The pieces that follow form a selection of my work on the theme of conflict. This topic was instigated by the then forthcoming anniversary of the death of my grandmother’s brother at the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915. I wanted to produce something as a memorial for him and this became my first stitched piece to tackle death as a subject, Requiem: les Fleurs du Mal.
After this, I began to think about how the tragedy of war has continued on in various parts of the globe and I made my collaged piece, Continuum. I now focus on my experiences of the Troubles in Northern Ireland in my part-time PhD in Fine Art at Aberystwyth University in which I explore how the process of stitch can express both humanity’s compassion and mankind’s inhumanity towards others through the prism of the symbiotic relationship between stitch, sound and word.
Requiem: les Fleurs du Mal
43 cm w x 53 cm h
Silk-painted and inkjet printed fabrics; dried flower petals; silk and cotton threads; hand stitch
My grandmother’s brother, Thomas Alexander Keith, or Tommy as he was known, had emigrated to Canada with his older brother, William, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War. Both brothers volunteered to fight with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1914; William survived the war but Tommy was killed during a gas attack in the Second Battle of Ypres, 1915. The model for the figure in the image is my son, Ed, who thankfully does not have to go to war as he would have done were this one hundred years ago.
The First World War did not become, as so many had hoped, the ‘war to end all wars’ but the tragedy of all those who lost their lives then, military and civilian, from many nationalities, now stand as symbols for all those who have died and continue to die in mankind’s constant warring against one another.
Her Pillow, the Earth
42 cm w x 35 cm h
Unbleached and bleached linen; painted and inkjet printed fabrics; silk and cotton threads; hand stitch
Inspired by arpilleras and commissioned for the exhibition War-Torn Children in the Linen Hall Library, Belfast.
This piece references not just my experiences of the Troubles in Northern Ireland but also the plight of children caught up in the recent violence in Syria and in Aleppo particularly. Children fleeing the war become refugees and sleep on the ground in tents; others are tragically killed and the ground becomes their resting place.
This piece was exhibited in ‘War-Torn Children’, an exhibition under the aegis of Conflict Textiles a collection begun by curator Roberta Bacic supported by Ulster University. Another of my conflict works Continuum has also been exhibited with this group, with information about this work and the exhibition on the same website and in my Thread of the Spirit blog.
35 cm w x 22 cm h
Inkjet print on cotton; Japanese tissue paper; silk and cotton threads; hand stitch
The image pictured here is based on an incidence of violence in Belfast during the Troubles in the 1970s. It visualises my memories of how people would disappear into smoke when a bomb exploded and only afterwards would you find out if they were alive or dead.
approx 1.5 m w x 1.3 m h
silk-painted and inkjet printed fabrics on linen; tissue papers; painted mulberry bark; silk and cotton threads; hand stitch
This is the first of a series of large works which focus on particular aspects of or specific incidents which occurred during the Troubles, in this instance the event which became known as the Miami Showband Massacre. The incident occurred in July 1975 when the cabaret band, members of which were Catholic and Protestant, were returning home to Dublin after a gig. They were travelling towards Newry, Co. Down, when their van was stopped at what they thought was a military checkpoint. However, though those who stopped the band were in British army uniform, this patrol was a pretence and two people were themselves killed when the bomb they were trying to place in the back of the band’s van went off prematurely. Three members of the band were subsequently shot dead by other members of the bogus patrol. The two remaining band members were also shot but survived their injuries and were later able to tell what had happened.