Miranda Argyle’s graphite drawings are intrinsic to her new body of work. Rather than preparatory sketches, these drawings often evolve in response to the stitched pieces, thereby setting up a dialogue that continues through the show. The massing of graphite marks inWrap Drawing not only echoes the stem stitching Argyle uses to form repeated text, but also the multiple strands within every thread. As with each pencil mark, each stitch is different, unique. The stitching is a three dimensional drawing while the Italian quilting used in Braille Heartbeat and White Circle is close to sculpture. Although Argyle talks of ‘domestic geography’, as a way of defining the place where she makes the work, it has a wider reference in exploring the role of women in history. In her piece, Compliance, she juxtaposes part of an apron with a stitched drawing of a ‘necklace’ of large stitches. Needlework may have none of the cultural trappings of painting, but it does have its own associations with decoration, repression, even coercion.
Consciously Argyle, with no interest in the perfect stitch, works to subvert our expectations of the domestic uses of embroidery, and opens up the medium. The dialogue continues elliptically.
Recalling the young girls’ samplers of past centuries, text is integral to each piece, indeed often IS the piece and also becomes its title. Argyle uses the fact that the word ‘text’ comes from the Latin ‘texere’, meaning ‘to construct’ and ‘to weave’. Link Drawing is more than a pencil drawing that links itself to a stitched companion piece. It explores the way stitches are threaded and unthreaded, while suggesting repetition of the letter ‘g’. One letter may remain visual and mysterious, whilst more than one forces the brain to read, and in so doing, makes it text. Argyle plays with this through repetition and reversal.
In I can change my mind, the overlapping words sewn in white silk on grey linen shimmer and elide before the eye, both tentative and commanding. Do words gain power through repetition? Or maybe a word has more power when said just once, as in Still, where the artist has embroidered this single silent word in
the lettering belonging to a noisy Victorian fairground. Its multi-layered meaning is not lost on us. Developed further, Still in the House is a piece made from bridal dress offcuts, left fraying at the edges, difficult to frame or box in.
The title of the Show ‘From where I am looking Mr Lekeux’ arose in response to the exhibition site. Anna Maria Garthwaite was a designer for the silk industry, living up the road at No 2 Princelet Street. Between 1728 and 1760 she created over one thousand designs and yet she remains almost unknown. Mr Lekeux was one of the main silk weavers in Spitalfields, who bought her designs. This title would refer to their position as neighbours, but also the difference of their viewpoints and gender. Added to the mix is Argyle’s response to the resonance of the site, and ours to hers. Both From Where I am Looking.. and Within Without use the underside of a stitched piece and words in reverse; all that is usually hidden may seem revealed and yet remains either indecipherable or incoherent. It is as if Argyle, in this series of deceptively quiet and delicate works, is saying ‘From where I am looking there will always be more questions than answers’.
FROM WHERE I'M LOOKING MR LEKEUX
Drawings in Stitch and Pencil
at Eleven Spitalfields, 11 Princelet Street, London E1.
7- 27 May 2010