Textile Nature, True Colours
Sussex based textile artist Susan D’Souza captures momentary beauty and transient seasonal shifts in nature. Her magical landscape and garden based images incorporate naturally dyed, hand painted batik work, pieced together applique and textural embroidered detail.
Textile artist Susan D’Souza explores a sense of connection to nature and landscape by combining the free flowing lines of batik and the calm detail of embroidered mark making. Her work captures macro and micro images and simplifies them through abstraction and layering to create subtly colourful images. The use of stitch is understated, the textural rhythm of seed heads or grasses overlaid onto bases of painted or dyed fields, pieced together.
Completing two separate year-long projects honed her sense of the momentary shifting impermanence and seasonal changes in nature. Both projects coincided with times in her life of personal loss. Susan says “experiencing loss of a loved one seemed to bring a heightened awareness of nature and the natural world and responding creatively to try and hold onto this helped me work through and find something that made sense at a time when very little else did”. The first project in 2010 was in her own garden on the outskirts of Brighton as part of an MA ‘Holding Time by a Thread’ intervening with stitched repairs. In 2015 Susan spent a year visiting, quietly observing, photographing and sketching seasonal changes at Sussex Prairies near Henfield, going on to show her work as one of a group of artists in residence exhibiting there under the title ‘Elemental’ in 2016.
There is a sense of calm mindful perspective to be found in awareness of the ebb and flow of nature that can only come from slowing down, really looking and using all your senses. Protecting precious habitat and resources in ways however small, from up-cycling or re-purposing to using natural materials and investigating sourcing, are increasingly important for designers and artists. More recently her colour comes from natural plant based dyes, knowledge gained through a year of tuition from master dyer Jenny Dean as a part of a programme run at Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft in 2018-19. Colours like weld, madder, walnut and lac are used in extract form for hand painting or for submersion dyeing of natural fabrics in pots.
Influenced by the fluid lines, patterns and curvilinear forms of both Art Nouveau and Japanese art, the process usually starts in seeing large complex views and then separating the image into simple shapes before highlighting key details through attention.
The approach to making is from the heart, with a sense of textile traditions and nature connecting us to those that have gone before us and improvising ways to express what roots us here and now and continues to connect us to our environment. Nature teaches us so much, it can be a comfort and companion in times of great sadness or loss, it’s a reminder that we are all part of something bigger and our lives are intertwined with seasons, with passing of years with birth, growth, ageing, letting go and connecting.
Susan is exhibiting new work through Pure Arts Group members exhibition ‘Material Culture’, August – October 2021 online, Pure Arts Shop, and at Bannatyne Hotel, Hastings /The Curlew Restaurant, Bodiam.
pictured at top: Susan D’souza, ‘Red Trees & River Reeds’, 2021 (detail). Batik, natural dyes and embroidery on cotton