light and line

I’ve admired the work of Polly Binns from a distance for quite some time.  I’ve read about her work and practice. In particular, when I was preparing for my Spurn residency, I read her 1997 PhD thesis: Vision and Process in Textile Art. A Personal Response to a Particular Landscape Expressed through Textile Art.  This was a very important text for me as Polly’s work is completely tied up with her experience of a coastal landscape where she used to live in north Norfolk.  The way Polly describes her interaction with the landscape (repeated walks, concentrating on specific elements within the landscape, observing certain qualities) rings true with my own experience.

I feel a bit silly sometimes concentrating on the coast when I live about as far from the sea as you can in the British Isles… but it is with me all the time.  I actually found during my residency that the periods of ‘immersion’ were so intense that removal from it was important too; a time to step back and reflect on what I’d seen and experienced.  We develop different ways of working depending on circumstance.  If I lived by the sea, and maybe I will again one day, I would work differently I’m sure.  I also feel a bit insecure about the subtlety I seek in my work, that it can come across as being simple, not enough to it.  I am often concentrating on a very detailed surface quality.

Last weekend I went to Barnsley to see the current exhibition Light and Line, work by Polly Binns and Anne Morrell.  I have never before been moved to tears in an exhibition but on Saturday I was.  I think it was actually such a relief to see this work of Polly’s, so different in real life from on the page of a book or a computer screen.  I felt so reassured that what I am pursuing in my practice is the right thing to do.  These cloths of Polly’s aren’t stretched; they don’t even have a batten – they are simply, almost brutally, pinned to the wall.  They appear very simple but there is layer upon layer of stitch and paint, built up slowly and purposefully.  The lines, textures, tones and three-dimensional elements are subtle, minimal in places and light plays an important part.

After the subtlety of Polly’s cloths I couldn’t quite deal with the intense colours in Anne Morrell’s work but her pieces that were without colour I liked very much.

I came away feeling inspired, reassured and humbled.  I dug out my notes on Polly’s thesis and was reminded of the passages that I found particularly relevant:

My artistic production during this period did not result in work which was a faithful record of a particular landscape on a particular day, but something created out of images stored in my memory – a response to the experience of landscape.

 Binns (1997), p43

Many speak of the process of making as central to the development of their work.  It becomes image as well as process, a starting point for ideas as well as chief pleasure.  This intimate relationship between eye, hand and material is what draws makers to the textile medium.

Duffey (1997) The Language of touch, 62 group catalogue, in Binns (1997), p12.

7 thoughts on “light and line

  1. Thanks for showing us Polly Binns. I understand what you mean about feeling so touched when seeing work that echoes what you are doing, good to connect but also to build confidence. PS your book Treasures of Sprurn is a treasure, and so affordable.

  2. I just missed the opening of this exhibition when I was up in Huddersfield last month, but look forward to visiting the show when it goes to Nottingham next Spring. Thank you for your thoughts, which in themselves are inspirational. I too am drawn to the sea, but live far from it.

  3. Thanks for the pointer to and the review of–lovely soft work steeped in memory and sense–and that second quote really resonates: sometimes, oft-times the making is more important than the object finished

  4. I understand how you feel Alice, but you are following your heart which is so important, and it really shows in your work, giving an authenticity that shines through! I just love your Treasures of Spurn book too, and have shown it to others who are equally inspired, (and who will hopefully be ordering copies). You are teaching me to look at, and observe what can so often be overlooked for the bigger picture, and there really is so much more to see in the subtle things. Less is definitely more, as they say!

  5. The subtle white-on-white work of Polly Binns speaks to me softly, tenderly, deeply. I get overwhelmed so easily, it’s nice to see work that doesn’t ask anything of me except to breathe. And I love the two quotes. Thank you.

  6. Hello
    Today while blog hoping I came across your page and enjoyed reading it thoroughly, have met Ann Morrell personally on many of her visits to Ahmedabad, I love and respect her for her contribution in textile world, I had opportunity to be in the lecture and slideshow for this particular show
    Was spellbound shocked with both artist creativity
    Regards

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