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Summer Exhibitions at CAMPLE LINE – Claire Barclay and Aslı Çavuşoğlu Open This Weekend

This summer, Cample Line is delighted to present RAWLESS, a new installation made for and in response to our upstairs space by Claire Barclay (b. 1968, Paisley), opening 6 July 2024.

Through its engagement with the raw materials, land practices and machinery traditionally associated with wool production, and the domestic uses of woollen textile, RAWLESS builds upon Claire’s exhibition Thrum at MAC Belfast in 2022, which featured a series of large-scale tactile environments that were informed by historical connections between linen production and textile practices in the West of Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Bringing together materials including wool fabrics, wool crewel yarn, combed wool fleece, sheepskin, lanolin, welded, forged and laser cut steel, rust, machined brass and gorse, RAWLESS will comprise a series of interrelated sculptural elements that are mindful of Cample Mill’s history as a site of local woollen yarn and textile manufacture and as a place of both labour and dwelling.

Sheep fleece and wool processing, expressive craft disciplines, features of the local topography, handcrafts and manufacture, tools, clothing, the romanticizing and commercialisation of heritage, and the exploitation or revering of domesticated animals have all influenced Claire’s development of RAWLESS, as have the domestic proportions of our building, and the sheep grazing that continues to surround Cample itself.

Claire has suggested: ‘I have been looking for intersections between agricultural, industrial and domestic contexts, the slippages between workplace and home and the confluences of labour and dwelling that are commonplace. And more specifically, how this is evident in objects that we make and use.’ Welded steel hoops with fuzzy sheepskin sleeves will suspend from the exposed roof trusses of our upstairs space. An embroidered wool fabric panel will stretch across one of the window recesses – the natural light revealing the stitch structure. Forged steel hooks and pointed rods will suggest functions yet evade any specific reading. Some will contrast with precisely machined brass objects with comb teeth that are filled with lanolin.

Thick, hand-stitched woollen cloth covers will be wrapped around or lain over branches of dried gorse. Larger cut steel shapes, some rusted and bright with the colours of iron oxides, might suggest redundant farming or factory equipment. There will be nods to sheep-shearing equipment and to Sanquhar knitting patterns.

All images: Claire Barclay, Studio, 31 May 2024

Of the materials she chooses to work with – clay, cloth, wood, wool, metal and so on – Claire has noted: ‘They’ve been used to make the objects that shape our lives for a very long time…they transcend time and place and even culture.’ In RAWLESS, materials, objects and forms will interact physically and psychologically to create a mood that may spark thoughts about labour and redundancy within the domestic context.

Claire has said: ‘I have also been thinking about situations where self-expression and labour coincide. For example, where tools of a trade are created as ornament, adorned or personalised, where individuals associate themselves with materials or processes that define their work and lifestyle. The ways in which work affects the body physically when materials penetrate skin, hair, clothing, lungs, and where bones and muscle adapt to stresses.’ In her wider body of work, Claire often refers to the cycles of dirtying and cleaning bodies, be they human, animal or man-made, and she has spoken of the controls we place upon materials within our living and working environments that ensure efficiency and order: ‘I have a strong urge to disrupt and question these kinds of equilibriums, and likely do so to focus attention on the psychologies and cultural conditions at their core.’ In her earliest works, Claire used found objects, but has said that their associations were often too literal or specific. She has since made the objects that form her work herself or she has them made for her to her specification. As a result, their associative power is rooted more in ambiguity and openness: ‘It is not clear whether they are mundane or specialised, old or contemporary, useful or dysfunctional, valued or discarded. I like that the work is open to interpretation and provokes imagined scenarios. I think this comes from a conviction that the truth of an object cannot be summed up, as there will always multiple ways of perceiving it.’ As part of the preparation for an exhibition Claire will often explore new making skills as another way to explore a context and connect with people. In developing elements for RAWLESS, Claire spent time working with blacksmith John Gibson at his forge in Irongray, near Dumfries, learning the forging process and preparing some steel elements. Likewise, some of the fabric elements involve crewel embroidery, which she has been experimenting with recently.

RAWLESS will be Claire’s first exhibition in Dumfries and Galloway and will be accompanied by a newly commissioned short essay by Lizzie Lloyd, a writer and Senior Lecturer in Fine Art and Art & Writing, UWE Bristol. A suite of relief prints by Claire, entitled Unearthing 1-6, 2015, were included in the group exhibition From narrow provinces at CAMPLE LINE in autumn 2019 alongside works by Rana Begum, Aleana Egan, Ruth Laskey and Alison Turnbull.

Claire Barclay is represented by Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.