide bereavement and the horror of the act itself.
From the initial use of textiles, I moved on to other text-based work, using photography and ceramics, to document memories, thoughts, emotions.
In my practice as an artist I use a lot of traditional and heritage crafts – embroidery, knitting, basketry - in non-traditional ways. The weight of history behind embroidery resonates deeply with me, as it is a skill handed down through the generations, over centuries of time. Yet, for a long time it was seen as unimportant, frivolous and decorative. I have chosen to use this medium to express something very real and strong that is also at times very fragile and tender, but no less important for that. I wanted to create a beautiful object, yet suffuse it with horrific images and text. My aim in juxtaposing these was to infuse embroidery with new life, whereby it is changed from something judged as “nice” and “pretty”, and really fairly inconsequential, into a medium with grit, capable of expressing grim and very real issues.
In Ireland, suicide is a taboo subject for many. This work was a process of finding a space for the thoughts very few wanted to hear or talk about, from the tiny, personal and deeply upsetting feelings sewn onto a handkerchief or pillow, to the larger, more public and celebratory messages - the GOODBYE I LOVE YOU banner.
I wrote the following to a friend about grief, and the vacuum a death leaves us with:
We will learn to live with a big hole in our hearts, we will decorate it and smooth the edges off, grow plants in it. We will never fill it, but it won’t always be a dark, ragged, painful ravine.
This exhibition is my story of learning to live with that hole; about the journey of grieving – from the awfulness of the event, to the ability years later to say goodbye. It is the stuff of life and the stuff of death, and that, really, is where my interests lie – in exploring the world, looking at it, looking at the horror as well as the beauty. And there is so much beauty in the gaps between the horror.
Photographs 3-8, and 11-15 from the amazing Unkie Dave, many thanks!