To The Light at the Bruce Castle Museum is an exhibition that takes as its starting point the powerful depictions of the 2011 Riots' destruction, which spread from London to Manchester.
Rosalind Davis, The Beginning
Rosalind Davis explains three of her pieces in a little more detail...
The Beginning marks the starting point of the series of works that is currently exhibited at the Bruce Castle Museum as part of my solo show. It was an iconic image of the Co-Operative in Tottenham, where the riots in August 2011 had begun. My work in the past has addressed the power, presence & socio-politics of architecture and landscapes, repairing humanising dystopian spaces and buildings in my works. I have written before about the sensations of fragility that the unexpected and cataclysmic riots sparked not just in me personally but across the country. It was natural for me to want to address this major incident in my works. To think about reparation and a way to move forward from the riots.
I embarked on researching imagery and articles from the riots. As well as researching the whys of the riots, I also started sourcing from newspapers as well as through documentation on websites such as flickr. Normally one to use my own photographic research, in this instance, that of others turned out to be more appropriate. In this way, I could reflect upon the mass documenting of this story, to take into account the many voices who experienced these events.
The Beginning was taken from a newspaper source and, in my depiction of it, details have been added. It has been described to me as 'Disneyland meets Psycho.' The colours have been heightened and distorted, pink burning skies that are crowded with ash have taken the form of a surreal organic pattern which is a link to my previous work, where floral prints were used as a cultural and historical link to buildings. I added trees that were not in the original photograph. This was informed in fact by Disneyland, a nod to sinister woods, where danger lies and innocence is lost, but also the placing of these trees again contributes to the surreal and claustrophobic qualities of that time. Threads tumble from the building, snaking to the ground, illuminating depths of destruction. Yet, in this depiction of this devastated building, the stitches and paint bring the space back to light and life, so that the work becomes commemorative, a treasured repaired space.
Rosalind Davis, Splinters
From The Beginning, I started to work on a series about the broken windows within the buildings.
I considered what windows physically meant to me and the wider connotations of a broken space. Windows can equal the possibility of another existence. They literally seal interior and exterior worlds. They are about separations and boundaries. They are the orderly exterior of a building. A space between humans and humanity where, in this context, once broken and fractured, elusive buildings are no longer safe, secure spaces. Glass broken loses its strength, it fragments and ripples, it cuts and splinters, it becomes a cobweb into which we can become entangled. In those spaces that have been broken we see signs of life.
I wondered how the delicacy of stitch could mimic the violence of cracked or smashed glass and in turn physicalise and evoke the sheer destructiveness of the riots and further the vulnerability in which we as people felt during that time.
'There is a tension between embellishments (embroidery) and depiction (painting). These paintings have an atmosphere that's both tranquil/still - a sense of absence (after the storm...) - presence vivid in its method of depiction - presence.' Graham Crowley
In Splinters, a friend likened it to a Hopper painting, a sense of cinematic, stillness, absence. A contemplative landscape of solitude.
The use of embroidery in all of these works emphasises the humanity and fragility of these spaces as well conjoining both masculinity (painting) and feminine mediums (embroidery) and their coexistance. As a woman exploring modernism (an inherently macho subject it would seem) the needle and thread are inherent in the works in another way; used as a reference point about piercing and puncturing historical stereotypes about the undermined roles of women in the cultural landscape of art, art history and architecture.
Rosalind Davis, Bound
'It's quite impossible to consider the building as one thing…its furnishings as another…The very chairs..tables.. are of the building itself, never fixtures upon it.' Frank Lloyd Wright
Chairs are fundamental objects. My chairs just like the buildings are portraits of people. They are objects that carry humanity, feeling, history. They are in the paintings both fragile and solid. My investigations into the riots surpassed the exterior of the shattered glass and looked into the chairs, the tables, into the interior spaces. I considered inhabitants, scrutinised their possessions, their structures, the stability or instability of their spaces. The walls in these spaces gleam and are imprinted with fingertips, breaths, whispers of existence, layered in glazes of green golds, blues and maroons.
A friend sent me pictures of some Modernist designed chairs, Rietveld, Bruer and Tatlin, which is a direct reference to a long standing fascination with Modernist buildings and 1950’s social housing that was informed by this movement. The lines and symmetry of these Modernist chairs draw me in. I have painted several versions of this chair, over photographs and on canvases. In each one, there are different interventions of paint and embroidery, different loaded spaces.
I blend masculinity in the chairs, their hard shapes, with the softness and femininity of embroidery; the masculine and feminine unfold and embrace each other. They are bound together with stitching. They are scaffolded and held.
'Threads that bind us…Hold us…Contain us. Bodies and psyches flit in and slip out…' Marion Michell
The chair references a loneliness, a certain torture in its suspense reminiscent again of Bacon’s chairs. Some of these paintings are extremely delicate, created on a surface of 10x14cm for which I used the smallest needle, the most delicate threads and cradled the chair in the palms of my hand as I stitched into it. It is a treasured chair, it has been given stability. There are many vanishing points and possibilities with threads. The thread in its action intervenes across modernist spaces.
Rosalind Davis, The Distance Between
The particular building this painting references is Caixa, an Art Foundation in Madrid designed by Herzog De Mauron, from which I took photographs of the underside of this building, a miasma of steel angles and mirrors. From this point I began to create form, through intervening across the photographs, drawing and painting and using stitch a landscape emerged. It has been a new, explorative and playful way to create works that has stepped outside of literal spaces yet at its centre has architecture at its heart.
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