The Gallery of Everything presents Of A Life/Time, a discourse on memory and identity featuring two unusual makers whose practices centre around notions of thread.
Of A Life/Time is the first international exhibition of contemporary tapestries by Belarusian artist and storyteller, Olga Frantskevich. Exhibiting for the first time outside the eastern bloc, Frantskevich authors hand-woven episodes which recall a childhood of conflict through reminiscence and dream.
A sense of urgency pervades the self-propelled practice. Today, as she enters her ninth decade, Frantskevich reclaims an intensely personal history for the collective memory – not with the pen, but with the needle.
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In dialogue with this tactile materiality are the diagram/drawings from the everyday discipline of Ezekiel Messou.
From his atelier in Benin, Messou has evolved an encyclopaedic inventory of repair. Portraits of sewing machines, draughted with ballpoint and lead, form this informal opus of difference and repetition – identity-stamped with pride, and for all to see.
OLGA FRANTSKEVICH B 1937 (VITEBSK, BYELORUSSIA)
Born in the former USSR in 1937, Olga Frantskevich was a child of war, living under German occupation until the age of seven. Taught by her grandmother how to sew, and lacking in paper to draw, she began to embroider on sackcloth she found at the farm where she worked to support her family and younger siblings.
In her eight decade, Frantskevich turned again to her family’s legacy of embroidery to capture her memories and the history of the war, exhibiting her works to the public for the first time in 2007.
Frantskevich’s hand-woven tapestries tell, in brightly coloured and dreamlike tableaus, the story of the war. Personal stories, of her family, of her father, the partisan hero Kuprin Sergey Gavrilovich, of a daily life of suffering punctuated by mundane chores and dreams of a better life. But they also capture, and preserve for future generations, the collective experience of the war.
Today, her work is held in museums in Russia, including the Muzey Balashikhskiy and the Muzey Russkogo Lubka i Naivnogo Iskusstva.
EZEKIEL MESSOU B 1971 (ABOMEY-CALAVI, BENIN)
Ezekiel Messou learnt how to repair sewing machines after leaving his home country for Lagos, Nigeria, as a young man. Today, working from the back room of his own sewing machine repair shop in Abomey-Calavi, Benin, Messou creates intricate drawings cataloguing hundreds of sewing machine models, which have earned him a place in international collections of alternative art-makers.
Working with pen and pencil on notebooks, Messou’s works have evolved from simple, technical drawings into elaborate illustrations characterised by flowing contours and ornate patterns that evoke botanical motifs, in an organic rendition of the machines’ inner workings.
Part diagram, part invention, each picture is completed with a stamp and declaration of authorship: ets qui sait l’avenir * réparation des machines à coudre * le machinistre (who knows the future * sewing machine repair * the Machinister).
Ezekiel Messou’s notebooks are held in important European collections, including the Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne.Courtesy of The Gallery of Everything, London