INTERVIEW: Sheila Hicks
Sheila Hicks is an American-born artist, currently based in Paris. Her creative practice spans over 60 years - featuring many international contributions, including Sydney, and now this year's Glasgow International. She developed her practice working in locations such as Mexico, Chile and South Africa, giving workshops whilst travelling these continents in the 1950s. Using the communal aspect of these workshops as a springboard for her textiles, she now considers fabric as the common thread across cultures. Rachel Boyd spoke to her concerning her latest sculpture, Mighty Mathilde and her Consort, currently on show at Tramway.
Your Tramway work, ‘Mighty Mathilde and her consort’, seems to characterise your textiles as being part of some overarching narrative. Would it be fair to suggest that there is an element of storytelling in your work? Or are these titles to be treated like names for children - terms of endearment, brought about in the process of making?
The Matriarchal "presence" I created for the Tramway "Mathilda and her Consort" refers to 3 friends - 2 of whom are named Matilda and Mathilde - and one who is named Irma. I am presently working with them on assorted projects so each morning when I wake up and have coffee I think, "What does Mathilda expect from me today and can I supply?". In each case the Mathildas are bigger than life and have high expectations. They are all goal oriented and they each have consorts who are forceful reg flags or bundles of energy, as well. I tend to let my thoughts rove and dream about what I might create in my studio today. To putter and push materials around. To plunge into masses of pigmented fiber and take a royal color bath. To assemble and mold forms in search of sculpture. What I make and what I think and what pops into my head in odd moments are all intertwined. So a sculpture, a pile of fiber, a notion, an phrase get all mixed up together. Free association. There is no separation between what I am working on and how thoughts and ideas are swirling around in my head.
‘Mighty Mathilde’ embodies tension between sourced materials, found materials, as well as in the relationship between aesthetics and its sculptural form: between play and imagination, versus the consideration of weaving as a technical (and often intricate) practice. With this in mind, is the large scale of this work a way of magnifying your artistic process to a wider public, just as you would do in your workshops?
Architecture and a sense of space, a PLACE, determines how I invest the moment and make an intervention. The Tramway is unique. The great white brick wall "is to die for".
In your opinion, what is more important in the drive to create: a love for your materials, or the dedication to master your craft?
All three are important along with 300 more things, too. Like---- What would be engaging to do this month??? What would be a memorable experience? What would extend the joie de vivre to Glasgow? There is a real hierarchy : some artists are articulate and expressive while others are hesitant and secretive. Some artists are skillful and others are approximate or even clumsy. Some artists posture and pose or preach and feign disinterest. Save me from their boredom or band wagon!
After reading about your interest in the production lines of India, Morocco and North America, I've been tempted to read into Mighty Mathilde as a culmination of all your cultural experiences: its magnitude as a reference to the mountainous ranges of South America; saturated colours like the dyes of India and Morocco - all despite the sculpture being firmly ‘rooted’ within the Tramway, knotted and tied to its rafters. Would it be correct to make this assumption? And if so, has Glasgow's environment influenced you in any way?
I like your answer to your question... It rings true.
To find out more about Sheila Hicks' work, go to www.sheilahicks.com
Mighty Mathilde and her consort is part of a group show, at Tramway until the 25th April. For further information about the exhibition and to get involved with textiles workshops inspired by Hicks' work, check the Tramway website: tramway.org