I am thrilled that Don’t Stop, Keep Going has been shortlisted for Wells Art Contemporary. You can see the work on show from today at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset. The exhibition runs until 21st October (Open daily 10am – 6pm).
I’m proud to support International Women’s Day and add my voice to the growing movement campaigning for an end to violence against women and children worldwide.
I cut off a smallish piece from a section of fishing net I found on the beach. The diamond lattice is broken in places and the nylon threads are frayed and tired. I hold the piece in my hands and consider its flimsiness, then I take a long length of red cotton caulking and wrap it round and round the netting and keep going until the structure is covered and begins to plumpen. I select a couple of my children’s old t-shirts – they’re too worn to wear or pass on and I have held on to them wondering about how to extend their life. I cut them into strips and begin to bind them tightly around the caulking. It’s February and chilly in the studio and I sit hunched over at my desk. The cold makes my movements small and concentrated but I work quickly as I consider my next move. The colours of the fabrics clash with one another: All the better, I think – something to work against. I keep wrapping the strips of fabric until I have something of density to work into – something that enticingly feels as wrong as it does right.
I can’t think straight – I’m losing it – My head is going to fall off – I can’t do this – I must do this – I’m a lousy mother – I’m tired – I feel dizzy – I need to be quiet – I can’t keep talking, talking, talking – I, I, I. Too many I’s – Not enough I. I have to stop – Just for a bit – Get it together – Let everything stop moving – whirling inside me.
How do I help myself get through this?
Whilst making “Don’t Stop, Keep Going”, I have been reflecting on a serious and hard to admit to issue: the tightrope one can feel one is walking as a mother of young children; when exhaustion, sleep deprivation and the need for a break – however short – becomes overwhelming and abnormal notions begin to infiltrate – self doubts and idiotic thoughts that you wouldn’t be having if you could just get a bit more sleep and have a little time alone.
When my children first started school the exhaustion persisted and everything continued to feel like a crazy juggling act. I noticed that when I was very tired I could still work but that my approach was different – it was very much a case of head down and working obsessively on small singular tasks. At first I thought this might be a problem but then, with this piece, I decided to work with it and channel those sensations of the mind and body short-circuiting, which were countered by the self-will to persevere, into the work.
Mira Tudor: Every time I visit a museum which reconstructs scenes of lived life, my attention is captured by the textiles on the mannequins. There’s something about fabrics, with their powerful colors or neutral tones, and their different types of fibers, patterns, and weaves, that appeals to me, to my interest in social history. And then there are the individual stories that we imagine when we shop in second hand stores or find discarded textiles somewhere. Joy C Martindale, an artist based in the UK, plays with all these elements, and more, in creating her textile pieces. I had a nice interview with her recently, which I’m happy to share on this blog.
MT: Hi Joy, I have discovered your textile and photo art today on WordPress (https://joycmartindale.com) and it really spoke to me. First of all, the tenuous way in which all these found and assembled textiles hang from tree branches. I find in it an expression of our tenuous connection to nature, envisioned both as something that we are veering away from and something that will outlast us when we fall to the ground. I hope you’ll grant me a short interview, because I’d like to ask you a few questions about your work. First, do you always work with found textiles? Where do you go to look for them?
Joy C Martindale: One day in Autumn 2015 I was at my local beach and I decided to pick up some of the rubbish that was strewn about. My eye was drawn to a small woven scrap of fabric. I thought it was rather anonymous and lovely for that, and it seemed to contain a palpable energy, which I felt it must have gathered over time. I pocketed it and two very short lengths of white rope to take back to my studio. After that I began to head to the beach as often as I could to look for more material. I was surprised that I had never noticed all this fabric lying scattered about along the tideline before. Mainly I began to collect fabrics that I felt drawn to because of their colour, pattern or tactile qualities. Most of the pieces were small shreds but some things were still recognizably a shirt sleeve or a pocket or a section of a bra. Some things I find have obviously been in the sea for years and everything I pick up is dirty, smells awful and has to be washed, but I don’t mind and I feel that I am getting to know each piece through these processes. For a long while I didn’t know what to do with all this stuff that was beginning to amass in my studio but finally I decided to just go for it and I began to experiment with arranging the materials as I would the elements of a painting and sew them together.
From there I began to develop a new body of work. Central to this work in progress is a group of constructed textile pieces, which are made using a range of assemblage techniques including knotting, binding, and wrapping. There were two key factors, which motivated me to work with found materials. Firstly, I was searching for a cheap alternative to painting: not only did my studio tenancy prohibit me from painting, but my toddler daughter was also accompanying me to the studio and I needed to find a way of working that I could pick up and put down again–this wasn’t painting, which I like to approach in an intensive all-out way over many long solitary hours. Secondly I wanted to build a deeper connection to the town I was living in that I had moved to not long before the birth of my daughter: I was looking for purpose and wrestling with feelings of frustration and the desire to break out and move away. The cyclical and ritualistic process of walking along the shore and searching for materials and then working with them provided a way for me to feel both rooted and more free at the same time.
I have always felt a kind of intense passion for textiles and I have previously employed them in my work: whilst I was studying for my degree I experimented with tapestry and during my MA at the Slade I worked with strips of Melton cloth and a giant crochet hook to make large tubular wall hanging pieces. However, I haven’t really worked with them in a sustained way until now. I think I feel more confidently able to own my ideas and to take greater risks than I have done previously.
MT: What happened to painting? Have you tried combining it with your work on textiles?
JCM: I miss painting a lot and I often dream about painting. I am definitely looking forward to the time when I will be able to embrace painting again and I anticipate that at some point I will discover a way to incorporate it into working with textiles or vice versa. Mark making has already found a way in and sometimes I lay pieces of fabric over objects I have collected from the beach and then with coloured fabric pastels I trace their surfaces onto the fabric.
MT: In Call to Return (2014/2016) you spread out and tied a canvas to the branches of some young trees. It strikes me as a wonderful expression of a call to someone who is both a textile artist and a painter, and who was getting over a bout of depression, as you write on your blog. I absolutely love this work. What was the next work you did after this one?
JCM: The first finished work I made after Call To Return (2014/2016) was Here And Now I (2016). This piece took quite a long time come to fruition. For several months I had a vague notion of what I wanted to do: I knew the title and I knew that I wanted to bring together in a performative moment the sea-salvaged fabrics with the trees of my favourite local wood. But I did not resolve the issue of what form the fabric works would take until almost the very last moment. I was still working slowly on a number of pieces that were far from completion when, two days before the deadline I had set myself, I harked upon the idea to make the bundles. I felt that this was the right outcome for the piece and the spontaneous feel of the bundles and the way they were installed in the tree worked strongly together to convey the ideas behind the work.
MT: Thank you, Joy, for this nice interview!
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