Saturday, 29 June 2013

Alice Kettle: Garden of England, The Queen's House, Greenwich

I first discovered the beautiful work of Alice Kettle in 1997, in an exhibition organised by Art Angels in the Neo-Natal department at King's College Hospital, Camberwell. At the time I had never seen anybody use fibre/textiles based crafts to create a body of work with fine art sensibilities like this before. She uses the humble sewing machine to actually paint and draw pictures of the human body. She was originally a fine art painter who then made the successful transition to thread and fibre art. Though small in size, the pieces displayed at King's really made an impact on me, and I never forgot them. Over the years I saw several larger pieces displayed at the Whitworth Art Gallery, on visits to Manchester, such as the Caryatids, which are a part of the Whitworth's permanent collection, and a beautiful Angel that she had created for a private collector, as well as other pieces on display at the CAA gallery in London. 

Alice is one of the foremost textile artists in this country and has an exhibition- Alice Kettle:The Garden of England,  currently running at the Queen's House, (next to the Royal Maritime Museum Greenwich),which is comprised of three new textile works. 

Above is Alice's portrait of Queen Henrietta Maria, based on existing paintings in the Queen's House collection. I really like the raised textures of the various embroidered stitches and fabrics collaged together in this portrait. It's also interesting how she has brought the thread out of the portrait and used it to wrap the the frame and run across the portrait to give it more depth. Below are textile flowers installed in the fireplace below the portrait.

The only thing that marred the viewing experience is the lighting levels which are really low to preserve the other artworks on show. This and the dark colours in the other galleries make it harder for the viewer to fully appreciate the subtleties of much of the stitch-work.

The two pictures above are of Flowerbed, a textile garden installation on the floor meant to evoke the Stuart and Tudor gardens which were a part of the grounds of the Queen's House and were also inspired by the embroidery of the period dress from the portraits of the monarchy on display in the Queen's House. It was made in collaboration with a series of makers and students.

The photos above are of Flower Helix, an installation in the stunning wrought-iron Tulip staircase of the Queen's House, which also reflect the lace dress of the courtiers and the flowers and plants found in the gardens of the Queen's house of the period. More of Alice's work can be found at her website here.

Alice Kettle: The Garden of England, continues at the Queen's House gallery, Greenwich until 18th August.