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Eleanor Burkett

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Earth materials 2023

Unearthed 2023

Eleanor first experimented with paper as an artform following a visit to Hayle Mill in Kent whilst a student at Goldsmiths College. There she witnessed cotton and linen rags being shredded and pulped and spent several years manipulating pulp and making ‘paper’. Depending on how it was dried, it was either three dimensional or flat, it could pick up an impression, be leather hard, soft, fragile or robust. 

At the core of her practice is the hand-made and the papers for the pieces in this exhibition have taken her back to those early experiments. This palette of ‘papers’ was recovered from boxes in the loft and the paper thread which joins them together was made 35 years ago. The Japanese word ‘mottainai’ (too good to waste) sits with her philosophy of finding the beauty in the overlooked and refashioning forgotten or discarded papers to give them a new life. 


Eleanor uses textile and paper processes interchangeably and her work is best understood through an appreciation of the paper textiles associated with the Tohoku region of Northern Japan where she lived for several years. In the past, strong washi was used to make kamiko, paper garments made from thick crumpled paper, or cut into strips to make paper thread and woven into a cloth called shifu. She views her practice as  a contemporary response to these traditions and to rag papermaking in this country. 


Her collection of katagami stencils used for rice paste resist dyeing, katazome, have languished in plan chest drawers for years but are strong enough to utilise in new ways. These precious stencils were discarded at the college Eleanor attended in Japan in favour of ‘modern’ screen printing techniques. In recent work she is uncovering materials and techniques from past eras and giving them contemporary relevance. The processes and practices she returns to might refer to the past but they are relevant and sustainable practices in todays world.  

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