Banner Image: 'A Pocketful of Posies', 2021, Rowan Riley. A small polaroid photo containing a close up of different coloured fabric fibres.

Lastest Shape collaboration: Rowan was one of our Shape Open 2021 artist's with her work 'A Pocketful of Posies'.

Artist Statement: Rowan Riley is an artist and embroiderer based in southwest London. Rowan graduated with distinction from the MA Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2020, and their final work Legs was shown at the Saatchi Gallery and shortlisted for the Innovative Use of Materials Cass Art Prize.

Rowan’s roots are in contemporary dance and began developing an art practice in the final year of training at Trinity Laban exploring the role of skin as a surface of expression.

Rowan’s sewn work explores bodies, illness, and how the experience of living in one’s own body is simultaneously universal and deeply personal. Their practice investigates how interior bodily experience can be communicated via exterior presentation, with skin masking internal truth, inner workings and failings while providing its encapsulating protective function. Rowan is especially interested in how bodies seem to have a language not easily accessed or understood- particularly evident when health fails, or functioning is limited by illness or injury.

It is important to Rowan for the viewer to consider their work carefully. Details are often not immediately visible, obscured on a far side or between a fold requiring time to be spent with the work. Use of symbols, ambiguous text, and pattern prompt questioning, and artwork is intended to be more universally applicable than that which spells out its theme. Text is a constituent feature of Rowan’s work, and stitched sayings, phrases, swearing and wordplay are provided as food for thought, sometimes in a provocative manner in contrast with the medium. Words also provide the way into making a work, often from an arbitrary source, even the names given to shades of B&Q emulsion.

Rowan’s work is a mixture of precise stitching and a low-fi analogue, unpolished finish. It is key for Rowan to ‘show the working’ -and even the interior of a structure- than for the work to be neatly concluded. Rowan employs textural technical stitches which sit proud of the surface inviting – but not allowing – a tactile interaction. The stitches are manipulated in a way that they are classically “wrong” but form more interesting, alien shapes.

A portrait polaroid image containing a close up of different coloured fabric fibres.

'A Pocketful of Posies', 2021, Rowan Riley

Check out Rowan Riley's Instagram             See all the artists we work with