Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Loads and Ladders

While looking after my little friend the last 3 difficult weeks, I managed to work on the 10 year CQ celebration challenge and get it done by the deadline...just.

The piece is very dark and so hard to photograph, but this photo does give a glimpse of what is going on in the layers under the black silk organza. A 20cm sample also went off with the entry form so they can tell just what it looks like.

Here is the statement.

Loads and Ladders
h-145cm x w- 52cm

The building in the original photo could be compared to the tip of the iceberg; fairly serene compared to all that was happening so far below ground. However, whilst researching, I was deeply moved by descriptions of the conditions for workers in the mines and especially by the realisation of how far down the miners had to go in order to work. Miner testimonials recorded in days prior to electricity lodged in my head as I read that it took approximately 1 hour to descend the rickety ladders to the work face and 2 hours to ascend at the fatiguing end of their shift. This long climb, for the most part, was done in complete darkness because the workers did not want to waste their candles. Added to these thoughts was the idea that this work had gone on for centuries! Romans, and possibly Phoenicians, sent men down these pits for the tin and other metals to be found in the rocks. Day on day, year on year men worked and lost their lives in the toil for the metal considered so valuable.

In making the work, I felt it was important to show the darkness, the depth and the endless toil. I used layers of paper fabric along with silhouettes of the men in various stages of the climb and the work. This was overlaid with black silk organza and quilted with a jagged stitch for the rocks and a linear stitch for the mine shaft. It is a side on view of the mine shaft, men working the layers of rocks and the overwhelming darkness overall. Amongst the paper layers, glimpses of tin are represented with grey metal tissue and geometric symbols for tin oxide. The white cotton backing serves to backlight the image so that detail is not totally obscure.
Here is a lighter version of the photo showing the men climbing and toiling.

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