Resisting the fold: the work of Jemima Wyman

9 October 2012 Alex Bellemore

Patterned fabrics are commonly thought of in terms of paisleys or ginghams- fancies of fashion. Not often are fabrics thought of as a tool for catharsis (retail therapy excepted) or as a tool to resist or to protest. Jemima Wyman’s artistic practice seeks to contest this historical view of materials as essentially passive objects and uses this concept to connect with the wider community in her latest work as part of the Liverpool Biennial, United Kingdom. The artwork, titled Collective Coverings, Communal Skin, has been commissioned for the Liverpool Biennial and FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology, Liverpool); Wyman describes the work as ‘a transformation of objects used in conflict (second hand hunting and camouflage t-shirts) into objects of comfort (hula hoop rag mats).’

The objects which are created for this artwork are created by the community who visit the space at FACT. Wyman mediates this experience by facilitating the workshops; ‘visitors sit on patch-worked body pillows made from the (collected) shirts, during these workshops I talk with the community about meditating while they weave so as to contemplate the spiritual and conceptual dimension of the project’. The experience of the workshop and the work itself is about altering oppositions, making what was once hostile, friendly and transforming the hard edges of a concrete white cube into a softer edged color pop, which continues to expand and alter through the duration of the Biennial. Wyman creates an increasingly immersive atmosphere which extends from the hands of the artists, to the workshop participants, to the broader patrons of the space. The name of the work references this spirit, Collective Coverings: drawing from the collection of over 2000 shirts, many locally donated or found in thrift stores and Communal Skin a membrane which continues to expand as the Biennial continues. The result of Wyman’s work is a cheerfully eccentric collection of altered hoola- hoops which combined together bring to mind an Indigenous aesthetic; this is an easy link to make, through the similar processes of storytelling and spiritual contemplation that occur in both Wyman’s work and more broadly in Indigenous visual art traditions.

As for plans for the remainder of the year, Wyman’s participation in the Liverpool Biennial currently takes up most of her time, with workshops two times a day at FACT. Wyman also has a solo show currently exhibiting at Milani Gallery in Brisbane, titled Piecing Together Core Concerns, the exhibition is made up of works both past and present which explore the power of pattern and fabric in zones of conflict. Wyman will also continue to collaborate with artist Anna Mayer as their collaborative duo CamLab, they will lecture widely over the remainder of the year including guest lectures at UCLA.

Jemima Wyman is a recipient of the New Work- Mid Career grant from the Visual Arts Board, her exhibition Piecing Together Core Concerns runs until the 13th October, 2012 at Milani Gallery, Brisbane.


Image Credit: Installation shot, Collective Coverings, Communal Skin at Liverpool Biennial, image courtesy of the artist.