Image: Photography by Jayne Lloyd
Over the past year weaver Ali Holloway has been exploring the eight remaining pieces of common land in Hackney — classified as common land due to their history as a site for grazing animals, gathering firewood, berries and mushrooms — and recording these walks with photographs, drawings, writing and sound. These audio recordings were the starting point for a series of woven textile pieces made about these ancient patches of land. She derived patterns and rhythm from the sound waves which she wove into the cloth, weaving these journeys into the very structure of the fabric.
The exhibition, Commons – the rhythm of a walk, interprets both the sound recordings of her walks and celebrates the topology of the shapes and boundaries of each of the common spaces. Larger pieces are made with tactile and textured yarns, paper, horsehair and with 3D protrusions woven in red. The colour of life and death, red is often used as protection on journeys and is threaded through these pieces, taking the yarn on a journey through the cloth.
She traced the boundaries of the land with her feet, investigating shapes that have remained constant through time and transcribed these into small delicate silk, stainless steel and wool pieces.
In the 1860s the Hackney borough purchased the commons to protect them from enclosure, preserving these green spaces for the growing urban population. At a time when the environment is more fragile than ever and the restriction of access to open spaces has been highlighted by the pandemic, common land is back on the agenda — vital spaces that nurture a sense of belonging. Ali’s work in this exhibition is a celebration of land fought for and preserved for the people of Hackney; a testament to those endeavours and a reminder of a past way of life, but also looking to the future to give focus to sense of identity, community and a connection to green space and nature.The continuing existence of the commons is a reminder of our collective past, links to a lost world and an elemental relationship to the land.
Commons – the rhythm of a walk is on display from 9 – 26 June at the Contemporary Applied Arts Gallery, London. Find out how to visit on the CAA website.