A special breed
Paintings by Jenifer Corker
Sculptures by Holy Smoke
This exhibition presents original artwork by Jenifer Corker and Holy Smoke. It displays a collection of fabric sculptures and paintings with embroideries that delicately and thoughtfully take the dog as their subject. Deftly crafting woven textile and thread, these artists capture the beauty of form, shape, surface and variety of these canines whilst simultaneously exploring their inner nature. Rather than investing these animals with human attributes or endowing them with the task of conveying any symbolic or hidden meaning, both artists sensitively engage with fiber art to communicate the intellect, intuition and instinct that are intrinsic to the dogs themselves.
Jenifer Corker presents embroidered renderings on calico that capture her dogs through gestural line and vibrant washes of color. She traces out a continuous and energetic trail of thread in a manner that adeptly outlines the animals that she portrays. By injecting swathes of colorful ink into her fabric drawings, Corker makes reference to the rich and ancient history of fiber art and engages with the ability of certain hand woven textiles to house memory, emotion and a connection with nature. Vibrant ceremonial red, splashes of warm gold and the blue and green of the landscape are all exaggerated on the earth tones of her calico. The artworks convey the time honored domestic relationship between human and animal while also giving a sense of the canine connection with the wider natural world, something increasingly longed for in every day human experience. Corker’s finish is determined by the materials that she uses; ink soaks into the weave of the fabric, lines of thread run from point to point, blocks of color are held within boundaries of embroidery. The artist looks deep under the skin of her subjects to reveal their animal wit and intuitiveness rather than offering a fixed representation or a metaphor for some human agenda or allegory. Their soft supple skin is convincing and alive, with a worked and furrowed surface that seems at one with the textile plain.
Holy Smoke’s emotive sculptures of dogs are formed from layer upon layer of linen. She hand dyes, stitches, cuts, frays, heaps and coils her fabric on top of a sculpted wire frame. When fiber and textiles are exposed to this kind of tension, they retract, stretch and move in rhythms determined by their maker and by the environmental conditions that they are exposed to. While the character of each of Holy Smoke’s dogs is suggested in its poise and composition, the depth of emotion present in each of their expressions emerges as a result of the artist’s tactile connection with the fabric she uses. Just as the quiet human and canine relationship grows and develops intuitively over time, these sculptures gain sentiment through the repetitive artistic process of sculpting, altering and touching. The color palette of these dogs is limited to a field of neutral tones that cohere with the sculptor’s commitment to maintaining a closeness to life and simplicity of form, while also implying a beauty in modest or humble beginnings. It is through the conspicuous imperfections, fluctuations in hue, slipshod fringes and threadbare surfaces that the soul of each creature emerges. Holy Smoke’s dogs convey recognizable human emotions, but in a somewhat purified or distilled manner. At times they seem overcome by a deep melancholia and at others they are vessels of absolute joy and humor. Just as the tone of their linen surface alters according to the light or shadow that falls upon them, their inner lives appear as changeable, animated, intelligent and sincere.
This exhibition marks the first occasion that these artists’ works will be displayed together and in a special collaborative venture for the project, Jenifer Corker will create a miniature collar for one of Holy Smoke’s linen sculptures. She will also hand craft unique artisanal collars that are adorned with sterling silver charms and can be worn by either dog or human.
Niamh White, 2015