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Textiles (MA)

Penelope Brook

I am an artist with a practice, grounded in walking, that embraces photography, hand stitch and print. I am interested in how we encounter and recognize beauty, how we hold it in memory and how we share it – looking for my own particular answers to these expansive, perennial questions. 

I walk for the joy of it – for the at once comforting and enlivening sense of smallness in the immensity of nature. I walk for the way in which it brings me to a state of stillness, to the ability to see.  As I walk – whether in an urban churchyard or a towering mountain-scape – I am drawn to small, at-first-glance unprepossessing beauty that, if only given attention, rewards with awed joy, with an instinct to care. This is what my hand-work seeks to hold, and to offer up.

distant figure walking on an empty beach

I grew up fascinated by filmy ferns and tiny orchids in the New Zealand bush, by the berry-brightness of its alpine flora. Wherever I have lived since, I have sought to find my way by learning the names of wildflowers.  While developing my practice at the RCA, I have been increasingly preoccupied by fungi, mosses and lichen: by their mysterious calligraphies; by the way they soften a gravestone or a log pile; by the way they charge the grey of stone, the grey of a rain-swept day, with improbable and seductive colour. I am comforted by their persistence – and desolate at their vulnerability to our disregard.

My hand-work in response to this preoccupation has evolved as a conversation across photography, embossing with chine collé, and stitch. The resulting work seeks to evoke stillness, to memorialize fleeting encounters with the marvellous, and to invite reflection on the beauty that we need, after all, to be whole.

lichens on stone, grey-green collage on embossing, stitching on white wool
stitched overlaid squares on white woollen fabric
Lichen 4 (L), Lichen 3 (R): linen, silk, wool, cotton and mohair on wool; each work 290 x 380mm
lichens on stone, misty collage on embossing, stitching on white wool