With a background in medicine, Edinburgh-based artist Flore Gardner fosters a creative practice that explores the body and its untapped potential. She works in an array of mediums from printmaking and ink-based illustrations to mixed-media installations and fiber, pushing the limits of human anatomy into the realm of the absurd or subversive. No matter the material, each work centers on a primary interest in drawing and utilizes the same techniques and principles that fill the pages of her notebooks.
One of Gardner’s series, titled (Her)Stories, overlays vintage, black-and-white photographs largely sourced from flea markets with vibrant stitches. As the name suggests, the collection focuses primarily on women, and the embroidered elements obscure faces with dense patches, add dimension to a subject’s body, or highlight their figures by drawing a contrast to the backdrop.
Revitalized with color and texture, the portraits and posed group shots take on a new narrative with the artist’s thread drawings and “modify the ‘reality’ of the photos, revealing hidden things underneath (eg. unseen naked bodies under wedding clothes, invisible haloes, hidden thoughts) or on the contrary hiding certain details (threads shroud the inevitably dead figures or ‘ghosts’).” She explains further:
The needle is an instrument for hurting and for healing—a photograph (or human skin) can be damaged by its treatment and simultaneously repaired/recreated. This needle makes hundreds of little holes in each photograph, once a precious object, and these, along with the threads, transform the flat, smooth, untouchable photographic support into a relief surface, which can be touched and even, in a certain way, read like Braille.
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From Looney Tunes and Mickey Mouse to The Simpsons, cartoons have a long history of imagining the most ridiculous, chaotic moments possible and dramatizing them into absurdity. The animated characters and their hijinks are rooted in humor, and yet, as artist Peter Frederiksen recognizes, they also have a more sinister side. “Violence is a shorthand for conflict, confrontation, fears,” he tells Colossal, noting that many iconic cartoons were created post-war or have been produced during times when “violence was in the ether… I don’t put guns in embroideries because I like guns. I put guns in embroideries because they’re an escalation. They’re overcompensation. They’re anxiety and fear.”
Frederiksen has spent the last few years zeroing in on the antagonism in these classic scenes and preserving their short-lived nature in dense embroideries. He renders knives piercing a closed door, tied bedsheets pulled taught as they drop out of a window, and hands twisting into knots while attempting to play the piano. Tightly stitched onto a canvas with a machine, the works are true to their original source in color and style, although Frederiksen precisely crops each scenario from its surroundings.
Decontextualized and infused with action, the nostalgic works are simultaneously familiar in their imagery while unrecognizable in the scope of a larger narrative. “They tell a story in as ominous a way as I’m aiming for, maintaining the sort of tension I’m building with a scene,” he says. “I also enjoy thinking about rendering these tight little scenes as a mirror to what I’m physically doing, using my hands in small little ways to make something happen.”
The Chicago-based artist has a number of shows scheduled for this year, including at Postmasters Roma in May and a solo exhibition at New York’s Massey Klein in September. Until then, follow his work on Instagram. (via The Guardian)
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Favoring thread and found materials, Richmond-based artist Hillary Waters Fayle (previously) works at the intersection of textile traditions and botany. “Stitching, like horticulture, can be functional,” she says, “a technical solution to join materials/a means of survival. Or, both can be done purely in service of the soul, lifting the spirit through beauty and wonder.”
Fayle’s practice embodies this sentiment with elaborate and colorful embroideries applied to dried leaves. Lined with brown edges, the perfectly preserved surfaces become more fragile as they age, and the threaded embellishments enhance the relationship between the natural and fabricated. “There is a sense of magic in being able to work with such an unexpected and exquisite material,” the artist says. “The tension in the thread, the type of stitching, the needle, the species, and the season are just some of the factors that may influence what happens.” Recent pieces include ornate networks in blue on ginkgo, floral motifs on eucalyptus, and red dots on golden leaves.
This summer, Fayle’s works will be on view at Quirk Gallery in Charlottesville, Virginia, and this fall at Asheville’s Momentum Gallery. Until then, explore more of her stitched works, in addition to leafy cutouts and large-scale murals, on Instagram.
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Blending sturdy metal with the soft warmth of wool, Joshua Adokuru winds vibrant fibers around precisely placed nails that anchor his expressive and abstract portraits. The Abuja-based artist always incorporates strings in shades of blue, which fill amorphous shapes highlighting the subject’s face or defining the checkered pattern of a sweater. It’s “a natural color, a color of the sky, a color of the sea,” he says, noting that he gravitates toward bold, fantastical hues for skin tones. “Blue has this feeling of peace, a feeling of serenity.”
Formally trained in computer science, Adokuru has been experimenting with different mediums since secondary school, but it wasn’t until spring of 2020 that he started working with thread. His pieces, which are often larger than life, begin with a photograph of a child or friend, which are then translated into a simple sketch on a wooden board. Adokuru accentuates the figure’s silhouette, facial features, and any motif on their clothing or in the backdrop with nails that are glued in place, sprayed with black paint, and finally covered in taught thread. Because the artist is most concerned with capturing his subjects’ exact expressions, he always completes the eyes last.
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U.K.-based artist Emillie Ferris (previously) has spent nearly a decade refining her distinct embroidery technique, which involves staggering long and short stitches to create textured portrayals of flora and fauna. She’s crafted magical butterflies in smooth gradients, bees that appear as fuzzy as their real-life counterparts, and a variety of realistic portraits that use sweeping, layered passes associated with brushstrokes to render images in fiber.
Now her work culminates in a forthcoming book published by David & Charles titled Paint with Thread: A Step-By-Step Guide to Embroidery Through the Seasons. The how-to volume contains instructions for creating five projects shown here, in addition to tips and tricks from the artist, and is available for pre-order on Bookshop. In the meantime, shop more of Ferris’s tutorials and patterns on Etsy.
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The cheeky, uncanny works that comprise Yoon Ji Seon’s ongoing Rag Face series bring the knotted, twisting, and generally convoluted entanglements of a subject’s psyche to the forefront. Her photographic portraits are printed on roughly cut pieces of canvases and then overlaid with rows of tight stitches and loose strings that drip from an eye or loop across a face. Adding color and depth, the threads “can be seen or felt like internal conflicts, external stimuli, umbilical cord, blood vessels, sagging skin, hair, or time as a point of each viewer,” the artist says.
Zany and outlandish in expression, the portraits are a playful mix of confusion and jest that Yoon derives from traditional Korean comedies, called madangnori. Those performances consider “the suffering and reality of the people through humor and satire while arousing the excitement of onlookers,” she says, explaining further:
I think what I’m doing these days is to make (an) ‘image’ of these comedies. What I want to pursue through my work is ‘humor’ in the end, but this humor does not bloom in happiness. During intense, painful, and chaotic lives, humor can be like a comma, to relax and recharge.
Because the sewn works are unique on either side, they produce mirrored images that are a distorted version of their counterpart, bolstering the strange, surreal affect of each piece.
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Editor's Picks: Art
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