Poppy Nash is a designer living and working in Glasgow using textile design and printmaking as a tool to discuss social issues. Her new exhibition ‘Care’ employs different textile techniques and type faces, layered to reveal how people feel about their position living close to someone with a long term health condition or disability. She talks to DAO about how the exhibition came about through a residency with Cove Park in partnership with The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Design and Architecture
Cove Park is located on the Rosneath peninsula. They offer an annual programme of residencies for the arts and creative industries where you can stay in one of their rooms with access to an artist studio. I was located in one of the swish new rooms by the main building and couldn’t believe my luck when I found out I was going to have the pleasure of spending some time making work in such a spectacular location. Once I had settled in I felt a bit intimidated – like wow I’m here but shit now I’ve got to actually produce something. It was also very quiet and peaceful, which felt a little alarming in itself.
I began by detangling an online survey I had sent out to people who had family, friends or colleagues with long term health conditions/impairments and thinking of the ways that I could visually represent the words from over 50 people who had trusted me with their responses. That was a scary and emotional journey and a great responsibility.
Once I had hashed out an idea of what I was going to make visually I then had a week to play around with lo-fi screen printing methods – and I learnt so much. In my studio I just had desk space and a painters sink, so I could clean my screen out. There wasn’t another printer working at Cove Park so I started hand drawing different typesets and words and cutting them out with paper stencils to print images from. I never would have spent the time doing something so laborious at home. It was really nice to see how slick you can actually make prints look with such a DIY set up.
There are many issues around care and disability which we are all surrounded by and which I am constantly learning about in my personal and professional life. In the context of this project I have chosen to reflect the emotions of caring rather than the politics of care – although, I can see how they are inevitably intertwined.
Similarly there are numerous issues and complexities surrounding disability and long term health conditions. Who does a disability belong to? How do people wish to define themselves and their impairments? How much do they or should their health affect our families, friends and colleagues?
These are questions that I am not attempting to answer in this work, but have simply tried to reflect how people feel about their own situations. I have tried to keep the integrity of the responses and be respectful to those who shared their stories. The surveys were anonymous but I have also been careful not to give away too much private information in the work.
I was scared to look through the answers, because I was worried about what I would find. Having a hidden disability myself I’ve spent a long time thinking about how it might have affected all the people around me like my family and friends. For example: “did my brother miss out on things because of me?” I know it’s not my fault but I still feel some guilt.
I was also curious to see what people said – having created a place where people felt free to really say how they felt. I wanted to hear what they had to say – like are these sisters, mothers, boyfriends actually really pissed off? Or mad and jealous but don’t feel like they can even feel this way because they haven’t had the diagnosis themselves? I wanted to make a space for that. And the results made me cry – because on the whole it was often the opposite of what I thought I would find.
The answers were filled with love and admiration and a kind of sense or no resentment and more like the pain of not being able to help. It was a very heart-warming experience. It is sad though too like how our health can cause everyone so much grief.
Poppy Nash presents her exhibition of textile printed artworks at The Lighthouse in Glasgow from 31 January – 17 March 2019. Go to http://www.thelighthouse.co.uk/visit/exhibition/care for more information.
You can follow Poppy Nash’s Instagram page @poppy_nash_textiles