Chances are you’re not immediately excited when I tell you today I want to introduce you to an embroidery artist. Embroidery? Yes! Don’t worry though, the works you’re about to see have nothing to do with your grandma’s tablecloths ;) Josh is an artist from Melbourne, Australia, who does hand embroidery like you haven’t seen before under his pseudonym Adipocere. His small pieces of art, stitched on natural linen or in some cases his own hand, are minimalistic and intriguing, exploring dark and occult themes. Today Josh will tell you a bit more about his fascination for embroidery, his dark subjects and inspiration in this 20th (!) edition of Spotlight. Enjoy!
Bleaq: Hi! Could you introduce yourself and your work shortly?
Josh: My name is Josh, I’m from Melbourne, Australia, and I’ve been doing hand embroidery since early 2014 under the alias: “adipocere”.
Embroidery has recently transitioned from a hobby status to a more permanent part-time fixture in my schedule. I am currently at a stage where I practically crave it. It has proved to be a good mental release for me, as I unclog silly little designs from my brain. I thoroughly enjoy the process of bringing a thought to life incrementally, as is the nature of hand embroidery.
If you had to tell somebody about your work and are only allowed to show one piece which one would you show and why?
Josh: Generally, I would make them look at one of the embroideries I did into the skin of my hand. It’s the most likely to get a reaction. Positive or negative, it doesn’t really matter to me. Lots of people wouldn’t like it, but I’m sure many would remember it.
I rarely reflect on something that I have created, so it’s interesting to get a response to what feels like something I haven’t properly seen yet.
Embroidery isn’t a technique often considered by temporary artists. Is embroidery something you’ve always been interested in? And would you like to explore other techniques as well?
Josh: It’s definitely not something I’ve always been interested in, but that’s because I hadn’t really seen any embroidery incorporating themes or imagery that interested me. I love receiving messages from people explaining that I’ve opened up a new medium for them. It would be great to see more embroidery amongst all the ink, paint and pencils.
I’m always interested in trying a new medium. I’ve done a bit of Super Sculpey and needle felting in the past, but they were never as lingering.
Thematically your works explores the dark, macabre and symbolism. What’s your fascination with these dark subjects?
Josh: Those are definitely some of the themes that I like looking at and learning about. I find them much more evocative than anything else. There’s a true depth that results via the experimentation of fear and darkness. However, I don’t consciously intend to use any specific theme as a directional constraint.
I don’t take myself too seriously, and I don’t expect my work to be taken seriously. There are often comedic elements in the pieces that I do. Having said that, surrealism and imagination are definitely themes that I hold far higher than technical ability.
You recently did two pieces with your own hand as a canvas. I’m curious to know more about those, I can imagine it isn’t very comfortable to work on your own hand! The use of your own body as a canvas gives the pieces a temporary, almost performance-like feel. Can you share a bit more on these pieces and your reasons behind them?
Josh: I don’t delve too far into meanings personally, I much prefer people to find their own naturally, without mine to skew it. Why certain elements have appeared is often the result of a nonlinear narrative from the original idea or feeling.
Eliza Bennett had famously done an elaborate and more performance style piece, to represent an accompanying statement surrounding feminism. It’s really just a mix of something I’d been curious to try, and always looking for new ways to push the medium.
The actual method is quite simple, performing a “running stitch” only as deep as the epidermis layer of the skin, using a small needle and single strand of cotton thread. There is only a mild irritation, and a slight sting via the isopropyl alcohol used to keep the area sterile. I actually enjoy the sensation, it’s hard to describe but definitely not unpleasant.
What’s the best museum or gallery exhibition you ever been to, and why did you pick this one?
Josh: I’ve never left Australia, so my options are quite limited, but it’s still incredibly hard to choose a favorite. I have a long list of galleries I would like to go to, or have viewed online, but of course it’s not nearly the same.
I really enjoyed visiting MONA in Tasmania, the actual grounds and building itself are both really beautiful. There’s a diverse range of art, which you experience in a transitional story-like wandering.
It was also great to see the original art of Henry Darger in person, having researched his story quite a bit prior, the effect of viewing his various works becomes quite intense.
If you could choose one artist for a collaboration (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Josh: George W. Bush, preferably while he’s alive. Wouldn’t that be neat? We could put our minds together resulting in a new angle on his classic shower and bath self-portraits.
This may sound like a satirical response, but I assure you that it isn’t. It’s not something anyone would expect, and I love being able to present visual notions and imagery that are previously unseen.
I’m not sure I’d be able to collaborate with any of my actual favorite artists, due to the medium gap and general unworthiness. It would be terribly daunting!
With social communities like Instagram, Tumblr and Etsy around it’s almost impossible to not have an internet presence. How important is the internet for you as an artist?
Josh: It has proved to be a priceless networking tool. I’ve been able to reach and connect with so many great people I wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise. It also allows me to maintain anonymity and a level of personal separation that I’m comfortable with. I also use it to keep track of what I’m doing, like a visual diary.
Last but not least: can you recommend a book, movie or artist you’ve enjoyed lately?
Josh: I most certainly can. My favorite film that I enjoy eternally is: The Street of Crocodiles by the Quay Brothers. It’s a short animated film based on a short story by Bruno Schulz. A hand made audiovisual masterpiece!
Stop-motion animation is often the combination and culmination of so many different artistic abilities, I can’t get enough of it!
That’s all for today! Thanks to Josh for sharing some insights on his intriguing work, and thank you all for reading. If you like to see more of Josh’s work or stay up to date with new pieces check out his website and Instagram. Have a nice weekend!