Featured Artist – Jo Coombes

We are fortunate to have Jo Coombes, one of our talented practitioners, as featured artist this week, who has generously given us a unique insight into the influences of her retrospective and ongoing work.

Part 1 – Façades and Follies

I have always used my professional interest in human behaviour as a rich source of inspiration for my textile art. For many years, I have drawn on the concepts of architecture as a metaphor for the human condition: buildings, prestigious or humble, pristine or crumbling, can evince rich parallels with people’s lives.

Current issues, both political and social, inform my work. The structure and elements of a building, from the foundations up, or the historical era of its design, and the purposes it was built for, provide fascinating insights into people’s lives.

Maybe my love affair with architecture started with this little hand stitched picture of my home, made many, many years ago at an Adult Education Class!

The research underpinning these various themes has prompted me to try different textile techniques. Breakdown printing, paper lamination and mixed media (stitched paper and heat reactive fabric) lend themselves to the more decrepit edifices with their crumbling brickwork. Thickened acrylic paints and 3-dimensional fabric paint, add more texture. Mono-printing and thermofax screens can give crisp detail to modern tower blocks built of steel and glass. Hand embroidery enhances the work: it adds coded messages and text, and highlights the human element within. Ribbon and cord can be used effectively for scaffolding and girders. Colour palettes are carefully chosen: cool monochromes and silvers for modern buildings of steel and glass, and ochres, rusts and browns for ruined, abandoned and decayed structures.

In all my work, I hope to prompt questions by my explanations, rather than impose my own views.

The Financial Crash of 2008 led to an abstract piece ‘Lime Street Blues’, depicting the external lifts of the Lloyds building in Lime Street, EC3.

“Dictum Meum Pactum” referenced the exposé of corruption in the City at that time. Money was lent, and businesses were built on shaky foundations, lies and dubious marketing.

Man’s proclivity for corruption featured too, in my Cuban series. This showed the rapidly crumbling, but aesthetically stunning colonial edifices, which the communist government has neglected. Those living in them face structural danger, as time and sea salt erodes the brickwork and wooden floors.

“Tipping Point” 1

“Tipping Point” 2

Brazil’s favelas are overcrowded, violent and impoverished. In “Room with a View” (PIC4) I asked the question whether the 2016 Olympic Games would leave a legacy of regeneration, entrepreneurialism to build a safer community.

……………. to be continued …………..