Though she works predominantly in textiles and embroidery, there is nothing soft about the work of Rozanne Hawksley. Her extraordinary art covers the great themes of life; love and loss, war and suffering, isolation and the abuse of power, by focusing in on intimate details of what they mean to a specific individual.
Her life trajectory offers an insight into a range of events and institutions that have shaped twentieth century art, the latter including her years at the Royal College of Art during the initiating moments of postmodernism in the early 1950s. Her years as a mature student and then tutor at Goldsmiths, in the late 1970s and 1980s, coincided with the period when the textile course there became the unrivalled centre of international influence in the textile arts.
Maidens Garland, 2009. Photography by Dewi Tannatt Lloyd, Courtesy of Ruthin Craft Centre
Born in the naval town of
Widely acknowledged as having played a significant role in the development of interdisciplinary textile teaching, research and scholarship, her contribution to the ground-breaking 1988 exhibition, The Subversive Stitch, is regarded as seminal. Since the late eighties Rozanne began to attract the attention of critics and collectors alike and pieces by her appeared in shows across Britain and Europe. She has since exhibited annually, showing in Japan, Europe and the United States, as well as throughout the UK. Her installations combine poignant materials - a faded glove, a lily, a photograph or fragment of chiffon to make a powerful, reflective point. The ribbon from a sailor's cap and trim from his jacket lie part-finished among a sewing kit. A faded khaki heart is pierced by a tri-corn of spent bullet casings. One of her most famous works, 'Pale Armistice' in the collection of the Imperial War Museum, a funeral wreath of white gloves with bleached bones nestled among artificial flowers, has become totemic of the death toll of the First World War.
Now in her seventies and still a practising artist, her drawings are haunting, her installations and sculpture, often controversial. Much of her art, because it is shown as installations, has no permanent existence except in photographs, and many other pieces have never been seen at all. During the Spring of 2009, Ruthin Craft Centre organised the first touring solo show devoted to Rozanne Hawksley. Entitled 'Offerings', the exhibition dealt with major themes that affect everyone, it was an unparalleled chance to see the thought-provoking yet unnervingly beautiful work of this remarkable artist.