Monday, 15 April 2013

Research Point: Textile Artist Rozanne Hawksley

My second textile artist for this research point is Rozanne Hawksley. Images and information are from the V&A website (page now removed), Inspired to stitch: 21 textile artists by Diana Springall 2005, and

I have chosen her for this project because I relate to much of her imagery viscerally in my own person and because of my own personal imagery history;
because her work refers to, and presents powerfully, issues of importance and relevance to everyone ie death, bereavement, war, being a woman;
and despite their disturbing nature, I think that drawing our attention to difficult issues is part of what Art is 'for'.

'Rozanne Hawksley combines textiles, found objects and embroideries to create small-scale textile installations. They all pack an emotional punch, many dealing with themes of loss, isolation and the effects of war (Hawksley herself was a war-time evacuee). One of her most famous pieces on this theme is now in London's Imperial War Museum. Called Pale Armistice, it's in the form of a funeral wreath, but tucked among the flowers are bleached bones and white kid gloves, poignantly recalling the many brides who were left husband-less during the war. ' Crafts Magazine May 2009
Pale Armistice 1991
Photograph by Dewi Tennat Lloyd
"This state of war seems un-ending and only in death are we united in an enviable peace".

'Hawksley trained at the Royal College of Art in the 1950s, when she became part of the group that included Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon and John Minton. She was told to study fashion as her main subject but admits she hated it."I said I wasn't going to go, I wanted to do sculpture", admits Hawksley, who now lives in Newport, Pembrokeshire.She went on to teach at art colleges and work as a freelance designer before taking a three-week course in textile art."I thought, 'This is it. This is what I've been looking for all my life. It was a wonderful feeling," she says. She went on to study a postgraduate course at Goldsmiths College in the 1970s and began using textiles and needlework as an art form.' Karen Price Western Mail Apr 3 2009 

Bye Bye Experimentum Crucis 2008 Rozanne Hawksley
This piece, like many others of hers, is intensely powerful
even without knowing that it relates to the
birth and death of her daughter, a victim of thalidomide.

She has survived evacuation during the second world war, the death of two husbands, and two children, and psychiatric illness.

Veterans 1978
This glove is ornate, beautifully made, and creepily contrasts the finery of
the keepers of the Church with the inevitability of death for us all.

More painful Catholic woman imagery 

Maiden's Garland Rozanne Hawksley

Gloves - 'Her interest in them predates the 'empty dress phenomenon' and she finds them far more personal, "because each takes on the shape of the person's hand - loving, protecting, signalling 'go away', aggression, friendship, everything. They also become used as symbols, as trophies, so they can tell a complex story." Selvage May 2009

Catholic imagery and associated images of women - 'Other pieces here have more overt religious themes; Our Lady of Seven Sorrows shows a naked female torso pierced by seven gilt arrows, the serene face draped in a delicate wimple seemingly blissfully unaware of the bloody mess below. ' Crafts magazine May 2009

Bones - Again often in a catholic context, arranged like a reliquary for a saint, or to remind us of the presence of death in life.

Blood against white - the visible signs of terrible acts.

Imagery relevant to and strengthening the message eg.

Stitches: means and methods of stitching of wounds
drawing on paper  from 'The Seamstress and the Sea' 2003
The imagery here reflects instructional posters for seamen, illuminating
the likelihood of, (and lack of attention to the pain from) wounding.

Installation ....a treaty will be signed sometime today. 1997
'around, the sound of time passing.'

The artist has made it clear that she chooses materials for their relevance to the subject matter. Again, like Amundsen, she uses non-traditional materials, but intermixes them with the very basis of embroidery traditions, because they refer to cultural norms, expectations and reverences which are otherwise unstated eg the pomp and expense of Bishop's lives, or the extreme value given to a wedding day/ deflowering day.

When interviewed for her one woman show at the Ruthin Craft Centre, she said "I'm quite nervous as I don't work in any particular fashion. I really work on what I believe". it seems to me that this is a clear statement of an artist (rather than a craftsman or designer). At the same time, her pieces often contain objects which she has made or decorated with meticulous skill in embroidery, and have tactile contrasts which have a physical effect on the viewer - a craft aspect.

From a whole room to a tiny boxed collection of objects. The treaty installation being large is appropriate for the large subject, and to imagine men in uniforms sitting round the table of bones, while the smallness of Veterans seems to intensify the helplessness and bitter waste of its grief.

It is only at this point that I realise that she uses a very restricted range of colours. Perhaps because these art works are highly symbolic, so use strongly symbolic colours - innocent or winding-sheet white, blood red, inhuman black, and grandeur gold. 

The embroidery technique is immaculate. Each aspect of each piece has meaning that adds to the rest. She uses found objects, bones and artificial flowers to communicate an emotional message. 

Artist/Designer/ Craftsman issues
Rozanne Hawksley trained in fine art, and the obvious conceptual driver for her pieces indicates that she works predomnantly as an artist. There is clear craftsmanship in the embroidery.

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