Continuum

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The collaged piece Continuum came about after I had made Requiem: Les Fleurs du Mal

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Detail from Requiem: Les Fleurs du Mal

There is information about this work in my Conflict section but, briefly, this was the first stitched artwork I made in connection with the subject of war and conflict and it came about because I wanted to do something to commemorate the coming centenary of the death of my grandmother’s brother, Thomas Keith, in the Second Battle of Ypres, March 1918. He was just 24 years of age and was one of the first Allied soldiers to be gassed. Horrible to contemplate, Tommy’s death and all the others during that terrible war did not turn out to be, as had been so hoped at the time, part of a ‘war to end all wars’ because only a couple of decades later, the world was at war again; and it didn’t end there.

 

Version 3

Detail from Continuum, section showing destruction from the Troubles and including the Enniskillen War Memorial where one of the tragic bombings took place.

We now have wars such as that in Syria and the threat of terrorism everywhere that can devastate so many human lives and drive societies apart. I made Continuum in response to the news of war in television reports, to the terrorism that has caused and continues to cause so much suffering and as a documentation of my memories of living and working in Belfast at the height of Northern Ireland’s Troubles. At this time, bombs exploded in the city and across the country, often with no warning beforehand, on an almost daily basis and it was such a relief to have a day when no-one died.

The artwork places images of the Troubles side by side with those related to the two World Wars and included are a member of my husband’s family who served as a soldier in the First World War, my father and his RAF squadron during the Second World War and destroyed buildings and people caught up in the bombings of the Troubles. Included in this detail is one of the mirror shards that float across the work, held to the fabric surface with red thread. These shards bring our reflection into the drama of the work and we are invited both to bring our own experiences to engage with the piece and to reflect on what it is within the human psyche that leads some to follow paths of often indiscriminate destruction, causing so much pain, tearing lives and families apart. Seen here, too, is a section of the work built up in withered flower petals and paint on torn fabric, process that has created a surface reminiscent of both burnt ground and charred flesh. Through presenting these images of conflicts that have affected generations of families from many countries, viewers are invited to bring their own memories within the flow of the artwork.

 

Version 2

This detail from Continuum shows my father in his RAF uniform, the squadron on its formation in Morecombe, a bombed-out building from the Troubles and the figure of a child, crying in fear after an explosion.

This image of the crying child is repeated across the piece because I find the hurt caused to children by the conflicts of adults so reprehensible. This child is from the N. Ireland of the late 20th century and I also made Her Pillow, the Earth in memory of and in response to the deaths of children in Syria in this present century, in this case in Aleppo in particular. More about this piece is on my Conflict page and both pieces have been exhibited under the aegis of Conflict Textiles. My piece Continuum has been shown at five exhibitions to date, two solo exhibitions, A Sense of Longing: Hiraeth, MOMA, Machynlleth, Powys and Conflict, Mid Wales Arts Centre, Powys and three group exhibitions, Lines of Communication, Prism Exhibiting Group, Hoxton Arches, London, Stitched Legacies of Conflict, Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre, Limavady, Co. Londonderry and Stitched Voices, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, Ceredigion.

 

Eileen Harrisson Continuum detail with girl low res June 2018

Detail with poppies, young woman and injured man

As well as imaging the destruction of buildings and the fear and waste of the violence, the piece also points to the caring side of humanity that offers hope, in the figure of a young woman who goes to the aid of a bomb victim. She holds his wrist tenderly as she looks for help; he stares at us, shocked, covered in ash. The ravages of violence have not taken away the impetus for compassion that so many share.

 

Version 2

This detail shows one of the mirror shards that are held to the fabric surface with red thread. Their inclusion allows us our reflection to be brought into the drama of the work and we are invited both to bring our own experiences to engage with the piece and to reflect on what it is within the human psyche that leads some to follow paths of often indiscriminate destruction, causing so much pain, tearing lives and families apart. The weeping child calls out for our help and protection.

The next step for the work and accompanying film is to be going on exhibition in the Willow Gallery, Oswestry as part of the Wilfred Owen Festival this autumn, 15th September – 11th November 2018.

The film Continuum was made to go with this wall piece and poem of the same name and information about the music, the poetry and making of the film will follow shortly on my Film page.