Updated: Feb 14
In my perennial quest for finding suitable barghello subjects, I found myself inextricably drawn to the monumental behemoths, which are your average Brutalist building. The concept of Brutalism both does, and doesn’t, appeal to me; if I'm being honest, I am more your medieval-tapestry kind of gal. However, you’ve gotta be able to hang that tapestry somewhere; and for the origins of Brutalism, we need look no further than our megalomaniac forebears of yesteryear - and their modern-day descendants; whilst not in blood, most certainly in spirit.
Since most of us are used to concrete, and the lack of breakability of such edifices by now, in our urban environment, we most of us tend to walk past them without so much as a glance, as though we have somehow forgotten that they are there. After all, they are just another ugly building (the London Barbican being one of the biggest, brownest, blotter-outers of sunlight ever), built solely for utilitarian purposes, and their minutiae - what there are of them - have become lost within our general field of vision, and largely absent from our consciousness, as we are too busy processing our own daily lives and rushing to wherever we need to get to next, rather than that of some building which we may never get to enter, and whose meaning can be so easily lost on us.
Brutalist buildings are the castles of the modern age. They are there to keep their lordships, serfs, and prisoners (the last two, pretty much interchangeable) in - and the general public, out; except on show days, or by appointment, or for reasons of transaction, only. In their bare, concrete form, none of them do much for my personal aesthetic sensibilities, either inside or out; for a fan of glorious Technicolour such as myself, they are as churches without wall paintings, Ravenna without its mosaics; they are simply something that was decided to be put there by somebody who felt they were important, had more money than sense, and wanted to underline their lack of imagination and probable monstrosity of personality, by foisting upon us a building that was equally monstrous, for as long as was tolerable, before someone decided to blow it to smithereens, and build something altogether more edifying in its place. This sort of thing usually happens after about half a century, as concrete doesn’t age well, and newer-generation building materials of glass, plastic, metal, composites and whatever else you like have been ushered onto the originally, comparatively plateau-like London skyline so rapidly in the last 20 years, that there is scarcely a gap in the skyline from the West London M4 interchange, to Essex, in a clear mission to make London the Skyscraper Capital of the World; though these glass and metal playthings are probably in the long run, no less rickety than their previous counterparts, and more than a tad scandalous, in view of the housing shortage.
Then again – looking at the subject from an altogether different, aesthetic, even opposite perspective, for which, of course, it is necessary to suspend all notions of practicality - indeed, throw them out of the window - it became clear to me, that the exploitation of certain camera angles of these buildings' various elevations were sufficiently, and surprisingly thought-provoking, that perhaps a silk purse could, indeed, be made out of a sow's ear. It soon became clear to me, that their forms could serve as a springboard to the production of some more appealing form of Art. To cite an example: The Geisel Library fascinated me. It was a form waiting to be unleashed to its full potential, and exploited through the use of colour. As were some of the Germanic, modernistic churches of Neviges or Wotruba; or the distinctive forms of the former Yugoslavian war memorials, depressing and bloody though their original associations may have been, and which, to be frank, I don't even want to think about. Celebration of war, or death, does nothing for me; it's time to take the metaphorical spray paint to these concoctions, and give them some different attributes, call them something else.
At the time of selecting images of Brutalist buildings to work from, I was also investigating Vorticism, an influential early 20th-century painting and graphic arts movement, characterized by a distinct manner of exaggerated proportions, strong cursive lines and an experimental and accentuating colour palette. It’s clear as daylight to any observer that this movement was the precursor of modern graffiti, and that its influence was far-reaching throughout more of Europe than it was given credit for. As in: screamingly obvious, to some degree in early experimental Picasso paintings (Les Demoiselles…?); as in: prominently rubbing shoulders with the Art Deco movement; and as in: thankfully having absolutely nothing in common with, the absolute, sheer, utter boringness of the vacuously simple, overrated Dada and Bauhaus movements.
Wyndham Lewis and Edward Wadsworth were key figures in Vorticism, and the latter was responsible for the WWI “Dazzle” camouflage technique of painting naval destroyers, in order to make them less visible to hostile craft (gah - yet another reference to war!) . Whilst the jury’s still out as to whether this technique worked successfully or not, I thought it would be interesting to apply a similar technique to some land-based edifice that was similarly hulking – to see whether I could indeed improve its appearance somewhat (ha!) and also, to see whether I could push the boundaries of my own colour palette (which has tended to revolve mainly around rainbow hues coupled with extremes of black and white, rather than the several, and many shades inbetween - for example, plum, ochre, and khaki, which I would never, in a million years, usually have touched with a bargepole). And of course, I would interpret everything entirely within the context of barghello embroidery design, this being just one of my chosen, and much-loved, professions.
The result, so far - there is more to come - is a set of 10 stitch patterns, made from images of various Brutalist buildings, around the world. The project is not over yet; 10 more designs are planned for later on this year. The already completed designs are available at my Etsy shop here, as downloadable charts: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/barghelloqueen .
The designs are for die-hard cross stitch and barghello fans, and since I appreciate that the designs are freeform in some areas, especially where only single stitches are used in a scatter pattern, they are, to some degree, open to the stitcher's interpretation, since I am almost never proscriptive where Art is concerned.
A word of warning: these designs are composed of many tens of thousands of stitches, so I would recommend working on them in groups of many people, if this can be done. A full list of colours comes with each design, based on DMC current colours, and these are listed in turn from most used, to least used. No canvas or threads are included in the package, I'm afraid – but at the same time, this does give embroidery diehards the opportunity to flex their muscles, and to accommodate their artwork to the space for which it is ultimately intended!
I am also currently working on designs for my more popular embroidery portraits of famous personages, and various other exciting pieces; so, keep watching this space, and don’t go away anytime soon!
Barghelloqueen's Etsy store is at https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/barghelloqueen
You can view more of Christina Crimari’s (Barghelloqueen) designs here at https://www.crimari.com/brutalist