Lucie Feighan’s embroideries are informed by extensive research on the tradition of ‘Nushu’. An ancient, coded writing system from tenth-century Jiangyong County, China, it was written by women to communicate secretly with other women. Their unique script emerged from the embroidery rooms where they worked together making lotus shoes for bound feet.
Versed with this tactile language, Lucie began her own explorations to create a private code that conveyed the essence of her emotions, sensations and reflections. What emerged were rhythmic ink compositions. She calls them ‘Mark Poems’, contemplative studies which are created early morning in silence. Each collection is a devotional communication to a significant individual in her life, living or dead. The ‘Mark Poems’ are touch memorials, to record, remember and embody the encounters which formed that relationship over time.
Each artwork takes a year to make. Feighan first undertakes a large series of ink drawings. These compositions are then translated into embroidery by undertaking diverse stitch treatment samples. Once the optimum stitch variations have been achieved, months are spent placing the embroideries and refining the colour scheme. The base material, be it silk or leather, is first printed then over embroidered. The smaller pieces contain tens of thousands of stitches and the larger pieces hundreds of thousands.
In September 1982, I attended the funeral service of a college friend. The priest didn’t know her but eulogized her nonetheless in clichés, glancing at his watch before hurrying on with the Mass. The absence of authentic human feeling in her commemoration upset me and drove me to express my own grief at her death. That night I wrote a poem, the first of many on loss, life and relationships.
Soon, however, I grew frustrated by the abstraction of language; there seemed to be an essential unexpressed element about the poems. I returned to art, to mark making. Then, while researching for a body of work, I came across an article on Nushu. A coded ancient writing system, from 10th-century China, it was written by illiterate women to communicate secretly with other women. These illustrated and embroidered messages conveyed pain, despair, desire and love; it was their way of telling stories both personal and mythical.
Informed by this tactile language I began my own explorations to create a private code that conveyed the essence of my emotions, sensations and reflections. What emerged were rhythmic ink compositions. I call them ‘Mark Poems’, contemplative studies which I create early morning in silence. Each multi-media collection is a devotional communication to a significant individual in my life, living or dead. The ‘Mark Poems’ are touch memorials, to record, remember, and embody the encounters that formed that relationship over time.