Embroidery was traditionally considered to be an essential accomplishment for all ladies: an occupation of model domesticity to while away the interior hours, perhaps working on a trousseau or household linen. Meliors Simms' installation Extraction presents a selection of hand stitched works - made reusing old domestic textiles - that do not consider household affairs, but instead are preoccupied with pollution and environmental harm. Simms examines the consequences of our consumption on a global level, working to an interior rather than landscape scale and repurposing familiar domestic materials salvaged from domestic discards or secondhand shops.
Rather than investigating the homely vestiges historically associated with these familiar materials, Simms employs them to represent and interpret the distorted, colossal landscapes formed by mines and oil spills worldwide. Aiming to create "unflinching beauty", the works in Extraction are needle-felted from recycled blankets and unspun wool, Simms' choice of materials simultaneously referencing the malleable nature of the Earth.
These works exemplify Simms' love of embroidery; the rhythm of fibres pulled through plump felted layers of blanket and the smooth point of the needle probing into dense softness to begin the next stitch, over and over again. Her repetitious process echoes and pays homage to human delving and depositing. Eschewing machine-based processes, Simms deliberately chooses labour-intensive, time-consuming stitching methods with the incremental development of her work symbolising the cumulative environmental effects of human actions.
Time spent looking at photographs and maps of open cast mines impelled Simms to make Spoil, which represents a heap of tailings from a mine, and Open Cast Australia. Created from a vintage souvenir table cloth, Open Cast Australia depicts a map scattered liberally with tiny red beads representing active mines, with stitched blankets in the palette of the desert forming the sloping sides of the mine.
The alliterative grouping of works Seep I & II, Spill I & II, and Slick I & II reference oil spills, recreated by Simms in minute soft stitched form. Inspired by a 2010 photograph of globs of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and made from vintage blankets and embroidery cotton, Slick I & II unnervingly resemble the contours of Antarctic pancake ice. Spill I & II are based on an aerial photograph of oily black waves sliding up a Louisiana beach. "I was surprised by how effective the black thread looks on the cream blanket," Simms states. "Much prettier than real tar balls on the sand." This tension, between the domestic and docile qualities of Simms' materials and the harshness of her themes, is the precarious terrain in which her work is located.
Meliors Simms is a Hamilton based artist.