Julie Cockburn's Embroidered Photographs
Julie Cockburn is renowned for re-imagining and re-configuring found objects and vintage photographs into meticulously constructed and unique contemporary artworks. The new works on display in Balancing Act at The Photographers’ Gallery are rich in landscape, domesticity, and the human form, altered by her playful language of abstraction and intervention.
What at first appear to be almost random, flippant scrawls or slaps of color, are in fact painstakingly and perfectly stitched and set into the original found photographs using impressively assured composition. Large black and white scenes of epic wilderness are surrounded by smaller, soulful, homespun album photos, and abstract shapes come bouncing into conventional, picturesque landscapes, interrupting the scenic tranquillity. Graphic embroidered compositions almost entirely obscure images of anonymous ice-skating figures, amplifying the balance between the exuberance and tension of performance.
Each act of layering and mark-making is, however subtle or iconoclastic, executed with equal measure of commitment, precision, and a desire to engage. Cockburn made the majority of work in Balancing Act during the recent lockdown. Whilst none of the work overtly refers to Covid-19 it is, says Cockburn, impossible now to look at the work without seeing it through the lens of the pandemic.