I discovered Valerie Huggins’ work at this year’s Knitting & Stitching Show in London. She is a graduate of Julia Caprara School of Textile Art.
“Colour, pattern, and then more colour drive my passion for textiles, from the dazzling embroidery of Mexican blouses and the woven mirrored shawls of Gujarat to the overblown florals of Florida beachwear. In the tradition of patchwork quilts, I work mainly with commercially dyed and printed fabrics, finding excitement in placing seemingly conflicting designs side by side to provoke an unexpected dialogue.
“I am fascinated by the dual nature of flowers: as symbols of beauty, creativity and abundance, but also as witnesses to sickness, mortality and grieving. This has informed a series of work in which the viewer is lured in by the flowers’ loveliness, to be confronted by a dark and unsettling ambiguity. These themes of beauty and death are interwoven disturbingly in religious symbols and iconography.
The Poisoned Heart is the culmination of my long-standing interest in devotional and secular shrines, arising from my strict religious upbringing and fuelled by travels inGreece andMexico. Using strong colour, kitsch and even humour, this and other work challenges the viewer to question where the comfortable, familiar symbols of Christianity come from, and where myth, superstition and paganism end and organised religion begins.
The collecting of materials is an essential process in the formulation of my ideas. As a quilter, I have always hoarded precious scraps of fabric, but my work has expanded to embrace other “found objects” â€• collected from holiday beaches and craft markets, pound stores, eBay, Voodoo shops and taxidermists â€• that provide a disconcerting contrast to the softness and prettiness of fabric and thread. But textiles are, and will remain, at the centre of my art. They are both an end and a means: a way of conveying my darkest fears and deepest loves, but also a visual delight in their own right.
It’s powerful work, gaudy and stimulating. Taxidermy crows emphasise the religious fervour and iconography that Valerie explores. It is an assault on the senses and I love it.
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