MAstars 2010: Eileen Thomas, MA Fine Art

MAstars 2010: Eileen Thomas, MA Fine Art Eileen Thomas, Untitled, 2010. Drawing. 46cm diameter. Credit Eileen Thomas

Paulette Terry Brien selects Eileen Thomas from Manchester Metropolitan University for MAstars

Eileen Thomas makes beautifully intricate and delicately executed drawings. Whilst differing in the methods and materials used, the works presented for her MA degree show achieve harmony not just through the influence of the artist's earlier undergraduate degree in embroidery but by the visceral quality with which the works are charged.

For part one of her presentation, 'Untitled', human hairs collected and dyed into a variety of colours have been threaded through a series of 'canvases'. Made from sections of bed sheet, these canvases are stretched across five circular embroidery frames of differing sizes.

Installed linearly on the wall, each work presents a visually complex mass of tangled lines that snake across the surface, producing images reminiscent of topographical maps. Whilst one of the works in particular is certainly suggestive of a human head in profile, a conversation with the artist at the preview clarifies that this is unintentional. Each work is begun with no planned outcome, the artist preferring to give over a sense of authority to the materials, allowing their physical properties to dictate the course that the works take. Hair, like cotton thread, the artist informs me, has a right and wrong way; the repeated coiling pattern in some of the works, therefore, the outcome of the hair being forced against its grain.

The second part of Thomas's presentation comprises seven mixed media works on paper, all untitled. Rather than leading our thinking to the boundaries and contours of the physical landscape, however, the writhing lines produced here in pen, pencil and ink suggest a different kind of mapping. In both black and white and colour the drawings that make up this series resemble the kind of diagrams that might be used in medical textbooks to illustrate cellularity.

With two of the works in this series incorporating or being made entirely from a pin pricks, the influence of Thomas's interest in the techniques of embroidery are revealed again. Similarly by choosing to hang these works with simple dressmaker pins the artist has arrived at a fitting solution that brings a satisfying completeness to the display.

By producing images that allude to the fabric of our interior landscape, Thomas's work makes us think about the body. Through her use of human hair, bed sheets and the ever present evidence of the piercing power of needles and pins, however, Thomas doesn't just make us think about the body, she physically implicates it as well.

Selected by Paulette Terry Brien
Published December, 2010

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