John Jones Projection Space, London
In her recent exhibition at John Jones' Projection Space, Rosalind Davis reveals herself to be a visionary artist of sensitivity and complexity. Her mixed media paintings of dystopian landscapes incorporate embroidery and floral-print textiles from the 1970s. Both Oedipal and phallic, they conjure up a claustrophobic world of the uncanny.
In these paintings it is not just the masculine that gets conflated with the failure of the modern project. Davis transposes her photographic images, via paint and embroidery, onto vintage floral-print textiles so that what was once inside – curtains and upholstery, the maternal and domestic – gets turned outward. Garish floral prints infect the sky, sickly blooms of Oedipal desire colonising everything, creating a claustrophobia born of nightmares.
That these fabrics were originally intended to ‘cover’ items of furniture or shut out the light is significant as now they cover the sky, and what they ‘shut out’ is the potential for any desire other than that sanctioned by mother.But the colonisation starts further back than this.
Fashion, as Herbert Marcuse has indicated, is propaganda for the capitalist world and these fabrics are already an industrial interpretation, an appropriation of femininity and motherhood for the mass market. Indeed it is only through the process of painting and embroidery that Davis offers a glimmer of hope.
A handicraft, it has connotations of femininity, domesticity but also of reparation. Historically, women used embroidery to commemorate death. Images of the deceased, dried flowers and embroidery were combined in a kind of collage. If painting resists the aggressive colonisation of modernity, could it be that embroidery represents a desire to repair the damage, to ‘make do and mend’?