A Common Thread: Harriet McKay


Award-winning Canberra-based textile artist Harriet McKay layers naturally-dyed felt, calico and raw canvas to create fibrous collages in her new exhibition, ‘A Common Thread’, alongside Adelaide-based ceramic artist Sam Gold. Like many people, 2020 has been a tough year for McKay and Gold. Although separated by distance, creating the work for their exhibition has provided a calm space to navigate through it together. This feeling of serenity and partnership is palpable as you enter the gallery. While the works themselves are different and distinct, there is a harmony and rhythm to the display that speaks to the collaborative and meditative process each artist has employed.

Through a process of play, the interaction of different materials and the practice of repetitive trial and error, McKay’s works are arranged, ordered, and moulded the same way a painter pulls and pushes the paint around the space of a canvas. Mckay made the works slowly in her garden at home. The soft tactility of the felt brought memories of the grace and warmth of her grandmother. The delightful kitten she adopted during isolation provided inspiration for a small work, carrying an atmospheric, calming quality.

In times of hardship, one can find solace in performing repetitive actions to keep the mind busy and create a sense of calm. The work in ‘A Common Thread’ explores this connection to material and in turn the way this connects us as humans.

Although visitors cannot physically visit the gallery, the exhibition can be enjoyed online on the Craft ACT website and social media platforms. A beautiful online catalogue features essays, artist reflections and biographies, photographs and a complete list of works. Most of the works in the exhibition are available for purchase, and artist interviews and video tours simulate the gallery experience.

Image: Harriet McKay, Sleepwalker, 2020. Ink on canvas with felt. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.