My Art

The Death Of Roses brings gifts, welcome and unwelcome.

The Death Of Roses is born
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

The Death Of Roses was an accident. In October 2016, I needed a last minute Halloween costume because I'd misplaced the make-up I needed to do a broken doll's face. With only a few hours to come up with a new idea, I looked at the lace and rose gothic dress I'd planned to wear, remembered a skull and rose head-dress I'd recently been given and the phrase 'the death of roses' popped unbidden into my mind.

'But what does The Death Of Roses do?' I immediately asked myself.

I knew that the phrase 'The Death Of Roses' would be meaningless to people: to give her a bit more heft, she needed some kind of schtick so I decided that she would hand out rose mottos. In a flurry of activity, I hit the internet to collect a selection of phrases, poems and lyrics that mentioned roses and then printed, cut and folded them into little 'rose fortunes'.

A printed out rose quote lying on red fabric rose handbag
A rose motto on my red rose handbag
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

In retrospect, it's no accident that my instinct was to give out rose mottos - my recent art has been very focused on the concept of the gift and I've become increasingly fascinated with the interactions, obligations and cultural meanings involved when you give something away, especially in the context of art.

Dramatic red and black make-up with thorns and black roses drawn on in permanent marker (not too permanent on skin, thankfully!), a lace rose choker and a handbag made of red fabric roses finished my transformation into The Death Of Roses.

Death Of Roses make-up in progress
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

I circulated at the event, walking up to people and saying,  'good evening, I am The Death Of Roses, would you like a rose motto today?' 

The complete Death Of Roses look
Photo by Kirsty Hall, Oct 2016

As soon as I started handing out the rose mottos, I realised that I'd created something far more compelling than a simple Halloween outfit and that it was an art performance piece.

The interactions with people were fascinating; some people were suspicious, some assumed that I wanted to be paid but usually people instantly 'got it' and most absolutely loved it. I would hand an entirely random rose motto to a person, only for them to read it and be staggered by how beautiful it was or how resonant it was for their life. It was a powerful experience for both me and the people I interacted with.

It was immediately apparent to me that I could take the idea much further. The Death Of Roses  'wanted to be real', so I started thinking about other events she could attend and whether I could create a mythic figure by 'seeding the culture' with the idea of her. I've been very immersed in David Southwell's Hookland of late and his work on that 'real folklore from a fake county' has inspired a lot of my thinking around The Death Of Roses. There's a good interview with David here or you can follow Hookland on Twitter for a bit of daily weirdness.

So who exactly is The Death Of Roses and what does she mean?

Truthfully, I'm not entirely sure yet because she's still developing. Obviously given her name, she's an avatar of death, but as with the Death card in Tarot, I feel she is more about transformation and change than literal death. I think of her as bringer of truths but sometimes not gentle ones - roses have thorns, after all.

2 Comments

During the summer my occasional art assistant, The Wonderful Z, helped me get my studio up and running.

I'd already carved out a studio area in my bedroom but because it hadn't been organised properly, it had devolved into a dumping ground. So we decluttered, moved furniture around and made sure that I had everything I needed within easy reach. Although I'm still very unwell, it's made a huge difference and my productivity has markedly increased.

Before:

Studio before
Studio before: Kirsty Hall, July 2013

After:

Studio after
Studio after: Kirsty Hall, July 2013

The Wonderful Z also installed a pole and hung Pelt, a pin piece that I started work on way back in 2007. It's been in storage for two years due to the house sale and move, so it was lovely to see it again.

Here's how it looked when we unwrapped it...

Pelt in progress 01
Pelt in progress: Kirsty Hall, July 2013

And here it is now...

Pelt in progress 04
Pelt in progress: Kirsty Hall, August 2013

Despite my poor health, I've been working on it slowly but steadily, mostly whilst listening to the excellent Talking Walking podcast. It may not look like much progress, but I'm happy with how it's coming along.

I'm going to cover ALL the fabric with pins. I did consider leaving some areas blank because I'm enjoying its present map-like quality but I started the piece with the intention of entirely covering it and I've decided to stick with that idea. Besides, I can always make another one if I decide I want a map related piece.

Pelt in progress 02
Pelt close up: Kirsty Hall, August 2013

Ideally I'd like to get it finished this year but that's probably unrealistic because I can only do between 20 minutes and an hour before I get too tired and sore to continue. An hour's work is a couple of square inches so there's a lot of hours to go. The trick with a time-intensive piece like this is to concentrate on what you've done and not worry about all the work still to come. I just take it one pin at a time.

Pelt in progress 03
Pelt close up: Kirsty Hall, August 2013

Right, that's enough blethering from me, I'm off to do some more pinning!