Tuesday 3 May 2016

review: 'Rumpelstiltskin Revisited', knitted paintings...

(photo kindly shared by Jacqueline Wylie)

As part of the 2016 CQAF (Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival) Jacqueline Wylie opened a preview of her exhibition 'Rumpelstiltskin Revisited' at the ADF Gallery. A selection of monochromatic knitted artworks, some displayed showing the reverse side of the knitted stitches. There may be a parallel between the unseen side of the knitting and the invisibility of Hidden Disability.

What is immediately apparent upon entering the exhibition space is the artwork's initial monochromatic colour and their similarity of size. 

During the preview I chatted to Jacqueline about her artworks, wondering if a diptych piece, black background with random white 'Vs', had been embroidered with white Swiss darning (a way of embroidering a stitch that looks like a knit stitch). She explained that the piece was knitted mainly in black but with a white yarn carried across the back as in the Fair Isle technique. Smaller flecks scattered across the piece seemed at first to be stab stitch done in a finer yarn but the artist clarified this was the white yarn being caught by the black at the reverse of the piece. As they were only partially visible through the black these 'stitches' appeared to be smaller and greyer. The randomness of the white on black was calming, reminiscent of birds in flight or tree cover seen from above.

 (images kindly shared by Jacqueline Wylie)

A trio of pieces had been knitted with stripes in diamond formations, the alternating dark and light yarns creating the same optical illusion that is experienced when viewing an Op Art artwork such as that of Bridget Riley. My eyes danced before I became aware of other colours that didn't exist and I noticed the illusion of movement across the lines. Slightly disorienting though I returned to them during the preview for another sensory view.

The third wall held three pieces, two displayed in the reverse, the 'wrong' sides showing subtle darkened trails where the artist had woven a new piece of yarn into the knitting. Even within the third piece, its 'right' side facing outwards, there lies the barest hint of a dark trail making me wonder what lay behind. Also evident were the loops of the carried yarns in the Fair Isle technique allowed to droop. Here the knitting bared its soul, displaying the usually hidden side to it with all its imperfections. The defects, like marks on a canvas, told a story all the more interesting than a perfect square of knitting might.

(image kindly shared by Jacqueline Wylie)

Q: Is the fair isle, with its reverse of carried yarn, a parallel to your dyslexia?
Jacqueline: I was only diagnosed as dyslexic in 2013 and most of the work dates from before then. I am very short sighted and when things like text dance around and are hard to focus on I always put it down to being short sighted or tired but my optician never understood when I tried to explain the blurry mess I see, and they never made the connection to dyslexia. Now I know, it makes perfect sense that dyslexia is a factor. These pieces are reflections of how I see the world, what I find pleasing and disturbing in visual and tactile terms. 

Q: Is coming from Moygashel a factor in your use of fibre in art? 
Jacqueline: All my family worked in Moygashel Mills at some point apart from me so I was very aware of it growing up and it is an unconscious influence, I suppose. I would say my mum is the big influence in my love of textiles, she was always making clothes for us, for economic reasons but she’s very good at it and I loved to wear the things she made. I learnt how to sew and knit at school and I often made jumpers for myself. I started using it in my art on a Foundation Course around 1996 and have been making these off and on since then.

Q: Are there difficulties in knitting such large geometric pieces 
and mounting them as canvases?
Jacqueline: They are difficult to make, quite challenging in terms of design and construction but that’s why I enjoy making them. I make initial drawings in my sketchbooks and on graph paper, then make small versions to check the tension and needle size before starting the big ones. They are all 86cm by 86cm, which is what I can knit on average over a month. I knit intensively for days at a time, listening to a lot of radio four while I’m making them. I have regular breaks as I get repetitive strain in my wrist and don’t want to develop carpel tunnel. They are mounted on hardboard with a backing of calico. The more visually disturbing ones can be hard to stretch as they make my eyes dance but I’ve gotten used to it now. 

It can be difficult to view artwork at a preview as a well attended gallery space gives little opportunity to study or reflect on the work. I intend to have a quieter viewing in the next few days and I'm looking forward to Jacqueline talking about her life during an 'In Conversation' gathering at the ADF Gallery, discovering what made her choose to practise art, who/what are her inspirations and her opinions on the divide between Fine Art and Fine Craft. 

Jacqueline's exhibition at ADF runs until the 10th of June 2016. The artistAn Arts Council ACES grant recipient for 2016, will be In Conversation at the ADF Gallery on 19th May. If you are interested in attending please contact Hugh or Emily at ADF. Opening times and contact details at foot of the page.


Arts & DIsability Forum who manage the gallery space are a small charity that's weathered the recession storm while other small organisations and charities have fallen by the wayside. It's an Arts charity which promotes and supports the work of artists who are Deaf or Disabled. ADF follows the social model of disability rather than the medical model which views the disabled person as needing 'fixed'. The social model sees society with its access difficulties together with rising negative attitudes towards Deaf & Disability as needing challenged, altered, educated. ADF is a small organisation that achieves big things and it holds its own in the world of mainstream arts. 

Arts & Disability Forum, Ground Floor, Cathedral Quarter Workspaces,
109-113 Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT1 1FF
Tel within UK: (028) 9023 9450
Tel from RoI: (048) 9023 9450
Fax: (028) 9024 7770
E-mail: info@adf.ie
Tuesday - Friday: 11am – 3pm


  1. What a cool exhibit! I love crochet & knitting, but I've never done black & white before.

    1. It's a very interesting exhibit Christina, thanks for your comment