I recently held an exhibition entitled Forgotten Spaces at Basement Arts Project, Leeds, which featured 5 large cross-stitch works in the style of blue prints, shown in a subterranean exhibition space.
As a lover of history I have come across many cruel dungeon cells, designed to torture the unhappy resident, and these stories have stayed with me. As an artist with a preoccupation with death, I have long wanted to make work about them, but the right way to go about this had never presented itself until now.
By chance, one day I saw the word Oubliette in a completely unrelated situation. I remembered the word from the 1980’s classic film The Labyrinth, and realised that I had never quite looked up the exact meaning.
A secret dungeon reached only via trapdoor.
From Middle French oublier “to forget”
The coldness of the meaning “to forget” only adds to the horror of such places, and it was this that jolted my project to life.
Thinking back to the dungeon cells I had read about over the years, I decided to create a set of work based on five of them. It is the torturous scale of these spaces which makes the most impact, and so I needed a medium which could reflect this.
A lot of my fine art practice consists of Contemporary Art Cross-stitch. This means Cross-stitch used in a contemporary fine art context. The work may have a conceptual basis, or simply be using cross-stitch in a way which makes best use of the medium. The grid-like fabric used for cross-stitch (called Aida) is very similar to graph paper. In fact, I plan my patterns out on graph paper when designing a piece of work, and have long been interested in using Aida as graph paper. In 2017 I made a small piece of work which mimicked architectural plans for a medieval gothic church window, stitching the 10×10 squared guidelines onto the cross-stitch fabric.
Gothic Window Plans. Cotton on Aida. 2017
I decided that, in order to show the scale of these spaces, using Aida as graph paper would work well, and the actual dungeons would take on the appearance of blue prints, with a guide to the height of the average Medieval man to give a real sense of the practical scale of the spaces.
To be continued…