Paintings about Kashmir Shawls

A series of Paintings commissioned by The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds to celebrate the anniversary of Sir Michael Sadler 
Exhibition Title: 'Pip Dickens - New Works'

This series of paintings are based on research of the Michael Sadler Kashmir Shawl Collection at ULITA (University of Leeds International Textile Archive).  This was a commissioned residency I undertook at The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds in 2011 which culminated in a solo exhibition 'Pip Dickens - New Works' in early 2012.

Dreams Nascent, oil on canvas 2011 © Pip Dickens
The works extrapolate the Kashmiri ‘boteh’ (or Paisley) motif from these exotic fabrics resulting in anthropomorphic entities, heavy with shadow, placed within dramatic environments.

These motifs traverse the canvas - sometimes together, sometimes alone. The environments and terrains constructed fuse textile qualities (colour, surface texture, repetition and shape) with the theatrical and fantastic. Many of the paintings reflect not only the fabric themselves but the history of the weavers.

The paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, Disney animation and the claustrophobic ‘arena’ interiors of Francis Bacon were also explored - boteh shapes became individuals, or groups, in socio-political contexts that, although brightly coloured suggest an underlying threat or sense of isolation.

The Shadow Followers, oil on canvas 2011 © Pip Dickens

A detail of a shawl from the ULITA collection © Pip Dickens

As the residency and research progressed I shared weekly updates with curator, Layla Bloom, on research findings and progression of the paintings.  This resulted in a series of photographs that we included in the exhibition, presented like film strips.  I was particularly interested in sharing the process of making these works as it echoed the idea of the time-consuming, 'handed' and committed process of the fabrication of shawls...I also thought it would be novel to show the process of development of a painting (equally as time-consuming and committed) as visual art audiences normally only see completed artworks within the context of an exhibition.

Sequential photographs of the painting 'Some Travel Alone I', oil on canvas 2011 © Pip Dickens

The kashmir shawl is a used as a motif in many novels in particular the works of
HonorĂ© de Balzac. 'Gaudissart II' by Balzac is an example but many of his novels included the shawl as an important motif of social mobility and Class.  In Charlotte Bronte's novel 'Villette' the kashmir shawl is mentioned approximately 32 times and, like Balzac, represents a definite quality of social standing:

...and, so long as her broad shoulders wore the folds of that majestic drapery, even influencing Madame herself-a real Indian shawl - 'un véritable cachemire,' as Madame Beck said, with unmixed reverence and amaze. I feel quite sure that without this 'cachemire' she would not have kept her footing in the pensionnat for two days: by virtue of it, and it only, she maintained the same a month.

Detail from 'Sheltered from Shadows', oil on canvas 2011 © Pip Dickens

The catalogue accompanying the exhibition has a very detailed essay by Layla Bloom on both the exhibition, the ULITA collection and the history of the kashmir shawl: ‘Pip Dickens – New Works’ with text by curator, Layla Bloom, ISBN -13-978-1-874331-47-6
To purchase a copy email or telephone 0113 343 2778.

The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery has one of the paintings from this exhibition - 'Some Travel Alone I' in its permanent collection (purchased by the Friends of University Art and Music (Leeds)

'Some Travel Alone I', oil on canvas 2011 © Pip Dickens permanent collection of The Stanley & Audrey Burton Gallery at the University of Leeds

The University of Leeds International Textile Archive (ULITA) is a wonderful place to visit - it has a regularly changing series of exhibitions relating to fabric, design and industry.

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