Linda Davies in conversation with Outside In artist Aradne

Friday 7 March 2014

Following on from Aradne’s work being shown in the Outside In: National exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in 2012 and her successful solo exhibition at the Merston Gallery in 2013, Outside In volunteer Linda Davies catches up with Aradne in her home in Brighton to find out more.

Aradne now lives in Brighton but spent her early life in South Africa. Her home is full of examples not only of her own work, but also of items from South Africa such as colourful beaded dolls and bright woven textiles. The room in which we sat and talked was clearly that of a creative person. She rejects the suggestion that she is an ‘artist’ and says firmly that she feels it would be ‘pretentious’ to describe herself as such. She expanded on her view about this saying, “I hate to say I am an artist … we’re all capable of being artists … if people really like things that I’ve made - that makes me happy.”

That led us on to the question of ‘Why Aradne?’  She said, “I wanted, and want to remain Aradne because I’ve had success with the name - it’s brought me luck. I’ve thought about going back to my ‘real’ name but I like the privacy and anonymity that Aradne provides.”  She made it very clear that she has no enthusiasm for using her ‘real’ name, which she doesn’t like much anyway.  She repeated that she would not want anyone to think she was being pretentious. She had chosen the name Aradne partly because of the connection between her work and web like creations, and also because “maybe I was a spider in my former life - there’s Charlotte’s web - the strangeness appeals and my middle name is Charlotte!”

I asked about her method of working and she confirmed that she always stitched straight onto fabric when producing her textiles saying, “I like to assemble things and if I draw it out first it’s not very fluid.” It seems the work led the way for her.

Aradne does not have one artist who especially inspires her, but her books and their contents clearly do. Her living room is full of books that she loves and which are important to her work. She confirmed that she had read them all and knew exactly where each one was. She is particularly inspired by myths, fairy tales, legends and anything magical, and also loves the colours and textiles of Africa and Peru. Aradne showed me a recent acquisition - a book of Peruvian textiles with which she is delighted and which she found straight away on the shelf. We enjoyed looking at the patterns and vibrant colours that it featured.

Aradne had assembled a number of samples of her work in a basket by her desk. Beautifully stitched little figures on muslin appeared magically to come alive and emerge from the fabric. She explained that she stitched the figures and then removed the soluble backing, so that only the figures remained. Some were in black and white, but she had also produced more colorful work. One in particular was in shades of brown resembling a web-like tree bark.  Stitched into the web ‘bark’ were fantastical figures emerging mysteriously from the background.

The piece Freedom from Freedom To which was exhibited in the Outside In: National exhibition at Pallant House Gallery in 2012 is currently hanging in her hall. I had not appreciated that this was so three dimensional from the online photographs I had seen. It is fascinating to look at it up close and to see the figures in family groups, alone and together. She said that it had taken her a few months to complete. This is a large and complex piece, which I think must have required as much thought as time. Aradne explained that the quote from Rousseau, “Man is born free but everywhere is in chains,” accurately expressed how she feels and what she was portraying in particular in Freedom from Freedom To. It truly had been an inspiration to her.

Aradne has also made some beautiful small books. They have ornate stitched covers which included pictures of icons and are in glowing and vibrant colours. She explained that they did not have a direct religious connotation, but that they were part of her interest in the mystical and mysterious. This was also true of a number of crucifix-like crosses she had made, which were similarly complex. One showcased small figures emerging from the basic cross. The complexity of these items reflect the way in which Aradne works and her expression of figures emerging spider-like from a web.

The compliments about her work shown in Pallant House Gallery also provided inspiration for her.  She had been thrilled, “the exhibition and comments make you believe in yourself. It was very exciting and was a wonderful space.” Aradne mentioned that it had been a great privilege to have her work shown there.

The exhibition at Merston Gallery, Chichester in June 2013 had been hugely successful, although she had been worried beforehand that she did not have enough work to exhibit. Once in the space she found it to be sympathetic and when all the work was exhibited, she was satisfied that it was enough. She had been surprised by which pieces of her work had sold and which did not.  The ones that sold out weren’t so colourful. She had actually been quite pleased that one of the more colourful pieces had not sold because she particularly liked it and wanted to keep it for herself! These sales have not put Aradne off creating more colourful work though.  

Aradne is a very modest person. She really dislikes being photographed, but is clearly dedicated to her work. She has a ‘day job,’ but is always thinking of what she will do next with her work. She has enjoyed helping with workshops through her Step Up training at the Gallery. Being Artist of the Month in July 2012 was also important to her, as is the support and help she still receives.

Aradne continues to be shy about showing her work, but Outside In has been a real inspiration to her. She repeated how much she has valued the support she has received.  In five years’ time Aradne will still be working on her textiles and paintings, and exploring new ways to create art pieces, but would love to be exhibiting more. She would love to make an animation film based on the figures in her work - this seems a splendid idea to me!

To see more of Aradne's work click here.