Finding The Thread is the latest exhibition at Lewes’ Star Brewery Gallery.

Running from October 2-18, it features the work of Heather Chamberlain, who has been based in Lewes for the last 11 years.

Friday, 2nd October 2020, 7:30 am
Heather Chamberlain
Heather Chamberlain

“My artworks mark a passage in two stages,” she explains, “first from an unknown and hidden history to its eruption and discovery, and then through an unravelling of its unconscious significance to its transformation into something new. Within my English upbringing a cloud of secrecy had blocked all knowledge of my Armenian family identity until at 18, just as I was leaving for the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs in Paris, my grandfather slipped me the phone number of his sister Araxie who lived there.

“I found I had an extensive family which had enjoyed considerable prosperity internationally in the cotton trade. There had been branches all over the world until it had all dwindled away in the hands of my grandfather’s generation, leaving many of the dependents penniless.

“The cotton trade had shifted to India, but I wonder about the impact of the Armenian genocide in 1915 which was never mentioned in my family and which remains largely unrecognised internationally. In England the family name of Iplicjian was erased and replaced. Only a year after my discovery of these vital bits and pieces my father in turn lost everything and I left Paris. Decades later, following my own financial collapse and near death, I was rescued by another Armenian aunt who miraculously reappeared out of the blue after a 35-year absence. She gave me the chance to escape from this destiny. Her words ‘If you have so little time left you had better spend it doing what you want to do!’ started that process.

“I underwent a long psychoanalysis (Lacanian) and training, the last four years back in Paris. The unconscious effects of my Armenian family history began to emerge. I had always produced occasional artworks, but following that analysis and moving to Lewes I suddenly started using cotton as medium and in a completely new way. It was quite compulsive. I made piece after piece, signing them with the name Iplicjian but still only half knowing why. Once more it was a chance encounter that produced the answer, this time with a Turkish speaker. I discovered that the family name had been mistranslated in the family tree and that the correct translation into English of Iplic was actually cotton!

“Cotton is the body of my work. The artworks are all made with cotton fabric, adhesive and acrylic paint. The multiple threads that make up my story are woven into the collection of art works that represent them in this exhibition.”

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