I wanted to write about Lesley Alexander’s work ([email protected]; www.web.mac.com/lesleyalex2) which is in some ways perhaps what one might expect from a textiles based course in that a large part of it involves stitch – but I think it very much sits in a fine art context as abstract art. Her pieces are preoccupied with colour and texture – indeed saturated with a depth of colour that draws the viewer in. Perhaps unfashionably, they are also executed with great skill.
Her project this year began with her interest in marginal spaces, in disregarded areas of neglected urban wasteland. Lesley explodes the conventional notion of the picturesque by meticulously observing these places, according them the same kind of status and value as the traditional picturesque landscape that is frequently found on tourist postcards. She produced a series of minutely observed pencil drawings of these urban wastelands, finding aesthetic qualities in peeling, rusting, decayed surfaces, examining and recording the process of decay in an industrial, man-made setting. As part of this observational approach she also worked with stitch, using this as a medium for the same investigation of decay. Again, as with many of my contemporaries, Lesley is another artist who sees drawing as a process that goes beyond pencil on paper and into stitch, taking the view that that making marks and creating surfaces with a needle is an extension of drawing.
Lesley has also been interested for a long time in quilts – but with a keen sense of challenging that conventional form with its associations of domesticity and comfort. Bringing into this her textile work with its urban, industrial imagery challenges the viewer to question the purpose and function of a quilt as well as its usual association with typical ‘feminine’ imagery. Her focus has shifted lately into colour – she has been moving away from detailed representational work and increasingly towards the observation of surface and colour, abstracting and extracting that colour and texture. Her pieces now are huge and layered, with pared back colour and intensely worked surfaces. From her observation of a tiny area of texture she creates an often huge piece, referencing its origin not only in colour but in scale – despite its size its surface is made up of thousands of tiny elements of stitch. These pieces record and reflect aspects of the wastelands that are their origin, but in their rich and textured surfaces demonstrate that there is beauty even in decay and neglect.