Embroidery in Paper Art
In recent years, there has been a movement towards handcraft in the art and design world. We harbor a desire to reacquaint ourselves with workmanship and traditional labor intensive techniques. As a result, a new generation of artists is using hand stitch embroidery techniques to create entire artworks, some combining it with different mediums.
Stitching can be a form of criticism against the instant gratification of our fast moving world. It can also be viewed as a metaphor for social cohesion and togetherness. Or it can simply be used for its intimate character. As an artist, I am happy with the revival of embroidery and the beauty of the rawness of the stitch.
That is why it was pure joy to encounter South African artist Nicholas Hlobo at the Tate Modern. While looking at his works, I experienced a sense of excitement and enlightenment, for Hlobo plays with the contrast of femininity and masculinity in both his sculptures and paper artworks. Hlobo uses stitching and weaving, which are traditionally undertaken by women in South Africa, on masculine materials such as rubber car tires or sharp cut paper. In his works, he attempts to create conversations with the viewer that explore complex social issues of gender, race and ethnicity.
The “baseball” stitch is a repetitive signature in many of Hlobo’s artworks and sculptures. It is both powerful and decorative. His stitching technique and 3D use of paper in his tactile, intricate artwork titled “Macaleni Iintozomlambo” is truly a source of inspiration for me!
For me, paper is still the medium I am most happy to express myself. The manual and handcrafted execution in my paper art is essential to my work. The labor intensive requirement to shred and tear different forms of paper comes close to the hand labor of stitching and embroidery. That is why for me it felt natural to start experimenting with stitching on paper.
In my two most recent paper artworks, I have implemented hand stitching directly to the canvas or on the shredded pieces of paper. New insights have arisen by exploring and combining stitching. The visual poetry of my new works are emphasized by the way my work is layered. There is something interesting to discover from far away as well as from up close. It is so exciting to keep on exploring embroidery in paper art!