Art Review: Common Threads


first_imgThere is something innately youthful about ‘patchwork’ as an artistic medium. It is this very nostalgic feeling, heightened by the intensity and fiercely clashing nature of a full palate of colours and dyes, that  first strikes one upon entering the glass anteroom of the ‘JDP’ building.  ‘Common Threads’, an exhibition of wall-based textile artwork produced by the Oxford multicultural textile community, falls  midway between a monarchically traditional tapestry array and a primary school display board.  And yet, the thought behind each of the textile panels is embraced by neither of these parodies.  by Daisy DunnCommon Threads-An Exhibition of Patchwork Panels Jacqueline Du Pre Building, St. Hilda’s College, October 28th-December 1st A concert featuring Black Voices, linked to the exhibition, will take place on November 30th. The textile  group welcomes new members: see www.oxnet.org.uk/textilesforpeace The belied naivety of the exhibition as a whole, as well as being promoted by the primitive associations  of  patchwork craft, arises from the internal imagery of many textile squares.  One of Junie James’ pieces, for instance, alights upon those very features which differentiate England from her time-old memories of Jamaica.  Visualised through the eyes of a child, a Christmas tree looms jovially before a  claustrophobically terraced Oxford street.  Patricia White’s journey, whilst geographically not quite as extreme, is realised in the panel entitled ‘Mobility’, which portrays her transition from a depressingly  industrial northern town to an aesthetically stunning Oxford College.  Oxford as home is also envisaged by Judy Hammond, whose intensely moving artwork was influenced by the Botanic Garden’s former  existence as a Jewish cemetery; Hammond, who never knew the whereabouts of her Jewish grandparents’ graves, interns them symbolically in this fruitful spot. The Common Thread between such disparate tales of disparate places, Oxford, is most poignantly played up by patchwork itself, a  medium which strives to collocate disparate materials in an harmonious way.  center_img All in all, much of the success of the exhibition itself is dependent on comprehending the feelings of  culture-clash versus integration, which form the backbone of many of the panels.  Without the emotion of each story elucidated, either visually or literarily, one cannot help but fall prey to the more obvious  decries of amateurism, albeit sympathetically, which are evoked upon first viewing.  It is not only the highly personal experience that is explored in this show.  As a reflection of the group’s  connection with Out of Africa 2007, a project which celebrates the Bicentenary of the Abolition of the  Transatlantic Slave Trade, more pandemic issues such as civil rights have sparked inspiration.  One sizeable panel features a selection of ironed-on images and quotes from both Martin Luther King and proponents of the Black Power Movement, such as Stokely-or ‘Stokey’ as he is here rendered- Carmichael.  As political art, the ostensibly congruous inclusion of two historically conflicting  movements on one canvas seems both ironic and falsely idealised; unless, of course, the artist is to be  taken as exploring the common thread between Peaceful Resistance and Black Power.  Such a realisation seems unlikely, but the political failings of these panels do little to render them contrived or  any less emotional.  last_img

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