What will the neighbours think? is all about the double take: to look and then look again, the glance and then the gaze, an illusion that changes from one thing into another or disappears completely. When immersed in the creative process and when my mind is still it seems like there is a driving force somewhere behind thinking, silently directing both action and decision, allowing a space where creativity can lead in unexpected directions. I am interested in the confusion that lies between fact and fiction, the analytic and the imaginary. My ideas are drawn upon elements of eroticism, humour and suspense, to search for the things barely seen, the things behind the things, the lost and the disappeared.
Spending most of my childhood growing up with my grandparents on the old Bestwood council estate in Nottingham, I have memories of my Grandmother twitching her net curtains and wondering what the neighbours were up to. I remember the wood chip wallpaper covering every room and, depending on how you focused your eyes, made the bits of wood chip either protrude or recede into the surface. This was my first fascination with shifts in perception; how we see or don’t see things. Depending on how we look at things, we can make them change or look different. I remember lying in bed shifting my focus on this paper, captivated by the illusion.
In this work I aim to explore the concept of perception, my rebellion of wanting to be an artist, not wanting to conform to any rules, whilst reflecting also on the working-class family values I grew up with. My family connections to the net and lace making industry in Nottingham has had a huge influence on my journey and creativity as an artist including the house-proud ideals my grandparents presented to me when growing up.
My Grandma was so proud of me before she died for not conforming to the rules she’d been led to follow and instead following my heart. And not giving a f**k what the neighbours thought. It's these memories that led me to develop this new installation of fabric for the This Class Works exhibition.
I designed this lace after the surprising discovery of my historical family connections to the Nottingham lace industry. I had been creating patterns for many years and a lot of these really lent themselves to lace. My erotic designs sit beautifully with the whole concept of lace, how it reveals yet at the same time conceals. The figures in the lace are inspired by erotic depictions on a famous 5th century Greek plate. This modern design is also inspired by the lace made on lever machines exactly like the ones my great-great-grandfather used over 100 years ago. The ‘Body Lace’ design was originally developed during a year-long residency in the same building he had worked in - now Nottingham’s Lace Market Gallery - culminating in my first solo exhibition there in 2014.
In the search for traces of my great-great-grandfather lace, the deeper I delved and tried to find evidence of him, the more he seemed to fade away and disappear. My uncertainty lies with my inability to find hard evidence substantiating the stories of his creative hand. My only knowledge of his existence is through the tales passed down from my great aunt.
What originally started as a playful and humorous reflection inspired by explicit images used on advertising billboards has developed into a collection of hand-printed erotic wallpaper designs and the new lace fabric. Through this process, I’ve realised the importance of changing our perceptions around the art of making love. I recognise the power that this union has over us and see it as an intricate and delicate dance between two beings to be celebrated. My designs and artwork aim to reflect this celebration through intricate patterns hidden within the surface of the design, creating an element of surprise that delights the viewer… if they take the time to look.
This new erotic, lace-inspired fabric can be found at The Monkey Puzzle Tree.