On a recent visit to Canterbury I wandered into the Beaney, something I often do now it has been so well refurbished, and found myself captivated by a new exhibition in the Front Room. Cas Holmes is a textile artist based in Maidstone who produces mixed media work blending 'found' fabric and her own delicately stitched designs.
None of the pieces, some suspended in the air, some hung against the wall like pictures or tapestry, can be understood at a glance. The viewer's attention is demanded and greater attention rewarded as layer upon layer of meaning is revealed. The material on view consists of fabric rags: scraps of torn lace, pieces of sheet or clothing, newspaper, curtains or cushion covers. Sometimes these have a printed design. Sometimes they are worn and dirty, stained by the situation in which they were discarded. Joining all these fragments are the stitches of Cas Holmes who has rescued these pieces of her environment and created something new from them. The stitching is sometimes sturdy and used to hold things together. At other times the stitches are purely decorative and consist of sewn drawings, the outlines of birds and locally found flowers.
The essences of people, their memories and past lives, seem to linger, trapped within the fabric substance on display. Many of these materials will have had direct contact with skin and might have witnessed or taken part in key events in human stories. Saved from dereliction they are resurrected in the creations of Cas Holmes and haunt us with their fragile communications. Woven into each piece are the ideas of Holmes herself and images from the natural world. Like the singing of birds or the beautiful potential in a budding flower these works speak to us with a language that is hard to rationally understand but is keenly felt nonetheless. If you are in Canterbury soon do visit the Beaney and take a look!