Susan Chapman

stitched textile artist


I work with textiles, I feel that the selecting, printing and dyeing, and stitching of fabrics help me to communicate my feeling, concern and observation of modern society.

Dr Jessica Hemmings says in her introduction to the book from the Stroudwater Textile Festival 2010:

“Textiles are the first material to touch our skin at birth and what many of us will lay upon at the moment of death. Textiles are the material that covers our bodies every day of our lives; the material we rest between each night. It is the textile that is used to staunch the flow of blood from wounds and protect us against cold and wind and excessive light. They are quite literally an inescapable presence, trailing close behind air, water and food in our list of needs and wants.”

These words resonate with my own life experience and it feels natural to me to use the very fabric that is so integrated into all aspects of my life.

Early in the twentieth century the use of cloth by artists exploded, bringing together artists from many disciplines. In around 1912, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque were the first to make collages using fabric, later Robert Rauschenberg incorporated a quilt into one of his paintings. Joseph Beuys certainly was among the first to explore the complicated relationship between humans and the cloth they weave. Louise Bourgeois
used textiles throughout her career, especially in her final years.

For me, the power of much of the work comes in repetition, Eva Hesse and Jannis Kounellis exploited this to great effect. However two of the most memorable pieces for me are both made by Japanese artists. Restricted by working space Masao Yoshimura created small units but extended the scale of the piece by repetition. He stitched 1012 x 5 ¼ inch boxes from silk organza to create ‘One Thousand and Twelve Boxes’, which was installed in North Dakota Museum of Art in 1993. Placed in a formal grid on the gallery floor, the boxes became blocks of light that changed constantly as clouds passed the windows and the sun rose and set. The other, by Mitsuo Toyazaki in 1987 called ‘Over The Rainbow’ was an installation of 500 dyed canvas tennis shoes laid into a rainbow road disappearing into a Japanese landscape. It represented the revolution of casual dress across the world, it seemed that everyone was wearing blue jeans and tennis shoes.

The authors of ‘Wholecloth’ Mildred Constantine and Laurel Reuter said

“…. the use of cloth in works of art is not a movement but an all-pervasive trend adopted by artists of every cut and colour. Sometimes cloth is the entire work of art, sometimes a component or a fragment. However, just as thread is assumed into material, cloth has been assumed into the fabric of twentieth century art.”