Hannah Gartside often works with items of vintage women’s clothing – particularly underwear and sleepwear – to explore female subjectivity.
Fantasies is an ongoing suite of sculptural works which engages the materiality and embedded memories of these found items to convey both the strangeness of ‘being’ in a body as well as a curiosity for, and delight in, new sensations.
The nightie is an object that has been both eroticised through popular culture since the 1950s, but also attached to the Riot grrl feminist punk movement of the 1990s (by its appropriation by performers such as Courtney Love) and, as such, functions as both a symbol of female agency and a connection back in time.
Fantasies seems to be haunted by all these associations, as well as by the specific bodies that originally wore these specific nighties. The implicated body becomes a phantom, or ghost, contained in the fabric, however – like a ghost that arrives from the past and appears in the present – these works do not really belong to the past, and finds their purpose in the present.
In The Sleepover (pictured), a large-scale suspended sculpture, more than 30 nightgowns and slip dresses have been painstakingly shredded to the waist. Each strip has been threaded through a tiny hole in a panel of synthetic peach fabric. The shredded skirts create columns/portals of colour which are disrupted and dissolve into one another as the viewer walks through the sculpture, their face caressed by lace hems.