Cloth and Memory {2}, Salts Mill, Saltaire, 2013.

Cloth and Memory {2}, curated by Lesley Millar, is a textile art ‘blockbuster’ exhibition. Although such exhibitions have been criticised in the past for closing down rather than extending critical debate, in my opinion, they have a significant role to play in the critical debates of the still contested field of textile art.

Maxine Bristow - Mutable Frame of Reference

Maxine Bristow – Mutable Frame of Reference

Cloth and Memory {2} is, from the outset, impressive both in its scope and its location: the former spinning room of the mill.  This huge space offers an unprecedented opportunity for large scale installation, and a striking, patinaed environment to which a number of the featured artists have responded directly. The relationship between the colours of the space and the work was a major influence on the works that I responded to most immediately. It has led me to question if my response to these works would be the same if they were hung in the more conventional setting of the white cube and the significance of the environment on the perception of art particularly, of course, textiles.

Diana Harrison - Handkerchiefs

Diana Harrison – Handkerchiefs

Maxine Bristow, Hilary Bower and Diana Harrison’s works made the deepest impression on me.  The wooden structures of Bristow’s work reminded me of the wooden tongs my mother used to pull washing from the hot water on washing day. Their exaggerated dimensions contrasting with the truncated dimensions of the curtains prompting a sense of disorientation and confusion of scale that compares with the contorted proportions memory confers on events and their details. Similarly the proportions of Bower’s sack like constructions with their puncture marks and transparent panels suggest remnants of narrative, obscured by time yet unexpectedly remembered. Harrison’s discharged handkerchiefs embody the effacement of the workers from the space. The installation of these handkerchiefs on the floor of the space somehow reinforces their ‘objectness’, accidentally discarded simple symbols of self ground literally into the floor by the passage of many feet and time.

Hilary Bower - Of Human Signage - a view of shadows

Hilary Bower – Of Human Signage – a view of shadows

Other works made an impact for completely different reasons. Yoriko Yoneyama’s installation was visually stunning, curtains of rice receding into the distance of the vast space of the room.  Hannah Leighton-Boyce’s balls of spun fibre were a sublime intervention.  A modest material, revered by its plinth mounting and museum like casing thought provokingly brought together the longevity of the practice of spinning, industrial progress and decline and the lives of the individuals involved. Her accompanying video can be viewed at:

Yoriko Yoneyama - Rice Dreams 2013 Salts Mill

Yoriko Yoneyama – Rice Dreams 2013 Salts Mill

These few words barely scratch the surface of my response to this exhibition, so it makes sense to return to my thoughts in future posts.


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2 Responses to Cloth and Memory {2}, Salts Mill, Saltaire, 2013.

  1. Pingback: Cloth and Memory {2} – Colour and Memory. | Cate Hursthouse – Textile Artist

  2. Pingback: building textile art | CHAIRS and BUILDINGS

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