Looking back in order to look forward, Hannah Gartside uses discarded, found and collected textiles to create installations, sculptures and costumes. The works explore feminism and material culture, and present ways of experiencing the profound sensuality and subjectivity of our relationship to the physical world. Gartside uses dress-making processes as well as methods of patchwork quilting, wet-felting, and fabric dyeing. Through these labour intensive processes and treatment of materials, Gartside invests in the work a quality of concentration, devotion and care.
Although she believes in the ‘aura’ accrued by materials through their production and usage, Gartside researches the aesthetics, production techniques and history of her materials that have emerged from particular historical, sociopolitical and cultural contexts. Her works co-opt the materiality and various associations of the material as a way of making sense of the past, through a sense of shared consciousness, and of offering up new possibilities for hope.
Gartside also works with materials from her own lived experience (ex-boyfriend’s teeth, family cat’s hair, or grandmother’s clothing) and gifted materials; treasured fabric stashes passed on from families and friends. For each work, she creates strict rules around the selection of materials, ordering them into type, fibre content, date of production, or fabric pattern. More complex categories are also used (such as nightgowns made from 100% polyester fabric in the 1960s/70s), and these boundaries create discrete material and conceptual containers for harnessing narrative. Through such dichotomous methods as cutting, shredding and stitching – by turn, both violent and reparative – she explores the complexities of being in and of a female body.
Gartside also engages strategies of psychotherapy, tarot and journalling to navigate particular episodes of psychological fragility and vulnerability, and address them through the work. Both deeply personal and fiercely communal, her works engage fundamental experiences and emotions of our human condition: longing, aloneness, tenderness, connection, desire and wonderment.