The textile artist is exploring public land rights, our relationship with the countryside and the issue of access through hand-stitching, banners and embroideries. For Something in Common, Fox has produced a brand new Lakeland Arts commission, having collaborated with actress Maxine Peake, banner maker Ed Hall, print manufacturer Alexander Maverick and jewellery maker Steve Martindale.
James Fox’s practice largely centres around land rights, but also gender roles, the pressures of a capitalist society and consumer culture, and perhaps most personally, the need to alter our expectations throughout life. He is currently completing a PhD at the University of Lancaster exploring craft as a form of protest.
In fact, our relationship to the land and to nature as a whole is a recurring subject in the philosophy of the Arts and Crafts Movement which Fox refers to throughout the show, both in his interest in nature and access to it as the subject matter, as well as the chosen technique of hand stitching, honouring the age old tradition.
For the display at Blackwell Arts and Crafts House, the artist focused on one geographical area in particular near his home in Lancashire, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Having looked into the history of the land, to his surprise Fox found that the distinctive rural landscape had been changed “from natural woodland to royal forest, to common land, to industrial use profiting from slavery” to eventually end up as an enclosed area where the land is constantly drained and burned in order to maximise profit.
The newly commissioned work will be displayed alongside key landscape paintings from the collection including artists such as Ben Nicholson, Sheila Fell and L S Lowry, while also spotlighting key moments in the history of land rights such as the Mass Trespasses on Kinder Scout. The commission is part of Blackwell’s ‘Year of Protest’ programme, featuring artists who use craft as a form of tool for social change and revolt.
The exhibition is free with house admission.