'A Bit of Skirt'

Renton, Lucy [Artist] (2018) 'A Bit of Skirt'. (Sculpture using printed patterned fabric).


A Bit of Skirt is a site-specific sculpture using printed patterned fabric to explore ’skirt’ and ‘skirting’ as terms that are active and passive, gendered and neutral, decorative and functional.  While seemingly partial, or incomplete, the work uses its reduction to hint at an excess of patternation, and the human compulsion to decorate apertures and borders.  Skirting around floor and wall, it occupies the marginal tectonic territory between space to be looked at, and space to be walked on. Subverting the polite domestic function of concealment that characterises both skirts and skirting boards it actively seeks our attention with brash mass-produced colours and seductive pleating. My current research looks at the affective experience of pattern, repetition, and ornament in textiles and domestic design; craft, taste, class and ideas of ‘home’. Pattern is, for me, potentially subversive in its power to overwhelm the viewer, and to evoke extravagance and vastness within a confined space, or a small fragment.  As well as historic feminist art practices, this research is influenced by: Walter Benjamin’s idea of the “…fantasmagoria of the interior…” emerging from 19th bourgeois domestic escapism (Benjamin, 1999); David Batchelor’s concept of “Chromophobia” a historically recurring suspicion of the passionate or seductive properties of colour (Batchelor, 2001), and by Gill Perry’s writing on the idea of the house in contemporary art (Perry, 2013).  My art practice uses visual sources including interior design magazines, wallpaper archives, clothing and fabrics as visual motifs or readymade materials. Each brings cultural associations, formal and physical qualities that I manipulate, to disturb or heighten the way they are experienced. I use historical ideas of decadence, excess and vulgarity to understand how these can be a disruptive force, also provoking sensations of pleasure. I explore how techniques such as trompe l’oeil or changes of scale can be used to evoke these sensations. I am also interested in deflation and bathos, work that promises more than it can deliver, or condenses continuous pattern into a small area to bring luxury and decadence into humble or mundane situations. A Bit of Skirt came from an invitation to be resident artist on the Bummock project at the Lace Archive in Nottingham. Led by artists Danica Maier and Andrew Bracey, this project concerns artists’ responses to unseen parts of archives. A “bummock” is the larger part of an iceberg hidden underwater.  We visited the Lace Archive over two years, working individually and on residencies together, in Nottingham and London. Work from the residency was shown in early 2018 at Backlit Gallery Nottingham, which is housed in a former textile factory. This piece developed from experiments inserting a “godet” - a dressmaking technique, firstly into raw fine canvas, then through painted surfaces, then using digitally printed found materials, giving differing qualities of malleability and reflectivity of surface. I enjoy clashing traditional hand-made with ready-made decorative materials such as this cheap PVC tablecloth fabric I bought from the fabulous Khan’s Bargains in Peckham Rye. This work has appeared in several iterations in different exhibitions including 'Refrain' at Stone Space, my DFA viva exhibition at University of East London, and 'Decriminalising Ornament' at the Ruskin Gallery, Cambridge.

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