Simple things make me happy – like the form and colour of this faded old towel against the bathroom door.
This reminds me of 17th century Dutch paintings but I’m not sure why since as far as I’m aware they didn’t often paint towels. Perhaps it’s the ‘still life’ feeling of the image that I’m responding to?
The history of painting is filled with fine renditions of drapery but most of it is incidental. However, occasionally a painter gets so carried away with depicting fabric that it becomes the central focus of the work, as in this painting of Cardinal Richelieu, who seems quite swamped and overwhelmed by his fine robes. His face looks like a bit of an afterthought to me!
I am endlessly fascinated by the way fabric drapes, which is why I love these huge contemporary paintings of fabric that Alison Watt created after a two year residency at The National Gallery. I love the plainness, the folds, the monochrome grey and white tones and the sheer scale of these. I’ve never seen them in the flesh but I’d love to.
Needless to say, I particularly like the knotted one.
This is an interesting 10 minute video about the work and Watt’s relationship with the act of seeing. She talks very intelligently about looking and thinking. I got a real sense of the way that making art is a slow, deep and intense process – something artists don’t always manage to convey to people because it’s such a difficult thing to talk about.
Draped fabric has played an increasing important role in my own work in the last few years. Recently I’ve been researching linen and acquiring a collection of antique bedlinen that I plan to start working with in the new year. I am particularly fascinated by the idea of worn and torn fabric; I’ve been playing around with it since I made and photographed this test piece back in 2006.
This is the origin of the work that I’m about to start making – two to three years is about average for an idea to ferment in my head. It’s a cotton sheet that I deliberately tore into strips and then knotted together. I was thinking about the literary cliché of imprisoned women climbing out of windows after making a rope from the bedsheets. I’ve been trying to track down the origin of this trope; so far the only definite example I have is a scene in Terry Pratchett’s The Fifth Elephant. If anyone knows of any other instances, I’d love to hear about them as I’m starting to wonder if I’ve made it up. But I suspect that I just haven’t read enough 18th century Gothic novels!