Part four contextual studies – Project 1, Stage 3 – An analytical study

In this stage we are asked to analyse two pieces of work representative of two different artists from the previous list of 10. I have chosen two wall hangings; Embroidered panels, by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, c1902-1904 and Tracey Emin’s – Hate and power can be a terrible thing – 2004 . They are strikingly different in appearance and approximately 100 years apart, they both use appliqué techniques in their construction but to very different effect.

The silk wall hangings by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh were made in c1902 – 1904. They measure 41 × 177 cm (16.1 × 69.7 in). The panels are currently held in the Glasgow School of Art’s archives The panels are typical of the ‘Glasgow Style’ of around this period and were possibly made for the interior at Hill House. As the GSA archives website states:

“Similar panels appear in Mackintosh’s drawings of the east wall of the principal bedroom at The Hill House although it is not certain when they were installed there as early photographs taken in 1904 do not show them. The panels appear to be duplicates of those shown at the Vienna Secession exhibition in 1900 and bought by Emil Blumenfelt; at least one of these (listed as a ‘bed curtain’) was lent by Blumenfelt to the Turin exhibition in 1902 – although it lacks the lower section of black silk seen on The Hill House panels. – See more at:

The wall panels themselves are two dimensional and are made using linen and silk appliqué and threads with silk braid, ribbon, glass beads, painted buttons and metal thread embroidery. the faces are painted onto white kid leather with watercolour and stretched over card then applied. They are figurative showing a female figure on each panel and appear rich and opulent due to the materials used. The panels would have been expensive to produce using only the best materials, therefore they would have been very expensive to buy.

The relationship between colour, shape and line works really well to create a balanced appearance. the colours are subtle and beautifully balanced and is typical of this artists textile work.

Tracy Emin’s Hate and power can be a terrible thing – 2004 is currently owned by the Tate and is a scathing attack on the late Margaret Thatcher’s decision to go to war in the Falkland Islands in 1982.

“A year so many conscripts did not got home – Because you, you killed them all.’ Along the bottom of the work, run the words ‘THERE’S NO ONE IN THIS ROOM WHO HAS NOT THOUGHT OF KILLING” (Elizabeth Manchester
November 2004/revised October 2009: Tate online)

The style of text used is very reminiscent of handmade anti-war placards commonly carried by demonstrators displaying various slogans. It is one of many hard hitting quilts made by Tracey Emin over the years covering a wide range of (generally hard hitting) subjects.

The hanging measures 270 x 206 cm and is two dimensional. It is made using a recycled wool blanket with a cotton insert in the centre as a background with cotton and felt appliquéd patches and lettering. These are attached using simple and roughly worked blanket stitch in places. It’s tactile quality is soft which conflicts substantially with the hard hitting message it carries. This is quite characteristic of Tracey Emin’s work.

The piece is not meant to be functional and it is more about the message it portrays. The colours and shapes are deliberately placed to create a stark hard hitting almost brutal look. It is deliberately controversial and works very well as a political statement. It is, as I have said before similar to anti war or other political posters and plaquards carried during demonstrations including those carried by the Suffragettes during their fight for equality.

Both these works are also a testament to the roles of women in each of their times. Margaret MacDonald’s women are demure, graceful and decorative. Tracey Emin does not show any women on the quilt but the quilt itself is saying that women have a voice, are politicised, are able to be openly critical of government.

It is good to see that a traditional needlecraft like quilting is used by such a modern artist as Tracey Emin to make such a strong political statement showing how just how valuable it still is as a medium.

Further reading and sources:


About Julie Hooker

Having recently returned to my roots in Surrey, I am currently studying a BA Hons degree with the OCA. My work is often inspired by the local countryside in the beautiful Surrey Hills area and the wild rugged nature of the North Cornish coast. Steam engines and abandoned industrial history are also recent themes. A free machine embroiderer and felt maker; I like to explore the use of natural, found materials to create my art, whether that be as raw materials to stitch or weave with or as a material with which to produce dye or print with. Previously, I completed City and Guilds parts 1 & 2 Creative Embroidery at the East Berkshire College in Windsor in 2007. I was also awarded first place in the wearable art section of the National Quilt Championships 2008 and 2009 held annually at Sandown Park.
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