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Kelly Gardner

My work is concerned with time and memory, traces and absence. I use textiles and found garments to convey these ideas; fragments of lace and imprints of garments evoke traces and residues of lost and forgotten things. The memories we hold are fated to become selective, fragmented and faded, so this work is in part a reflection of the need to capture and preserve the memory through the use of the ‘keepsake’.



I incorporate old photographs, christening gowns and other found objects in to the work. The dress sculptures are constructed from book pages bound up with copper wire. These page fragments are wired together, creating empty, un-wearable dresses. The books have been rendered unreadable; dissected, torn, folded and transformed, leaving stories of characters that we can only read of in disconnected fragments. The dresses are like cages, capturing objects such as keys, buttons, scissors and old photographs, caught up in this web-like form. These objects are wired in to them, like treasured keepsakes from people’s unknown lives, fragments of memories. Lit from within, they cast shadows across the walls of the objects that they contain, echoes and flickers of the past.



I use lace remnants and vintage shawls and printing from these objects creates the paintings. By a process of dying and bleaching, I can build up layers and this gives the work a transitory, ghostly appearance. I make photograms from garments by placing them on light sensitive paper. I use chiffon and transparent garments, christening gowns, nightdresses, slips and gloves – antique flea market finds. I capture the ghostly trace of them. I am interested in the sense of absence and also the trace of a human presence that is left behind. These clothes are those residues, the husks of lives.



Contemporary women’s fiction has been a great inspiration to me, particularly the work of Margaret Atwood, A.S Byatt, Angela Carter, Michele Roberts and Isabel Allende. Another major influence on my work is the history of fashion, especially from the Victorian era and clothes as a symbol and reflection of emotions, beliefs and lifestyles. Of particular interest to me are clothes worn for rites of passage; christening gowns, wedding and mourning dress. For the Victorians, clothing and its colour was a reflection of the degree of mourning. As time passed and their mourning faded so did the colours they wore, from black in deepest mourning, through to grey and violet in half mourning. The sentimental jewellery made from jet and human hair also fascinates me.

Courtesy of the artist’s website.