I “met” Alexandra Kingswell for the first time on Instagram.
From the artist’s website:
“Some years ago I was working on some educational materials with a very inspiring mathematician – I was already aware of the beauty and importance of number and proportion, but this opened my eyes to the fact that certain numbers and sequences appear in nature – they create proportions that we as human beings seem naturally to find beautiful. My work is an exploration into interesting numbers and sequences, in the quest for new patterns and insight.”
From those words, I can find the peculiarity of her work and the harmony that it transmits.
In August, in Birmingham UK , took place the Festival of Quilts 2018 (https://www.thefestivalofquilts.co.uk/things-to-do/the-galleries/alexandra-kingswell-sum/)
Inside the event there was an exposition of Alexandra Kingswell’s works with a strong graphic impact that made her famous all over the world
note the energy that emanates from his works, emphasized by the use of bold colors and solid fabrics!
I contacted the Artist for the ArteMorbida magazine and I asked her a few questions to which She answered with the maximum availability.
While browsing through some artist’s profiles, I came across her page and it was love at first sight!
Alexandra is a British textile artist, who uses solid color fabrics in her works. Little by little, I discovered how she works and what inspires her.
In the beginning, I was struck by some of her strong chromatic impact photos and the detailed explanation given for every step of her creative process.
Alexandra is a generous artist, who takes us by hand to discover how she began to translate ancient numerical sequences (like the Fibonacci series, the Golden Mean and the decimals of the Pi) to color patterns.
By reading the pages of her website https://www.alexandra-kingswell.co.uk/, we can discover the method behind her works; we are led to understanding thanks to images that blends perfectly with her articles.
We can also discover the careful design and planning that are necessary to build her creations.
Here’s what Alexandra tells us, the first thing I asked her is:
What was your training and how long (and why) did you choose to use fabrics as a medium for your art?
I think some of my earliest memories are of the delight of owning coloured pencils. I was always drawing. After school, although I was encouraged to study English at University, I was sure I wanted Art College. I studied Communication Design (Graphics) at Leeds and seemed to develop a reputation for bold and colourful work. After six years of working as a packaging designer, I started my own graphic design business. I very much enjoyed the mental rigour of seeking to understand a client’s real message, of understanding his/her business and audience, and of finding the best way to communicate with that audience, as well as developing the other skills you need when you run your own business.
About 10 years ago I did a workshop with a friend – we were making a patchwork block. When I became aware of the gorgeous, saturated colours available in cotton I knew I wanted to work with fabric and I began to make more and more time to do that.
What motivated you to choose to fix your works on canvas to expose them?
Fixing the work on canvas amplifies the visual impact of the colours and the shapes. It holds the work rigid. It is stable. It suits working with numbers. It suits the geometry of my patchwork.
I do not ask you details about how you work because your website is exhaustive about that … but a curiosity: after years you have modified the way you proceed or keep the sequence: search for colors, folder for matching numbers, design of the work on paper and then transition to fabrics?
I do tend towards a particular way of working. I don’t “design” the piece on paper, ie I don’t know beforehand what the piece will look like. Having decided on the mood/idea/concept I want to communicate, I carefully select my colours. I work out my design totally with the numbers, then I assign each colour a number. I feel that if I get the numbers right, the design will automatically be right, as in nature! I work out how much of each colour I need and I start cutting, then sewing. At this stage I don’t know what I will end up with! I find that a bit scary as, by this time, I have invested a lot of time, effort and fabric into the piece, but I trust the numbers to “work”. And anyway, working this way is exciting. I feel the numbers and colours combine to create something bigger than my imagination or competence.
Cotton is your medium of choice. Why do you use this material?
Cotton is a natural material, has had its own life cycle and has been transformed into a ductile material, capable of taking on countless nuances … .to manipulate and use it excites me!
When working with it, I like to remember that the cotton I use was once lived. I try to respect that and give it new life and meaning. My cottons are washed, ironed, cut, stitched, cut again, positioned, stretched, stapled, pierced and pulled – like our experience as humans. The parallels are humbling. But also encouraging.
In the future, after exploring the Fibonacci series, the Golden Mean and the Pi, do you intend to expand your exploration of mathematics? (have you already thought about fractals or works like Escher … or the magic square?)
Yes, I’m fascinated by numbers and I know I will continue to let them guide me into good design principles. At the moment I am using some powerful words and phrases to initiate my work, but I always look to numbers and sequences to guide the design. Then there is music. The works of Bach are very mathematical – there’s a whole world there waiting to be explored in a visual medium!
I would go on for hours to talk to you…but it’s impossible….I conclude with a question: your last creation is “ Hope”….what inspired you?
I wanted to create a hopeful piece, a piece that is life-affirming and that defies
the darkness that can threaten to engulf us from time to time. I used a “reduced” Fibonacci sequence of numbers to create the design.
“The light shone in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” (St John’s Gospel 1,5)