Exhibition 56 – Soraya Smithson

Title: Flags, notice boards, quilts and the power of Symbols.

Soraya Smithson is a multi-disciplinary artist with a studio 2.6 miles from the Notice Board and Flag Pole. She is a member of Leicester Print Workshop and uses a council run ceramic studio also in Leicester. Her work led by ideas; first the what, then the how, then the why.
Art is all about colours and symbols. Whilst researching the suffrage movement for a commission in 2018 I was struck by the power of repeated colours to convey a message. From this my mind turned to the use of fabric, colour and pattern in propaganda. And from there to banners as spaces of protest and then to the interlocking pattern blocks in quilts that were used as subversive message bearers during the American Civil War.
So when I was offered a flag pole on which to display a flag, that was my starting point. From my initial thoughts on the meanings of fabric, symbols and colour I came up with a design for a flag with 18 variants, and also a mini-quilt made from the scraps of these flags. I wanted to explore the strong iconography of flags themselves, the Venus symbol representing female gender, and the evocation of a particular colour combination, green white and violet, using fabric, print and sewing.
Humankind are pareidolic animals – they perceive, analyse and interpret patterns.  Signs and symbols surround us. Signs give information or instruction, symbols represent something, something that might need context to understand. All symbols, colours and shapes come with historical meanings that are ever evolving and changing in meaning and uses. This constant shifting, via adoption, reappropriation, re-assignment and re-framing, makes fixed understanding and interpretation complicated.
Neither the colours of The Women’s Suffrage and Political Union nor the female gender symbol have been immune from appropriation to new causes to mean something other than originally intended.
The flags are screen-printed on Cotton Percale and then hand edged. The quilt is made up of six handsewn blocks.