New grantee Clementine Barnes uses craft-based techniques, needlework and textile collage to explore historical narratives of human identity and advocate for social justice issues. 

Supported by a Cultural Trust grant, Clementine will undertake an artistic residency at Cité internationale des arts, Paris, and produce an artist publication in the collective screen print studio alongside Eric Mercier. 

How do you define your current artistic practice?

My artistic practice explores the language of textiles. I’m interested in how human identity is constructed through fabric and textile use, unravelling complex histories of colonisation, dynamics of power between global north and global south, connections to the natural world, technological advances, and consumer culture. Inseparable from our daily lives, textiles are social, political, geographic, economic, and cultural markers.

I graduated from the National Art School Sydney in 2013 with a Bachelor of Fine Art in Painting. Since then, my artistic practice has evolved to work on collaborative craft-based artistic projects with asylum-seeker, migrant and refugee women. My dedication to bring art and social justice together was further highlighted in 2020 when I completed a Master of Peace and Conflict studies at the University of Sydney.

Significant career highlights include artist residencies at the Australian Tapestry Workshop (2016) and Cité internationale des arts (2015/16), the inclusion of my work in 'Fabrik: conceptual, minimalist, & performative approaches to textiles' at the Ian Potter Museum of Art (2016) and a collaborative textile print project with Sydney-based social enterprise The Social Outfit (2020).

What will your residency at Cité internationale des arts and collaborative artist publication entail?

Before, during, and after my residency at the Cité, I will work on a collaborative artist publication with Eric Mercier. Eric is a talented artist, master printer, workshop facilitator and long-term member of the collective screen-printing studio at the Cité internationale des arts.

The publication Material poetry/La poésie de la matière sets out to explore the language of textiles within the context of Paris, which will culminate in a bilingual anthology of twenty screen printed ‘poems' that will expose the similarities and differences, 'smooth and the striated'* of the twenty arrondissements of Paris and its surrounds. The research methodology for the project will be organic, observing relationships between the inhabitants of a particular urban space and the embodied, utilitarian and/or performative space of textiles. The project will shift between interior and exterior, public and private, across Paris's geographical inner and peripheral outer divides, engaging with gender, race, class and sexuality.

The title for this artist publication Material poetry/La poésie de la matière alludes to the project’s overarching conceptual premise, which conceives each of the twenty publications as an individual poem, a linguistic visualisation of the significance of textiles and cloth, captured during a particular point in space/time, as witnessed/experienced through the embodied experience of a foreigner (myself), and a local (Eric). In my view, the brevity of poetry derives from its potential to distil the complexity of human existence into its essential elements. This is my hope for the anthology.

The choice of content for each poem will be a collaborative decision and a combination of mixed-media collage, photography, text, and stitching. Eric will play the role of mentor/collaborator, introducing me to different screen-printing techniques and teaching me how to prepare digital files for screen preparation. The final step will involve stitching the poems together by hand. Each poem will be produced in an edition of fifteen.

Material poetry/La poésie de la matière ties itself to my growing interest in craftivism, recently explored in an article co-produced with Dr Alyce McGovern, wherein we define craftivism as 'comprising three interconnected logics or levels of engagement or action—the personal, the community and the political'.

How do you hope to advance your artistic practice?

The combination of residency, screen print studio practice and having the opportunity to live and work in France longer than the typical three-month tourist visa is such a unique and timely opportunity to wholeheartedly commit to the development of my practice in an international setting, which will allow me to make the transition from an early-career to a mid-career artist. The more pragmatic elements relating to my proposed project - the fact that I fluently speak French, have an existing artist network and am familiar with the city of Paris, place me in the ideal situation to make the most of this opportunity in an achievable, strategic, and tactile way.

Given my passion for and interest in working within the new migrant and refugee community, it is also a relevant time to undertake this project, given the current political and social situation in France, which will undoubtedly present further opportunities to combine my passion for social justice with craft-based practice while I am living in France. Working in this unique setting, at this time, will not only advance my own personal arts practice, but undoubtedly benefit the creative community in both France and Australia, creating new networks and connections and inspiring collaborative future projects.

 *In Gilles Deleuze and Félix Gattari’s work, A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, the spatial elements of fabric, woven and non-woven are discussed. Woven fabric is defined as ‘striated’ space with ‘vertical and horizontal elements, and the two intertwine, intersect perpendicularly… ‘One is fixed, the other mobile, passing above and beneath the fixed’. Non-woven fabric is described as ‘smooth’ space, which is ‘infinite, open, and unlimited in every direction; it has neither top nor bottom nor center; it does not assign fixed and mobile elements but rather distributes a continuous variation’. Deleuze and Gattari identify cultural spatial approaches to fabric. Noting for some groups ‘fabric integrates the body and the outside into a closed space,’ whereas for others, fabric belongs to ‘the space of the outside, to the open smooth space in which the body moves’.

Deleuze, G & Gattari, F (1987) ‘The Smooth and the Striated’ translated by Massumi, B. A Thousand Plateaus (Mille Plateaux) (1980), Minneapolis, MN, University of Minnesota Press, pg 474-477.