Places, Spaces and Traces
7 December 2022 – 7 January 2023
Wednesday 7th December 6pm join us to hear the acclaimed Kent based textile artist, writer and lecturer Cas Holmes in conversation about her Installation Places, Spaces and Traces and the Shipping Forecast. This exhibition has been touring in Europe and we are pleased to welcome the exhibition to its first stop on the UK tour.
Places, Spaces, Traces reflects on my Romani heritage. I am interested in the commonalities we have as people, the need for a place of our own, family and food. With migration, changes in our working lives and increasing opportunities to travel our certainty about who we are and where we fit in is unsure.
Whilst living in a small house on the outskirts of Maidstone for much of my adult life I may, by any description, be perceived as a ‘settled’ member of my local community however my art practice and lifestyle choice contradicts this. I travel internationality in pursuit of my work and readily continue drawing, stitching and producing pieces on the move as I work and engage with others. I see what I do as being of the world and not as separate from it. Everything is collated and collected on my journey. My thinking and approaches to my work is constantly in motion and being challenged by the exchange with other people and places.
It is the transient nature of my work and process, a compulsion to engage with the things experienced as part of the overlooked details of daily life that are of interest. Yet, at the same time the stories I find about people and place, regardless of social, cultural and economic backgrounds inform who I am and my particular take on the world.
This work formed part of the exhibition Gypsy Maker4 hosted by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company.
The connection we have to landscape and place is at the heart of my work and the question What would you value enough to bring with you if forced to leave your home, and what you would miss if you had to leave it behind? In recent times, these simple words have equal resonance as we find our lives restricted of movement due to the pandemic and or personal circumstances when we find it less easy to meet with friends or family to share a cuppa, eat a meal or pass the time.
This new work has led to an invitation for me to create an installation for exhibition at the beautiful Sint-Anna-ten-Drieën church in Antwerp in 2022through the organisation vzw ANNA3. I have also been invited install some of the pieces in the amazing creative space of a converted light vessel LV21, in Gravesend in the UK as well as here at R Space.
All of my work uses reclaimed materials, cloth and paper and much of the media I use such as paint or dye is retrieved and salvaged from bins etc wherever I can find it. We have become careless in our care of this shared world.
The exhibition will include an installation piece called the ‘The Shipping Forecast’ created out of printed and painted cloth, paper and lace (including many pieces sent in to me from all over the world) and Empty Vessels. The pieces contain words stitched into fragmenets as I travel, relating to the themes of migration and movement of people triggered by a ‘sound bites’ from the BBC news overheard in 2018 reporting that ‘17,700 people have drowned in the water around Europe since 2014’ . The shipping comes over the radio, with its rhythms a mantra of words to keep those at sea safe in the night. Reassuring during the times I struggle to sleep and a reminder of ‘home’.
The Shipping Forecast
When travelling, I tune into BBC Radio 4, finding familiarity and comfort in the sounds that tie me back to the music and voices of home. The Shipping Forecast regularly punctuates the airwaves, and as I listened to the rhythm in the words I began to reflect on their meaning and function. The intention of the forecast is to protect and guide those at sea as it lists sea and weather conditions. For migrants crossing the channel in inflatables, or crowded on small boats, the waters around our shores are perilous whatever the conditions. A news report in 2018 stated that 17,700 people drowned in the waters around Europe between 2014 and 2018. This prompted me to record ‘sound bites’ and news reports in stitch ontofragments of cloth gathered as I was travelling. At the time I had no clear idea where the project was going, yet as I worked it became a ‘thing’, to which I added stitched contributions from other makers, in response to the questions, ‘What do you value, what do you miss?’ The resulting installation was exhibited in Antwerp, Belgium, at the Sint-Anna-ten-Drieënkerk. Antwerp was a major port of emigration for over two million passengers that boarded the Red Star Line steamers for North America between 1873 and 1934. With migration, travel and changes in our working lives, certainty about who we are and where we fit in, for many, remains uncertain.
In the construction of ‘Shipping Forecast’ I incorporated the fragments of hand stitched pieces into larger panels of layered cloth and paper. These donated and found pieces included linen cloth donated by the Sint-Anna church in Antwerp, pieces of clothing found on a beach, lace and family pieces. Some of the cloth is printed with images and stencilled lettering similar to those used on shipping crates. Weather maps and isobars are machine stitched over the top. Antwerp is a lace-making city, and use of vintage lace and embroidery patterns serves as a reminder of that history and our interconnectedness to each other. In their own way they mark a gentler, more hidden map on and between the layers, echoing the fragility and holding them together.
Empty Vessels. 70-80 pieces of varying scales showing the stitch repairs.
An accompanying installation ‘Empty Vessels’ directly uses some of the papers and cloth left over from the larger works. These were formed around a variety of drinking vessels used to offer water or the comfort of hot tea for those arriving on our shores. After forming, the vessels required tearing and cutting to remove them from the moulds, and the fragile separation points are repaired with hand stitch. Like the vessels many migrants travel in, these small offerings of solace and comfort and hope from one human being to another, are equally fragile.
Places, Spaces and Traces
7 December 2022 – 7 January 2023
Tonight Wednesday 7th December 6pm join us to hear the acclaimed Kent based textile artist, writer and lecturer Cas Holmes in conversation about her Installation Places, Spaces and Traces and the Shipping Forecast. This exhibition has been touring in Europe and we are pleased to welcome the exhibition to its first stop on the UK tour.