Anne Kelly: ‘Folk Tales’ show at the National Needlework Archive
A sense of place, story and a certain warmth runs through all Anne Kelly‘s work. She lays down a stitchy, albeit vertically mounted, welcome mat inviting vistitors into her latest show ‘Folk Tales’ at the NNA, Newbury.
Like all Anne’s work, it invites closer inspection, drawing you in to her richly textural, multi-layered mixed media world.
Readers who enjoyed Anne’s last show, complete with full size garden shed installation, will note a symmetry, albeit on a much smaller scale here, with the inclusion centre stage of a charity shop sourced doll’s house, clothed in found textiles.
Found textiles are at the heart of Anne’s work; driven not by a sense of ecological warriorship or thrift, but by a more emotional and creative drive to save, incorporate and honour these fragile survivors of times past; whether vintage or more recent.
Oriental fabrics of all kinds, from finely embroidered silks to scrolling shapes Anne cut from free shopping bags, largely comprise one piece; many of the fabrics having been sent by one of Anne’s relatives.
Birds are a favourite motif; “symbols of the soul and of the imagination and at a deep level they seem to call to me,” and often form Anne’s personal stitched addition to a piece.
Nature of all kinds is a constant source of inspiration; celebrated in Anne’s last major show; launching her book; Textile Nature.
How nature is represented in folk art has also long been influential in Anne’s work. Flowers are reduced to their simplest forms, free of artifice. Petals are described emphatically in repeated machine stitched black outlines as if drawn by a child, albeit an especially artistically gifted one, keen to ensure every petal is accurately counted, included and visible.
Anne’s beloved bird motifs too are simply drawn; although anyone who has tried to embroider freehand with a sewing machine will instantly appreciate the true artistry behind Anne’s apparently simplistic, largely linear renderings.
On a pocketed hanging, each found pocket bearing the image of a bird, Anne’s fine art training is apparent in the stitch sketched accuracy of the creature’s anatomy, however free the style. Feet are strong and widely spaced as if gripping the ground; while beaks, even drawn in a couple of stitches, look sharp and ready to peck. “Observing birds from life can be challenging but makes for a much more realistic impression.”
A handsome horse portrait, lovingly handstitched in repeated, thick, charcoal-like lines on coarse white cloth, grabs the attention on another work. It has been worked with infinite care and patience, by another hand. Anne’s role is as the portrait’s saviour; “I just had to include him. Isn’t he wonderful?” Here, she places it within a new background, bringing it out of a stranger’s attic and back where it belongs; centre stage and ready to cheer visitors to this warm, life affirming show.
The Old Chapel Textile Centre, Main Street, Greenham Business Park, Newbury, Berkshire. RG19 6HW. 01635 38740
Textile Nature, by Anne Kelly, (Batsford)
Connected Cloth, by Anne Kelly and Cas Holmes (Batsford)