It may only be August at the moment, but the Knitting & Stitching Show 2018 is fast approaching. Taking place in the iconic Alexandra Palace, the Knitting & Stitching Show is the biggest textile event in the UK and features some of the top textile artists exhibiting their work.
This year, Caren Garfen's What's Going On Upstairs? will be on display. A socially-conscious artist, Garfen's interest is in gender politics and women’s issues in the twenty-first century. Her pieces are often simultaneously humorous and profound, examining feminist themes around the female body and livelihood. What's Going On Upstairs? is no different; it features a three-dimensional model of a bedroom which blurs the boundaries between a domestic setting and the hospital ward. Tackling the issue of adolescent eating disorders, Garfen's attention to detail is meticulous. She researched the experiences and habits of eating disorder sufferers extensively and her use of minuscule and repetitive hand-stitching reflects this.
The rest of What's Going On Upstairs? features a fully furnished dolls house, designed to create illusions of different sizes. The back wall of each room is mirrored so that when the viewer looks into a room their reflection gives the illusion of being oversized. Playing with a sense of scale mirrors how eating disorders provoke an obsession with shrinking as well as a warped view of one's own size. A particularly poignant element of this piece is a beautiful quilt, designed by a talented and creative young woman who sadly passed away after suffering herself from an eating disorder.
What's Going On Upstairs? might provoke feelings of discomfort and sadness in the viewer, but Garfen has never shied away from dealing with uncomfortable topics in her work. It is this aspect of her artistry that shows her ability to engage sensitively with difficult human experiences.
See Garfen's incredible art at the Knitting & Stitching Show, 11 - 14 October 2018 at Alexandra Palace, London, UK.
Blog post by Jessica Edney