Rebecca D. Harris who are your artist influences? textiles, affect & artists

Who are your influences?

In the lead up to Art Week Exeter (AWE) the AWE group have asked all participating artists to take part in a survey.  For the 60 days leading up to the event, sixty artists’ responses will feature on their blog and my contribution started it all a couple of weeks ago.  There are seven questions in particular I wanted to expand on here in the lead up to the exhibition I am doing as part of the city wide event in May.  Last week I shared the second, the second I expand here ‘Who are your influences?’, below is my response included on AWE’s post.

The audience, what they feedback about the work, in terms of stories they want to share, how they react/affected by seeing the work. In terms of other artists it definitely has to be Louise Bourgeois for her use of textiles and her personal experiences in her work, how touching her pieces are. You do not need to know anything of the artist to be affected by her art, they talk to the viewer of something of themselves. There are many other artist I draw from too for influence: Eva Hesse, Tracey Emin, Mona Hatoum, Doris Salcedo and Rachel Whiteread.

 

Today’s blog post I shall expand on four of those artists – Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, Tracey Emin and Mona Hatoum.

The audience

In last week’s post in which I expanded on how memories and experiences play a role in my art making I mention textiles and how the audience impact on how and why I make the work I do.  Please check out that post for more information on how the audience informs my work.

 

Louise Bourgeois (1911 – 2010)

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Louise Bourgeois ‘Woven Child’ 2002

This one is probably a bit of an obvious influence.  If you know her work and of mine you would make the connection that this artist is a huge influence.  Bourgeois draws from the feminine, domestic, craft and the autobiographical, all strands I too like a tug at.  Touching on memory in last week’s AWE questions post, Bourgeois’s practice has much more of an emotional intensity and is a form of catharsis of dealing with the past.  Her childhood informs the narratives of her works and the techniques employed.  Much like what I wish to achieve, although the work starts with the autobiographical it become autonomous.  As viewers we can only interpret what we see through our own bodies and lenses of our own experiences and who we are.

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Rebecca D. Harris ‘Deep Seated Anxiety’ 2012

The act of sewing is emotional repair.

Louise Bourgeois

 

Much of Bourgeois’s influences and themes within her work links back to her childhood, of a time of trauma with her troubled relationships with carers and parents.  The artist came from a family of tapestry restorers in France.  This act of taking a needle to restore easily explains a huge influence on her later techniques and the desire to use a needle to repair her emotional past.  This differs to my own past where the techniques I adopt are not brought to me by a nostalgic or traumatised past, but just ‘stuff’ I taught myself when younger.

The artist was a hoarder and surrounded by a huge collection of kept clothing and cloths she would reconstruct into artworks.  Holding significance then, these newly formed objects stem from personal intimate beginnings.  Unlike myself, my choice of materials come from chance findings at car boots, charity shops, hosiery aisle at the supermarket and any decent haberdashery.

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Louise Bourgeois ‘Untitled’ 2002

‘I always had the fear of being separated and abandoned. The sewing is my attempt to keep things together and make things whole’

Louise Bourgeois

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Rebecca D. Harris ‘Untitled: stop tap’ 2012

A further influence the artist has on myself is her surrealism and the use of the body.  Often adding domestic found objects within the constructed textiles works to add a tension of materials and meaning.  These ideas really appeal and play with the idea of what the body is and what it does.

 

Eva Hesse (1936 – 1970)

Despite living a short life Eva Hesse has a huge impact on the modern art world.  Riding off the back of abstract expressionism and firmly setting her ground in minimalism the artist established herself as the queen of materiality.  With lightness of touch and terse construction of materials, the artworks are not without their bold and strong statements.  Utilising everyday and industrial materials, that sort of play on masculine and feminine notions is a huge influence of mine.

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Eva Hesse ‘no title’ 1970

With such simple additions of materials she could create, like some sort of alchemist, this gold, this art of wonder.  Before you the simple constructions convey organic, bodily suggestions, the sexual and psychological states.  With a major retrospective at Tate Modern 15 years ago it was said at the time the huge ripples of impact the artist would have on future female artists.  Unfortunately, for myself, this was not the case.  At this time, I had given up my art studies after divorcing my husband and went to the giddy heights of being a shop assistant to support myself and my daughters.  It did however place the artist on my radar in later years when I returned to complete my art studies a few years ago.

Rebecca Harris dwelling art
Rebecca D. Harris ‘Untitled: house skin’ 2012

I spent a great deal of my first year on my masters degree playing with latex.  It was a very difficult material to work with but gave a perfect skin like rendering upon the surface of cloth.  Above is the indexical trace from the side of my house.  This piece is no longer ‘alive’, destroyed, after installation, it was folded away and I was never able to recover the sticky smelly mess.  Hesse’s work, due to its, significance and importance, is well preserved and latex is very problematic in preservation.  It raises interesting questions on permanence and physical lifespans of artworks, not something I will get into any detail here now.

 

Art doesn’t last.  Life doesn’t last.  It doesn’t matter.

 

Eva Hesse

 

Tracey Emin

Poor old Tracey is the wheeled out artist when a non arty type gets into a conversation with me about modern art.  Often riled by her famous non Turner Prize winning piece the unmade bed.  It is not those works which attracts me to the artist.  The influence I greatly draw from her is her tender and gestural drawings, especially the ones converted into embroideries.  Just stunning.

 

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Tracey Emin ‘Pavement Sitting’ 2009
Rebecca Harris life drawing embroidery
Rebecca D. Harris ‘Untitled (life drawing embroidery)’ 2016

Mona Hatoum

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Mona Hatoum ‘Grater Divide’ 2002

Hatoum’s work appeals for it affect and the assimilation of everyday objects and changing their status.   Through our understandings of the objects she recreates as artworks, we get a sense of how our bodies would interact with the works on show without in anyway having to directly touch the work.  It is what we bring to the work, what we already know of the things of the world around us.  Often dismissing what she refers to as ‘journalistic’ readings of her work, like with Bourgeois we have a tendency to delve into the history of the artist to understand the artworks presented.  Hatoum rejects this and seeks immediate autonomy.  It leaves you the viewer to form your own relationship with the artworks being served.

 

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Mona Hatoum ‘Rubber Mat’ 1996

The artist states that the embodiment of artworks is within the physical realm and our bodies are an axis for perception to be experienced both sensually and intellectually.  Hatoum asserts the body as highly integral to her work. Coming from the Middle East, Hatoum notes that the Arabs are much more attuned to their bodies, unlike the West who are ‘very caught up in their heads, like disembodied intellects’ *

I have always been dissatisfied with work that just appeals to your intellect and does not actually involve you in a physical way. For me, the embodiment of an artwork is within the physical realm; the body is the axis of our perceptions, so how can art afford not to take that as a starting point?

Mona Hatoum

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Rebecca D. Harris ‘Untitled: tumble dryer hose’ 2012

 

Who are your influences?

 

 

 

 

 

 

LET'S STAY IN TOUCH!

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Rebecca D. Harris Where do you find inspiration?

Where do you find inspiration?

In the lead up to Art Week Exeter (AWE) the AWE group have asked all participating artists to take part in a survey.  For the 60 days leading up to the event, sixty artists’ responses will feature on their blog and my contribution started it all last week.  There are seven questions in particular I wanted to expand on here in the lead up to the exhibition I am doing as part of the city wide event in May.  With exactly seven weeks to go and seven questions, the first I expand here this week ‘Where do you find inspiration?’

 

Where do you find inspiration?

Here is my brief response that was posted on the AWE site: The body, craft and society. How we perceive each other and how that impacts on our perceptions of ourselves. How textiles and craft can convey meanings of a theme in different ways than other material might.  

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The body

Prior to explicitly making work about this, the body always featured. In 2010 after I lost my home (it’s ok I found another) I made artworks about dwelling and longing for home.  It was quite obvious I was making reference to skin, a sort of ephemeral nature of home.  I was very interested in the surface and skin like qualities that I could attain from using latex to create a sort of an indexical trace of the skin of a home.

Continuing from this body of work I started to explore the fetish, looking in particular the feminine domestic and the masculine of DIY materials.  Whilst making this work in 2012 I was due to have a gastric bypass (yeah not great) but later cancelled.  It was during this time I was worried about those alien interventions into my obese body, drastic extremes in order for my body to literally fit in.  Those concerns manifested themselves within my work.  It was through making, that I discovered a lot about myself and what I really wanted from my personal and physical life.  This helped me decide to cancel this mutilating operation.

Rebecca Harris art body fat obese

I then came out as a fat woman.  This was significant moment in my life, which up to this point had been spent living from the neck upwards, in sort of suspended animation until I was afforded the normalised life of a thinner person.  So through my artworks telling me something wasn’t right with the decision I was about to take, I thought ‘fuck it’ and make work about being fat.  Of course, I was quite apprehensive about this initially.  You live your life, although bigger than everyone else, wanting to be invisible, not to be seen.  So ‘coming out’ as fat, saying yeah you know I am fat, I know it, let’s not kid ourselves and I refuse to stay in hiding, so here I am and here’s some fucking artwork about it too.

Rebecca Harris obesity art body

In Drew Leder’s book The Absent Body the writer talks of the body being  self-effacing, so never really present in thoughts, just getting on and doing it’s job.  It’s only when the body dysfunctions it, as he states, ‘dys-appears’, it becomes present to us.  I was so acutely aware of my body in need of modification, to fit society’s norms and the extremes I was about to do internally to rectify the external. So I made some art about it.

I continue to embrace this as an approach and the body is a very significant theme in my artworks.

 

Craft

Rebecca Harris domestitty crochet textiles artwork

I’ve always been a ‘making’ child.  Not going to go on to say my grandmother taught me ‘this’ or my grandmother taught me ‘that’.  I taught myself all the craft skills I know today and did so when I was a teenager.  Don’t worry, I’m sure there are some misspent youth stories to share too but just not here, not now.  It was only recently I found out that I have been crocheting wrong my whole life.  Trying to teach my eight year old daughter to crochet and frustrating with not being able to, my fault not her’s, I took to YouTube.  It was here I found out … hang on, I’ve been doing it all wrong.  I crochet like a knitter, thread in the right hand, letting go of the hook and wrapping the yarn around.  I have now re-taught myself and low and behold, discovered that it’s much quicker the ‘normal’ way.  I’m finding it frustrating though when working with the small hooks and finer threads not to change hands.

Anyway, what were we talking about, yes craft and how that inspires me.  Textiles is something I have always played with.  I would craft stuff when I was a kid and when I became a mum at 20 I would sew for my daughters.  It was during the time my older two were in infant school and nursery I returned to college as a mature student (I had previously studied business and finance when leaving school *yawns*) and took some A-levels in textiles and art.  I wanted to continue with my studies to degree level but life got in the way as it does.  After having my third daughter I did get my chance to complete my higher education studies and textiles was a very prominent medium in all that I did.

Rebecca Harris art stretch marks textiles obesity

What appeals to me is the domestic and feminine nature of the craft and how that adds to the topics of artworks I create.  Also, it’s about textiles having that familiar presence throughout our lives and proximity with our bodies, the desire to touch, that tactile nature.  Cloth is a surface similar to skin and where textiles are used to conceal the body I use them to reveal it.  The making aspect of my work leaves marks of bodily presence in being held, made and manipulated to reveal concepts of the themes being conveyed.

 

Society

As a chubby child and an obese adult I was very aware of the negative ways society gazed upon my body and this then contributed to how I saw myself.   The discourse of what a fat person is shaped how I experience myself in the world.  I sought to normalise body through weight-loss surgery as previously mentioned which I never proceeded to go through with.  My body became my axis for research, although the works start from a personal place they become autonomous and relate to social themes others can relate to.

Rebecca Harris red MRI fat body obese art textiles embroidery

 

My current inspiration continues from this place of how I feel about my body, the social gaze and techniques relating to the domestic and feminine crafts.

 

What inspires you?

 

 

LET'S STAY IN TOUCH!

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