Ghosts In The Machine is the third solo presentation of China Marks’ work at Owen James Gallery.
A prolific artist, Marks continues to blaze her unique aesthetic path through a combination of textile collage, machine and digital embroidery, and witty texts that imbue her narrative works with poignant humor. Though most often considered as collage, her work can simultaneously be considered assemblage or illustration, with strong visual ties to traditional animation as well.
At the heart of China Mark's process is a vast collection of textile fragments. These range from the beautifully delicate to the cartoonishly absurd, from Dutch-wax African designs to those of pastoral toile. The characters in each work are hybrid: sometimes they rely on the native imagery of their source material, and at other times they are almost sculptural bodies molded with embroidery accents.
The pieces selected for this exhibition focus on Marks’ more intimate, smaller-scaled works. The “short subject” series allows the artist freedom to pare down her complex constructions, focusing on a single scene, or interaction between her fantastical characters. As with her larger, tapestry-based works, the small “drawings” are rich in detail. A beautiful melange of fragments are molded into exotic tableaux that are brought into balance through dense stitching and adroit placements.
No matter the scale, the work of China Marks cannot be viewed all at once. Each scene is it’s own world, dense with the artist’s touch: decisions, additions and subtractions. Indeed, the narratives one observes are only part of the story, as these hand-worked traces vie for our attention.
Each story is full of the emotions and contradictions we all face: desire vs. despair, belonging vs. loneliness, confusion and absolutism. In this way, the wild, expansive universe of China Marks remains eerily familiar.