Things Put Differently, Gavin Fry

Including works by Anthony Green RA and Mary Cozens-Walker

30 April – 10 September 2023

Hand stitching is a slow rhythmic craft that describes both the functional and symbolic dimensions of joining and being attached, and as such it has become a daily social encounter for Gavin Fry.

In this exhibition Fry presents stitched works and the kernels of ideas including his sketchbooks and found objects. In these, the original ideas, are the sandwiched disparate elements and gleaned things that later get fixed together. Only then do the stories they hold get written; and because they are built ragbag, they can be neither purely realist nor linear.

The slow rhythms of hand-stitching allow the artist to carve out space for himself and make time for reflection. The embroidery is not rogue but is included throughout the making stages as a dialogic collage element to further add to both the narrative and the making process using his idiosyncratic imagery.

Perhaps the most valuable aspect of having an art practice, is to use it as a trampoline to bounce around questions that might not otherwise get asked (of oneself and of others). By capturing initial information in journals and sketchbooks Fry can then marry ideas into questions, and compositions from accidental discoveries and quiet collisions. It is these that then grow into assemblages/bricolages, the complete process from find to end becoming a device to activate further inquiries.

The themes explored in these works are identity, labelling, and the narrative associations of stitch. The artist’s material choices are deliberate: they enable him to play himself because his identity is partially constructed through making with stitch and thread, bits and bobs, and in turn, this has become a device to activate further inquiries.

Roland Barthes in his essay The World as Object, discusses the transformation of things (and materials), and in line with this logical alchemy Fry is “taking refuge within attributes”. For forty years the attributes of embroidery have become a productive epistemic practice enabling him to occupy both a personal and a historic social space because immersion in the craft is not an isolating encounter.

This work develops certain monstrosities (as well as pleasures) to make social ornaments and signs. It does so by using materials familiar to the artist so as not to inhibit but make easier both the documentation and making processes. These forms and material choices support and contextualize Fry’s ideas. In these works, embroidery surpasses its functional attributes because it is used here as a material practice that signifies metaphors of collaboration and separation.

Dr Gavin Fry thanks the University of Brighton for their support of this exhibition.
Dr Gavin Fry MA RCA (b.1963, UK) studied Fine Art Textiles at Goldsmiths College under Eirian Short, Audrey Walker and Constance Howard. He later attained a postgraduate degree from the Royal College of Art in Embroidery after working in ecclesiastical textile conservation, and internationally as a textile designer for fashion whilst maintaining his art practice. He graduated from Kings College London as a Project 2000 Mental Health nurse. And completed a doctorate at the University of Brighton in 2019. This is his first solo show, and his work has been included in group exhibitions at The Mall Galleries, RIBA and with the Textile Study Group and The 62 Group of Textile Artists.

Anthony Green RA (1939-2023, UK) was a figurative painter and printmaker, whose works drew on his domestic life, including featuring his wife, Mary Cozens-Walker in many of his paintings. He was a Senior Royal Academician and an Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College.

Mary Cozens-Walker (1938-2020, UK) was a multi-media textile artist. She was educated at North London Collegiate School, The Slade School of Art and Goldsmiths, University of London where she specialised in embroidery and textiles. She exhibited in the United Kingdom, Japan, and the United States.