At Candida Stevens Gallery
For centuries humans have exchanged flowers as an expression of the entire emotional range and throughout art history they have been symbolic. People have long imbued flowers with personal, cultural, and religious significance and creatives have been drawn to them for their evocative qualities, “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment,” Georgia O’Keeffe. In a departure from earlier works where the human figure often dominated, here it is the relationship between people and nature that takes centre stage. In these artworks, flowers are companion, inspiration and subject. This is both a reference to the larger contemporary issue of the human impact on the environment and the personal lived experience of an artist.
Made between March 2020 and September 2021, a period of global pandemic, these artworks address the experience of being home bound and are consistent with the reaction of being preoccupied by one’s immediate surroundings. At home in Somerset with a studio overlooking an everchanging garden, these flowers were symbolic of the passing of time, progress. The work is about balance, the reciprocal relationship between human and nature. There is no dominance of humanity, the figure and the flower become blended, they are negotiating their relationship with each other and with their environment. The artist’s strong belief in the importance of creating a world in which we coexist harmoniously with nature is evident here: human faces morph with flowers, figures emerge from the plants. In others the lines between person and flower become blurred or fractured and the work becomes abstracted.
“Alliances were sealed, allegiances sworn and passages to heaven bargained for with textiles” (Schoeser, 2012). I have no doubt the same could be said for flowers, and here Kettle skilfully combines the practice for which she is internationally known with a timely consideration for our significance in the earth’s evolution.
Alice’s work draws references from the history of figurative textiles and monumental narrative tapestry. In her role as Professor at Manchester School of Art, Alice Kettle has researched the meeting place of traditional analogue stitching skills and digitised contemporary methodologies. She has developed a unique practice, creating textile works which employ a combination of stitch techniques, combining the use of antique machines from early last century with hand stitch and contemporary digital technology. Stitch is a method of repetition, coverage and endlessness, a bit like the circularity of the seasons.