Kirk Gallery

Leaving and Returning:

Woven tapestries and drawings reflecting on moving between two countries – Scotland and Australia

The works explore the theme of my personal migration – reflecting on moving between two countries, Scotland and Australia.

Now I have lived for almost equal parts of my life in these countries and I see them as solid grounded points which in my psyche I move between in a free and illogical way. The images are derived from elements of both countries – environment, traditional textiles and the salmon.

Dwelling – lingering over in though / making one’s home in a particular place

The beginning of a tapestry is exciting but daunting – the decisions made in the first few centimeters are crucial to the success of the work as tapestry weaving is a regular orderly procedure working from the floor of the tapestry to the final row of knots. In tapestry, the order of questions, decisions and steps in the process can not be changed. The process is like traveling from one place to another and I have thought about this relation to my life’s journey through time and as a migrant moving between Scotland and Australia. Now I have lived for almost equal periods of my life in Scotland and Australia. Submersion in tapestry is a way of distilling the journey, working through the past to integrate it into the present.

Tapestry has many rituals – bobbin winding, plying yarns, winding threads – all provide valuable thinking time. The routine tasks can provide space to reflect, dwell on current concerns of project into the future. Tapestry demands an investment of time and concentration, spending the time familiarizing with the medium and dedicating time to the production of work.

In thinking about the orderly habits of tapestry, I was fascinated by Ghassan Hage’s discussion in a lecture at ANU on how migrants develop a feeling of being at home in Australia, as I found his answers, for me, are in tapestry:

Familiarity – the order and habit of tapestry, a routine way of working where I know the environment, knowledge has been absorbed and I no longer have to work out every basic function.

Community – using tapestry to feel a sense of belonging to a community through shared understanding and experience.

Opportunity – always knowing that there is opportunity to extend, to go further and develop critically within and through the medium.

Security – through commitment, viability and familiarity and the confidence to make mistakes and move on.

Tapestry psychologically is my haven, not simply a warm fuzzy place of comfort, often a place of frustration, grueling discipline and physical discomfort – but it is compulsive, totally absorbing and essential to a complex resolution of ideas only achievable in tapestry through process, time and total involvement.

The works draw on Sanquhar weaving and later knitting patterns; Ayrshire Needlework, a form of embroidered whitework; hexagon and crazy patchwork. The textiles are depicted with sketches of natural environment to talk about place and movement between places. I draw parallels between the history of textiles as trade, exchange and migration objects and my own migration, leaving and returning to Scotland many times.

The tapestries and drawings also refer to travel through the salmon, known for its journey upstream, a symbol of physical movement and psychological travel through time and between places.

Dwelling is the condition of the journey.