porcelain, gold luster, hemp and sisal twines, bronze and brass sailing hardware
Each work in this series is made by carving patterns onto unfired thin porcelain tiles which are then painstakingly sewn into with slip-soaked thread. The small tiles, once fired, glazed and lustered, are then joined together with twine and hundreds of hand-tied knots.
This simple yet multi-step process results in a work that is the culmination of years during which the artist Stephanie Imbeau explores methods of combining her love of sewing with ceramics, as well as her enduring preoccupation with assertion of physical presence through the combination of many small parts.
Each tile is unique, evidenced through the slight imperfections that occur as Imbeau builds, carves and glazes each tile by hand. This serves to ground the work, acting as a conceptual mirror revealing the intricacies of society. No one is perfect, but imperfection can be beautiful. Regardless of our various and vulnerable states, we are tied to each other and essential to the whole. The totality of a society matters, and so do the individuals within. It is macro and micro, woven together.
The golden imagery on the works are an extension of Imbeau's use of templates originally used to embellish the wearable houses that comprise the work Procession. The motivation was to reference how religious or ceremonial garments — typically golden, with symbolism-laden embroidery and embellishments — play an important role as they assert particular weight and importance onto a moment and person. Imbeau takes these symbols and diverts them, using them instead to adorn the ubiquitous forms of houses, and small tiles carved with the same house forms. These suggestions of symbols can be understood as saying that every moment and every individual has weight, worth and sacrality.
The symbols themselves suggest readability, but are in fact traces of collaged drawings that are meant to only dance around a readability — a softer symbolism — One that is open to a spectrum of interpretation.
The use of gold and obfuscated symbolism is only one of the ways in which Imbeau is examining worth with these works. By combining historically high-value materials such as porcelain and gold, with a very utilitarian one such as twine, she is suggesting there's a level of equality between these materials, and that these opposites in a sense have a need for each other within the context of the whole. She also brings a sense of added value to her mundane materials through the immense amount of time she gives each piece by doing all the work by hand.
Imbeau is also very interested in the dualities of the human experience. Of holding opposing realities together at once; small and big, for example. Other such dialectics like the combination of fragility and strength are a long-standing theme running through her work.