Claire Benn London, United Kingdom
I am an artist whose work always starts with a piece of cloth. I make art textiles that are reductive, quiet, simple and contemplative. This has meant restricting my tools, my media, my palette and my process – simplify, simplify, simplify. I use raw earth pigments for my landscape-inspired work and antique linen or hemp for my intensively hand stitched work.
I have been engaged with art textiles since 1996. Ten years ago I would have described my work as complex, layered and detailed but now I would describe it as reductive, quiet, simple and contemplative. I work in two streams; one being the translation of remote landscapes, the other meditative hand stitch.
Places such as the Arctic, Alaska, New Mexico, the Atacama Desert and the Central Otago Highlands of New Zealand offer me the long view and endless vistas. The challenge is to visually express what I feel in these places. This has meant restricting my tools, my media, my palette and my process – simplify, simplify, simplify. So far I have made several bodies of work; ‘Potters Farm’ (based on the barn where I live), ‘As if to Nothing’ (the Arctic), ‘Traces of Time’ (New Mexico) and currently ‘Inside Atacama’. I use either linen or cotton canvas as my substrate, applying raw earth pigments mixed in acrylic and water, generally through mono printing. The use of raw earth pigments are now important to me as they enable me to have a direct connection to the land.
The intensive hand stitching is mainly done on antique linen or hemp as I can literally feel history under my fingertips; areas of the cloth are worn in places and this makes me contemplate the years of use the cloth has undergone, and the hardship experienced by those who used it. My preferred thread includes cotton, linen, hemp and silk and I choose the colour and weight best suited for the cloth. This (slowly!) emerging body of work is called ‘In the Fullness of Time’, as that’s how the pieces evolve and each is full of time. Ultimately, my approach to stitch is in the tradition of Wabi Sabi in that I wish to honour the cloth and its ancestry for its own sake.
Projects and exhibitions
ViewSeven : A Sense of Place
05/12/2017 — 08/12/2017
A collective of seven artists with a focus on art textiles. 'A Sense of Place' explores responses to different environments and landscapes and encompasses a wide range of media, from raw earth pigments, plant dyes and fibre reactive dyes, with stitch being ever present.
|Menier Gallery, London||Details|
Material Pulses: Seven View Points
01/01/2017 — 10/06/2018
An exhibition of art textiles curated by Nancy Crow.
|Touring exhibition in USA organised by the Mid America Arts Alliance, On tour from August 2017 to July 2023||Details|
Claire Benn: Educator
01/01/2008 — 10/06/2018
I've been an educator in the field of art textiles since 2001. Initially in partnership with Leslie Morgan as part of 'Committed to Cloth', I now focus on teaching in international venues, although I still teach from the Committed to Cloth Studio in Surrey. Through Committed to Cloth, I've co-published seven great 'how to' books in the field...[Read more]