Originally from Zimbabwe, Thurle Wright studied and taught modern languages and literature in Australia and the UK before specialising in visual art. Starting with the look of text on a page and the feel of the paper, Thurle cuts, folds, weaves and stitches lines of words into a new visual format, always related to the sense of the text.
Book, words ?
I work with books: textbooks, novels, maps, catalogues, dictionaries etc; anything that carries and conveys information really. I am fascinated by language and how we use it to store and convey information. How we carry language with us and it becomes part of who we are. Suppose it is my own interpretation of the ‘personality’ of language I try to convey when I cut, fold, stitch and weave with pages from books.
I started out as a teacher, teaching English literature, French and German. But have always had ‘making’ in my blood and so quite late I went back to college and did a Fine Art Textiles degree at Goldsmiths. Think I expected to change direction completely and work with colour and texture, however I found that what came out was my love of words and language and an awareness of the process of being taught again, of how we learn and make connections. I couldn’t afford expensive materials and wanted to have a ‘portable’ practice so I reached for whatever came to hand and experimented; uni handouts, flyers, textbooks, old novels I’d loved, books I loved the look of but could never even begin to understand, anything on paper from which I could sense some sort of history.
Books (text, word, image) are so loaded with meaning on multiple levels. My options for experimenting with this seem never ending and fascinating. Some works are quite playful, others attempt something deeper. I love to work with open-ended writing and research in science and philosophy where writers are striving to find solutions and make connections. Not pretending to understand it myself, I love that anyone who interacts with the work will bring their own experience of language to the work and relate to it on many different levels. I love gaps in knowledge, spaces between words, new ways to arrange words, new interpretations. I like messing around with the black and white of words; finding shades of grey. More recently I have included objects in my work; small stones, acorns, cups; everyday items as common as the words we use.
Book vs Shape ?
People often ask what comes first; the book or the shape? It is both. Sometimes I find a book that cries out for a certain shape/pattern. Sometimes, while cutting or folding paper I will stumble across a beautiful shape which I will keep until I find the right context to use it. I never just make patterns for the sake of it. There has to be a connection between the form of language and the visual form.
Since moving out of the city I find I am more influenced by landscape than before, though there is still always a strong connection with language. Sometimes I see landscape as text; the stones on the beach, the layers in the cliffs, the undulating sea. Sometimes I wonder if its all a bit confused in there and I should go back and do further study? For now I am happy experimenting and just seeing what comes out. We will see. It would be good to find time to read more. Hey ho.
Yes, there is definitely a meditative aspect to the work, as with anything repetitive. There is probably an element of madness in it too, or of needing to keep sane. It is getting the idea that is the hard bit; once the work is in process it is safe and all-consuming. Knowing when to stop is tricky.
Creative quarter ?
I moved to Folkestone 6 years ago. To begin with I found it hard to leave my London studio and I used to commute backwards and forwards but I have gradually let go, and finally took a studio in the creative quarter two years ago. It is a great privilege to have such an affordable, (warm, light!) space near home and the sea and in the heart of a growing creative community. Long may it continue!
A hidden place in Folkestone: Marrins’ Bookshop on Sandgate Road; a wonderfully eclectic antiquarian/secondhand bookshop where you have to walk sideways to get through the piles of books and you can smell the history!
Best walk: The Warren, not so hidden to locals, but a wonderfully wild part of the coast I walk to sometimes when I need to think, or collect sea-glass. Some people find fossils, though I have yet to. Planning a work with a lovely book I read as a child called ‘Mary Anning’s Treasure’
Best shopping place: The Pilgrims Hospice Charity shop; where I have found many a treasure, along with the many other good charity shops here.
Best kids activity: Block 67, a community workshop space where, every second Saturday, you can find fabulous free workshops run by local artists for kids and their families.
Best gallery: The Sassoon Gallery, a Victorian gem of a space above our local library, built specifically as a gallery, with high ceilings and huge sash windows overlooking the cliffs. It is quiet and non-commercial and you never know what you will find on show. It could be our own little Tate Britain if they let it remain…..