Winner: Linda McLEAN & Cheryl KENNEDY, THIRST, fabric, hoses, yarn, dye, 200 x 100 x 100cm
Always on the edge of oblivion, craving sustenance in a dry land. McLean and Kennedy have collected dry materials: hollow pipes, old hoses and worn metal hose fittings. The materials were then wrapped with dyed, frayed fabric, string and yarn to create a piece that expresses the collective longing for rain.
Artists present us with images and objects that are important alternatives to the mainstream. THIRST is a work that gives enigmatic form to bleak realities. This work repays slow, considered looking, and offers a rich and compelling range of signs and metaphors for the fragile, insecure state of water in our lives today.
Why did this work keep drawing me back its tangle of wrapped and bound hoses, pipes, and worn tap fittings? This is a haunting, melancholic sculpture that despairs of what has happened, and is happening to precious water reserves not only locally and nationwide, but globally. We refer to rivers systems and their tributaries as arteries. Water is the very heart of all forms of life, but here that heart is presented in a state of chaos and decay.
As a formally composed object, THIRST is the result of careful, labour intensive construction to evoke its dystopian entanglement. The arteries and veins of this dark heart are wrapped and bound in a rich array of dyed and stained textiles, giving the work an exceptional material diversity, and a sense that it hovers between the organic and the industrial. In its darkness there are hints of optimism – that all is not lost. Flashes of green binding in areas of the heart’s system are signs of life. They might also be a nod to the green garden hoses of childhood, repaired and patched, joined and lengthened, a tangled circular pile under the tap.
THIRST is a dark, challenging, commanding work. It lends itself to multiple interpretations. Like so many other works in this 2019 Award, THIRST transforms textiles into a complex and convincing statement about our contemporary world. In this work textiles allude to the protective sheath of the heart and the perished condition of its flows. The time for bandaid solutions for our environment and for water – our lifeblood – are over.