Sheila Hicks at the Hayward Gallery

Published on : Friday, February 27, 2015

P1050484During a successful career spanning five decades, Sheila Hicks has become synonymous with colourful and playful textile interventions that delight and subvert in equal measure.


The heart of the exhibition is Hicks’s site-specific sculptural response to artist Dan Graham’s Waterloo Sunset Pavilion (2002–03) atop the Hayward’s roof. Titled Sunset Pavilion Inhabited (2015), Hicks’s piece consists of huge bundles of loose fibre in turquoises, blues, oranges, reds and yellows, piled up and held together by plastic netting. Offering an opportunity to lounge in Graham’s Pavilion, the work presents a welcome organic contrast to the slick glass and steel structure.


Hicks’s chromatic inspiration stems from her study of Bauhaus colour theory while at Yale, and it is no surprise to learn that the famous abstract colourist Josef Albers was one of her tutors. Her signature textile bundles, Nomad Treasure Bales (2014–15), are a kaleidoscope of colour. These tightly-wound flattened spheres of thread have an immense energy and vibrancy about them, and the tension of coiled springs. Their joyous palette recalls folk art, while formally they resemble laundry bales or the bundles of possessions suggested by the title. Apparently each contains a ‘treasure’ – a small memento from her travels – at its centre, lending them a totemic or fetishistic quality. But they also recall organic forms such as eggs, chrysalises or fungi, poised to release offspring or spores.

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