Nina Edge’s Terra Exhibition

Site, Albert Dock
Till October 28th, 2007

Reviewed by Alison Cornmell

The Fabric of Protest exhibition features the work of Vanessa Cuthbert, Helen Thompson and Nina Edge. The exhibition puts to the gallery goer the idea that fabric has social, economic and political dimensions. The example of cotton is used, a cotton tee-shirt can carry political slogans but it also has a raft of other histories of oppression. It suggests that we wear what we think; it is almost an extension of who we are.

It is Nina Edge’s body of work Terra that features most prominently in the exhibition space. Edge’s work is made predominantly of camouflage fabric. Her pieces are large, dominating and skilfully made. Her work explores the idea that camouflage is an instrument of invisibility, but has been appropriated as an instrument to make you seen and give status.

Her piece Terra Repeat Pattern shows four maps of the world made entirely of various types of camouflages. With each repetition of the globe the camouflage of each country changes but is always made of camouflage. Edge wanted to convey that this is a permanently militarised globe, controlled always by military power and action.

Soldier Repeat Pattern displays camouflage trousers they are all joined at the hip just as platoon would be. The uniform links them together in an exercise that they all have to perform whether they agree with it or not. Initially they all look the same but on further inspection you can see the subtle differences between them. How the wearer washes or irons their clothes, or how they kneel on their right knee can be seen. These snippets of life bring vulnerability to the piece. In conversation with the artist this was something she highlighted; the youth and vulnerability of soldiers. This is especially true of US soldiers who are from the lower classes of society doing the dirty work of the upper classes who remain in the safety of America.

My favourite piece was Disruptive Pattern Fabric two large canvases sit side by side. One is covered in a bright flowery fabric; this feminine cheerful fabric is a reference to images of the Gulf war that Edge saw back in 1991. Women in Iraq would cover their dead with fabric from the home; their job to take care of the dead was almost an extension of domestic duties. An embroidered plane is hidden amongst the flowers; it’s ambiguous as to whether it is a fighter plane or a commercial one. What I liked about this was that the flowery fabric became camouflage in its own right as it masks the plane. Next to it a canvas of equal size is covered in dark camouflage. Hidden in this pattern is a flower embroidered in colours the same to the camouflage. These flowers are symbolic of the softness of soldiers; the flowers are symbolic of what’s beneath the camouflage. The uniform of war and death does not necessarily represent the person underneath it.

What is interesting about Edge’s work is that the fabric to assist war paradoxically becomes the medium with which she uses to protest against war. It is an exhibition filled with paradoxes and double meanings which I really loved. But it is an accessible exhibition that anyone who sees it will get something from it. Every piece has meaning attached and doesn’t exist simply for the sake of existing. It is a passionate, intelligent and thought provoking and I look forward to seeing more from this artist.

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Comment left by hats off on 2nd November, 2007 at 22:58
Yes, would also like to see more. An inspiring and moving exhibition. Nina also went to the Turner Prize opening night because of the loss of habeas corpus - this is what happened.

Comment left by mick maslen on 14th August, 2009 at 13:40
could you please send me nina's email address many thanks

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