Background to my work
Equipped with my paintbrushes and romantic ideas of life in Africa I left Austria aged 19, followed my heart and came to South Africa...starting my life as a letter writer. What was to be just one year turned into many and so provided the background to my work.
Growing up in a household where everyone embroidered, knitted or crocheted, needlework is a familiar language that connects me with them, especially with my Mother and my Grandmother... I use it to link the past with the present and metaphorically repair what has been broken through distance and time.
Embroidered Tent (2012)
Fragments of old embroideries are cherished reminders of the women who made them. I look at the skilled needlework and imagine my grandmother, my aunt and my mother bent over their pieces of cloth following a stenciled pattern or some elaborate design, placing their stitches carefully, charting territory and marking new ground.
Musing over the immaculate stitches and imagining the time spent on them, made me wonder if needlework was not also a form of escape for them, a time away from never-ending chores ... providing a 'legitimate space' for contemplation. While the hands are busy stitching...the mind is free to roam.
The ritual of embroidery thus becomes the key that unlocks the door to a life ‘behind’ the cloth, the act of embroidering provides a sort of ‘camouflage’ for an internal place, separate from any notion of duty and domesticity...the little cloth becomes the passport to somewhere else.
The work Embroidered tent is attributed to the skill and tradition with which the women in my family adorned their homes. By reconstructing the torn and thread-bare pieces of embroideries, I attempted to ‘build’ the metaphoric 'sheltered space' which I imagine needlework provided them with.
Where my conflicts live (2011)
My work brings me often to places in my family story that are both painful as well as very private. After speaking about one such moment, I felt as if I had broken a taboo and opened a door that had always been locked...after wards, guilt feelings flooded me...being trapped between relief and remorse...caught between conflicting emotions. I made these vessels as a sign of acceptance of what I cannot change and also to give these unresolvable emotions a place to live.
I worked until I felt better...resulting in 36 fragile contstructs of fabric, paper, lace and mull cloth.
Home is where the heart is (2011)
Embroidered on a vintage petticoat is the map of my home county in Austria. I know this map intimately...each town and village, river and lake holds a memory. When I wear it, the name of my hometown is positioned where my heart is. It is a pun towards this much used phrase "home is where the heart is"...which in this case has more to do with the longing to be close to home, then with being "at home".
Remembering the Snowcastle Builders (2010)
Growing up in Austria, my cousins and I had great plans every year when the first snow fell. One year someone took a photo of us 'snowcastle builders'. The small photograph shows the meadow next to my Grandmother's house where I grew up, the silkscreened letters are her handwriting.
Sometimes after playing in the snow for a long time we got very wet. A kind aunt in the house kept drying our mittens and socks so that we could carry on.
While this work represents in one way a childhood memory, it also recognises the influences behind the scene that helped make this memory a 'fond' one.
With the fabric fragments, I tried to capture the idea of this black and white photo as well as metaphorically point to the fragments of memories that make up the sum of our experience.
Map to the Airport (2010)
Sometimes when I am very angry over something or another it happens that while I am busy with mundane things like washing dishes, I am packing my suitcases in my mind. I think what is important to take with me...and then I imagine how I would get into my car and just drive to the airport. By then, usually the dishes are clean and my anger has given way to rationality again.
This work - while it also shows the way I would drive from my house to the airport - expresses this ever-present duality in my life: the longing to go back 'home' and the fear that I could actually do it one day.
Absolution Cloth (2010)
This work deals with a particular moment in my life.
A moment that I wish I had handled differently.
It all started in Austria.
It started with one letter…
a letter that changed the course of my life,
it brought me to Africa.
I know that I could not have not come,
it was my destiny.
I just wish that I had left without tearing a hole
in the fabric of someone else’s life.
Answers.com describes Absolution
As an act of self-mortification or devotion performed voluntarily to show sorrow for a wrongdoing.
As a sacrament in some Christian churches that includes contrition, confession to a priest, acceptance of punishment and absolution.
With this work I tried symbolically to repair something that had been broken, long ago. I hoped that through the continuous stitching I could ease my conscience. The stitching became a sacred ritual. It took over…I let it.
The repetitiveness became the mantra, my thoughts the circle that spun around that summer. Through the continuous involvement with this work I hoped to find absolution.
My Story really began (2010)
Since I first read Karen Blixen's account of her life in Africa, I felt a kinship with her. By stitching my own story over the pages of her book Out of Africa (1937), I looked at the parallels to our life by telling my own story of coming to South Africa.
The text is machine stitched in red sewing thread and includes farbic printed images, heat transfers, transparencies and paper.
I followed Karen Blixen's chapter headings and used them as promts for my own development of narration.
Here are a few lines...
A story never begins with a blank sheet of paper, unlike a painting it's point of departure is where someone else left off. My story really began with Harald's leaving in 1976. A person can very well live with out an arm or a leg, even without one kidney, but it is not possible to live without your heart. Three years later I went to reclaim it.
I arrived on Harald's birthday 5. July...
This altered book was part of a body of work called Closing the Circle which was promted after I found the journal of that year when I came first time to South Africa. Finding myself in those pages as a 19 year old, almost thrirty years later, I remembered what brought me here and how I could not have not come...It was my destiny...
Finding this journal unleashed my search for the roots to my story...where it all started and why it is so difficult living in two worlds at once.
The Family Tree (2010)
As part of the Vermächtnis (2010) body of work, this little dead tree acts as a bridge that connects all the people I am related to in Austria (those that I could find photos of) with my life here in South Africa ...
The work below has a similar documenting funtion; it records all the people that I am related to through the blood line. In red thread their names are machine embroidered onto a white christening gown.