Please upgrade your browser

For the best experience, you should upgrade your browser. Visit our accessibility page to view a list of supported browsers along with links to download the latest version.

Sarah Gillett

MA work

Drawloom (Diagram for an Artwork)

Wetware, Rattle and Heddle

“And this is the sign for asleep,” says Alison, closing her index fingers and thumbs together in front of her eyes. “Go to sleep now my darling.”

She smooths out the duvet cover with her hands, uncreasing the printed astronaut suit, flattening the stars in their cotton void, repositioning the blue Earth from sliding off the side of the bed. She kisses Bill’s hair, feeling his fragile skull millimetres away from her lips. “Night night.”
“Night night Mummy,” he says.

“There you go,” says Sophie, splashing white wine into a tumbler. “It’s very drinkable. I’ve eaten nearly the whole bowl of crisps, sorry.”

“Delicious.” Alison holds the wet, cold bottle against her temple. Her brain hurts. “There’s loads more packets in the cupboard if you want. Helen’ll be here soon – let’s go next door.”

“Shall we have some music?”

“Go ahead,” says Alison. She passes her laptop to Sophie, its warm, brushed metal sheathing almost soft in her hands. The environmentally friendly MacBook Pro family is made from highly recyclable aluminium with a mercury- and arsenic-free LED-backlit display. “Computers are weird,” she says as Amy Winehouse’s dead voice scars the air with vivid splotches of life. “They’re like alien objects. We’ve just got used to having them around, but they don’t really belong here.” Trillions of black holes in people’s homes all around the world, portals into infinite space.

Sophie laughs. “Maybe it’s us that don’t really belong anymore. God, imagine having to use a typewriter at work. And not having any Asos.”

“The digital me has a much more interesting life than the real me,” says Alison. “Really all I want to do is stay at home –”
“– sewing and knitting and baking. Come off it Alison,” says Sophie. “You’d go mad in about a week and end up in the attic like Mrs Rochester.”

“I was going to say that I want to have more time to make my work, and yes, I like cutting old things up and trying to make new things from them. Re-stitching and collaging back in. It’s the way I think – nothing is fixed. Everything can be changed, re-worked into a new pattern. Look at the past year.”

Sophie looks at Alison. “Is there anything you want to tell me honey? I’m worried about you. We all are.” There is something, I know it.

“He called me Mummy tonight,” Alison says. “He’s never done that before.”

“Poor kid.”

There is a brief moment of silence as both the women and the singer pause, as though they are all being directed in the same play and this is the slanting second their story arcs are timed to synchronise.

On the wall the photograph looks at her. It has a way of looking at her that she will never get used to because it is the rocks that are doing the looking. The woman in the photograph is from another time, her arms held awkwardly in place by iron rods, as though without them she might fall, or jump. There is a knock at the door. “Alison?”

Nothing is ever black and white. Like the rocks, it’s all shifting shades of grey – silver, graphite, lead, aluminium, slate, mercury.

“I’ll be right there,” she says. Wherever that is.

They push the sofa against the wall and lie on the carpet, looking up through the glass at the black sky.

“I can see you,” says Sophie. “And me.”
“Do you mind if I smoke out of the back door?” Helen leans over a candle, her face illuminated, her head turning away.

“In the stars or in here?”

“Well, both. Turn off the fairy lights whilst you’re up, would you Helen?”

“I never thought I’d end up in a house with a conservatory,” says Alison. Or with someone else’s child. Especially not his. “So I tried to make it like a Rousseau, you know, that painting with the tiger in the forest? Hold on a minute, I’ll find it on my phone.”

“It’s wonderful,” says Helen, bringing spring frost and fag smoke back in with her. “It’s like being in a secret garden.”

They lie back, heads together, and look at the bright little screen. “He was a tax collector,” says Alison. There’s always a price. I am paying my dues.

“Look, look, shooting stars,” says Sophie.

Alison, Helen and Sophie hold hands as the Earth passes through the debris stream of Comet Thatcher, igniting a hundred tiny particles of dust and ice to etch the light of countless parables across the night sky.

“Amazing,” says Alison. We are so very small and so very mortal. “Doesn’t it make you feel alive?”

“What’s that? It’s very bright,” says Helen, pointing at a flare drawing closer, its stream low and unstoppable.

“God, maybe we should call someone,” says Sophie. It’s a bomb. I don’t want to die.

And they scramble to their feet as suddenly a white blank light bleaches away all shadows and three-dimensions, the silhouettes of trees and houses, the contours on faces, the colour of hair, skin, clothes, eyes. Objects flatten and become vibrating paper cut-outs, holes punched in card swallowed up in sound as all the windows in the glass house rattle and expand in their frames, shattering outward in a single moment. Millions of hard tiny squares settle on the lawn in pixellated crystal snowdrifts.

Alison opens her eyes.

“Sophie? Helen?” My side hurts.

“I’m here, we’re both ok. Helen’s gone to check on Bill,” says Sophie from near the kitchen door. “I think everything’s fused.”

Alison sits up carefully. She can just make out Sophie, feeling her way round the palm trees, the conservatory reduced to a delicate construction of metal bars. She imagines years into the future, ivy covering the frame, tendrils stretching across the empty open gaps. It is very dark. No ambient streetlight reflected against cloud, no domestic overspills from neighbours’ bathrooms or bedrooms. No moon. “Bill,” she says. “Laura – I will never forgive myself if –”

“He’s fine,” says Helen, appearing from the lounge, phone torch on. “Still fast asleep. Oh God, Alison, you’re hurt. Let me see.”

Alison looks down at herself in the torchlight. There is a wide tear in her dress, the edges frayed and singed. A long fat welt, already dark blue, runs from her ribs to her hip. “Oh,” she says. I’ve been hit.

“Do you want to call Laura?”

“No, the night shift ends at 6, and there’ll be a lot to do now so best not to worry her. So much for our romantic weekend.”

Helen feels around Alison’s abdomen. “Well, no broken bones, but we should get you to hospital to check you out properly, and we’ll have to call the police. I can still take Bill for the weekend so you two can have at least some alone-time.”

“What was it?” Sophie finally makes it over to them.

“That.” Helen shines her torch at a rock embedded in the floor, fringed by ten concentric rows of tiles standing up on their ends like dominoes. A circular warp around a heap of chaotic matter. The rock is roughly the size of a coconut, its grey surface pitted, worn in places. It is looking at them.

Alison starts to laugh. “It’s a meteorite. I’ve been hit by a meteorite. What are the chances?”

She laughs and laughs and laughs.

Wetware, Rattle and Heddle is from Drawloom (Diagram for an Artwork)

© Sarah Gillett 2015

Drawloom (Diagram for an Artwork)

Central to Drawloom (Diagram for an Artwork) is the idea of weaving stories. In both the physical act of weaving and in the telling of stories, threads are brought together by mind and hand to create images. No surprise then that the words text and textile have a shared origin in the Latin textere, to weave.

The installation is activated by a book of fragmented interconnected stories, the 'script' through which we then experience the sculptural, moving image and sound works. A series of old encyclopaedic book plates are inserted in between the stories, images beginning with the letter A. By using these images I am opening up the possibility of an infinite library of knowledge whilst triggering lateral readings of the work. In the stories I play out narratives about the relationship between language, action and sensation in a contemporary world that is experienced in parallel with a virtual, digital universe. As Katrina Palmer says, 'writing has a covert material presence', and I present my material text in a ruined material world.

For a while I have been buying old needlepoint tapestries from eBay, the online auction house. These tapestries depict idyllic images of rural landscape and life, and would have taken weeks, months, sometimes years to complete, following a printed pattern on the fabric, resulting in a pixellated image made by hand. This anachronistic relic predates the digital image but reminds us of an older matrix – that of the loom. The reverse of these images tells a different, human story, one of labour, mistake and messiness. To escape from the planned image I cut up the tapestries into small elements – trees, rocks, sky, water and scan them, transforming them again into digital form before printing back onto canvas. The resulting abstracted sculptural forms show both front and back image, in a conversation between the visible and invisible, the real and the not-real, and the processing of material and image.

A black and white lightbox acts as a focal point in the installation, and strengthens the relationship between the viewer and the imagined, speculative space the work seeks to create.


  • MA Degree


    School of Humanities


    MA Printmaking, 2015

  • I explore the relationship between material and experience, the digital and the hand-made. My practice expands into installation, text, textile and moving image works that reveal our histories and entanglements with the objects and landscapes that surround us.
  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons) Fine Art: Sculpture, University of Wolverhampton, 1998
  • Experience

  • Lecturer in Printmaking, Morley College, London, 2013 - ongoing; Art Education Consultant, British Council Visual Arts, London/international, 2012 - ongoing
  • Exhibitions

  • Offprint, Tate Modern, London, 2015; Lean To, Tenderbooks, London, 2015; Objects Of, CGP, London, 2015; The Loomings, Margate Gallery, Margate, 2014; Yesterday's Wrong Thinking, CGP, London, 2014; Slaugherhaus 5, Gallery 73, London, 2014; Pushing Print, Pie Factory, Margate, 2013; IN-visible, CGP, London, 2013; So pass away the old timers, one by one, Little Gallery, Calgary, 2013; The Rootstein Hopkins Drawing Exhibition, Morley Gallery, London, 2011; CAUTIONARY TALES - Feral Structures, Arena 1 Gallery, Los Angeles, 2009; Northland and the Lays, Fishmarket Gallery, Northampton, 2008
  • Awards

  • Intellect Publishing Dissertation Award shortlist, 2015; Pushing Print Solo Prize Award, 2013; Tim Mara RCA Award, 2012