Image: Cas Holmes, Pani Kekkavva (Kettle) Rose (detail), 2019. 167cm x 61cm x 0.5cm. Mixed media paint, print, cloth and stitch with found materials.
This guest article has been written by Cas Holmes – a textile artist, author and tutor based in Kent, UK.
As many cultural initiatives have experienced in light of the restrictions and cancellations brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, the major exhibition Gypsy Maker 4 - centering around narratives found in travelling culture - due to tour in 2020, was unfortunately curtailed. The exhibition of works by artists Cas Holmes and Dan Turner, and organised by the Romani Cultural and Arts Company, may have been ‘stilled’, yet in spite of Covid-19, the virtual tour has led to greater exposure and wider dissemination of artworks reflecting Gypsy, Roma and Traveller visual culture. As Dr Daniel Baker, RCA, artist, curator and research, describes:
Emphases include depictions of flora, innovative use of textiles, imaginative exploration of the photographic image, examinations of landscape and geographies—and related questions regarding the transcendence of cultural and territorial boundaries. In relation to the latter, an understanding of the implications of movement and mobility has influenced many of the artworks and their modes of manufacture. Although the majority of Romani people are no longer itinerant, the influence of a common nomadic past seems to remain significant. An emphasis on connections to landscapes and the cycles of movement precipitated by economic imperatives, such as the seasonality of agricultural labour, continue to inform Gypsy, Roma and Traveller histories and the stories that define our communities and can be seen to inform many of the works on show.
Image: Dan Turner, Cosh (detail), 2019. 90cm x 60cm x 10cm. Wood, perspex and foam. Image © Felix Page
Likewise, reference to domestic artistic practice underpins many of the artworks on display: the places Cas Holmes ‘walks through’ are reflected in her imagery and material;
The nature of tea, for example is a common motif of social gathering. “Putting the Kettle on” is a welcome sign of companionship and discussion and symbolic of my personal, creative and cultural growth. Memories of my Grandmother and childhood stories told over a “cuppa” first ignited my imagination and the thriftiness in what I use.
In his works, Dan Turner explores the use of iconic objects such as pegs, charms and wooden flowers as symbols of a historical connection between Traveller and non-Traveller. These objects in themselves relate back to a time when goods would have been traded on doorsteps, and at fairs and Romani presence was more visible in the community than it is now.
Video: Interview with Cas Homes about the development of works with Dr Daniel Baker.
The exhibition Gypsy Maker 4 is supported by Arts Council Wales, co-ordinated by Isaac Blake, Executive Director of The Romani Cultural and Arts Company and also features the work of Dan Turner.
Cas’ most recent publication is Textile Landscape (Batsford 2018). She is currently working on a new book and developing new work for an exhibition in Antwerp in 2022.