Axisweb Selects: Yvette Hawkins
Yvette Hawkins, installation shot from the exhibition 'Finding the Value' at York St Mary’s Church, 2014. Credit: Dawn Felicia Knox
We profile artist Yvette Hawkins for our regular slot on CreativeTourist
Artist Yvette Hawkins loves books and everything about them. For her they are not just containers of knowledge, but objects with a rich “back story” and an almost sculptural presence. So when York Museums Trust invited her to respond to an eclectic collection of artefacts formed by local benefactor Peter Madsen, she was immediately drawn to his books. “I came across… seven books where the spines had been mended by hand – linen spines carefully stitched with red thread to hold them in place,” she explains.
Amongst Madsen’s belongings she also discovered a number of hand-stitched Japanese books, with marks and holes made by bookworms that had burrowed away at the pages. This got her thinking about the historical and cultural aspects of the way that books are made, stored, preserved and mended.
In book conservation today, every effort is made to suppress the signs of intervention. But Yvette’s commission for a new exhibition called Finding the Value at York St Mary’s Church – also featuring work by artists Andrew Bracey, Alison Erika Forde, Susie MacMurray and Simon Venus – celebrates the honesty of earlier conservation techniques, in which tears and perforations were mended in paper with silk or linen thread, and often in bright colours.
“I worked with silkworms to extend the idea of mending and preservation… placing them on damaged books to spin webs and cocoons, which sometimes covered the whole book,” Hawkins explains. In a silkworm’s short life (6-8 weeks), they will spin a mile of single, continuous thread – it takes around 3,000 silkworms to make one Kimono and Obi.
By creating nooks and folds in the books, Hawkins did what she could to direct the labour of the silkworms, while knowing that the outcome was largely a matter of chance. The result is a series of magical works which explore ideas about accident and design, fragility and longevity.
See more of her work below.
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