One of our PhD students, Beverly Ayling-Smith, has secured a spot in the Art_Textiles exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester. She’ll be exhibiting her work alongside a range of prestigious artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Dorothea Tanning, Miriam Schapiro and Faith Wilding, Grayson Perry and Tracey Emin.
Inspired by different cultural practices surrounding mourning, such as the traditions of burying or commemorating the deceased, Beverly’s work considers mourning and melancholia. It’s given many people the opportunity to share their own experiences of grief.
Explaining the inspiration for her work, Beverly said: “I found the attachments that some cultures make with clothes or textiles around death very interesting. For example, many cultures around the world create textiles simply to be buried with a loved one or purposefully chose certain clothes for the loved one to wear. This isn’t something we practice so much here in the UK, but the connection made me want to explore the relationship between mourning and textiles, and the difference between mourning and melancholia.”
The piece that Beverly’s exhibiting at the Whitworth is a called Remembering, repeating and working through. The 5x3 metre wall hanging has been created from small pieces of black linen that have been sanded, waxed and hand stitched together, then covered with a large stitched web overlay. Each section of the black linen acts as a metaphor for the memories that an individual holds of someone who has died.
“I’ve never been interested in simply making things to look nice,” said Beverly. “I want my work to mean something and provoke thought or conversation.” Remembering, repeating and working through did exactly that when it was first exhibited in the Salts Mill in 2012. A member of the public saw the piece and immediately understood what it represented, without receiving an explanation. Having recently lost his wife, the man chose to buy the piece.
Exploring the theme of mourning and melancholia while studying MA Contemporary Craft (Textiles), Beverly’s now delving deeper into the subject matter on her PhD at our Farnham campus where she also works as a research assistant to renowned textile expert, Professor Lesley Millar MBE.
Despite exploring a potentially sombre subject matter, Beverly takes pride in the fact that her work’s played a part in the grieving process and encouraged many people to discuss their experiences: “I wanted to create something powerful, and the work focuses on the progression of grief and making things better for people, so I enjoy the positivity that my work can bring to others.”
Art_Textiles at The Whitworth will be showcasing a range of work from artists who’ve used textiles as a powerful tool for expressing social, political and artistic ideas. The exhibition opens on 10 October and will run until 31 January 2016.
You can find more information about Beverley’s work at www.beverlyaylingsmith.com.