Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Prior to milk and bread

Mariss Stevens' Containment series caught my eye on Instagram. The series is a set of quilted images created over the past weeks. Her latest blogpost, On Containment (22nd May 2020), describes the process from conception to finish, including a definition of 'containment' as holding (holding back) and 'restraint'.

"The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one's self", the poet Ilya Kaminsky recently (14th May 2020) quoted Stravinsky speaking about musical composition, on Twitter - "And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision."

In Mariss' series, vases contain and constrain flowers, which are pulled into captivity by the mouths of vessels, thence to fountain out their blossoms the more -

Containment #3
Containment #7
 Tree trunks operate similarly.

Containment #1
The constraints of format and resources, in this series, expands in the fifth work - not only to flip the orientation of of the work from portrait to landscape, but also beyond inward - house and garden - motifs, to reach quite literally for the moon.

Containment #5
Mariss judges the connection between it and the theme to be "nebulous", but I question that judgment. The series consists of eight works - the number which, flipped sideways, represents infinity in mathematics; and the one that in the arcane realm symbolises balance between heaven and earth. Five is understood to bring chaos and conflict, but also transformation and change.

Mariss' moon in this series is pregnant with the potency of the time-piece, which that heavenly body is, in relation to the earth: determining our calendar, the tides and feminine cycles. The exquisite fabricated image, contained upon the background in its frame and constrained by its position in the series overall, reflects an undertow of truth, which penetrates the boundaries of the lockdown in utter peace.

'Time as a task' during quarantine has recently been found by Parul Seghal - in an essay entitled In Search of Time Lost and Newly Found (19th May 2020) - to be a slippery and bewildering challenge; but these little textile works demonstrate the power of working with time, working within its natural limits. The crafter-artist flowers again and again inside her hours and her works are pollen grains, or little moons, from the hands of her soul.

All our days are numbered, that is to say: limited, but each day contains its own potential. I pondered the practicalities of this mystery in a pollen grain of my own, a blogpost from about a year ago, entitled Time as an organic fact (14th May, 2019).

Time can be felt as "a natural sequence of moments blossoming their opportunities", I wrote, and I still agree with me about this. Too fine a plan or regimen will scorch them; take no action and they will drown.

The hours we are given are our nourishment prior to milk and bread. Eat, drink, enjoy!

I thank Mariss Stevens for allowing me to use images of her works for this post. To see the full set, including the mesmerising process of how she created the moon, as well as the surprise coup of the eighth work, click The Containment series.

- Silke Heiss, 27th May 2020


  1. Thank you for all you have seen and said about some of my textile works in the Containment series