Interview, The Talent

Artist review: Marion Michell

Oct 12th, 2012



‘LR’s Girl’, an artwork by artist Marion Michell, is an exquisitely crocheted blue dress that looks perfect for a favourite doll. It is not until one looks again that it becomes apparent that this is a dress for a tiny figure with only one arm.


There is a similar superficial ‘cuteness’ in much of Marion’s work that gives way upon closer inspection to a realization that the beautifully crafted garments that she creates could not possibly make sense for a ‘normal’ body. Far from becoming a sartorial freak-show these tiny outfits not only evoke the bodies and characters of the wearers, but also elicit an imagining of what it might be like to be that inhabiting body. It is through these empathetic sensations that Marion creates a physical sense of emotions and memories and gives visible shape to the universally familiar awkwardness of growing up and being encumbered by our own ever-changing mass. ‘Growing Pains’ (2011), a pair of crochet works, illustrate the horror of puberty’s protrusions and the impossibly thin torso of another blue crocheted dress, ‘Not filth, not hair’ (2008), looks exactly like the adolescent desperation to blend in, unnoticed.


This interrogation of the relationship between feeling and physicality is one that has become particularly acute for Marion since she became ill with M.E. The debilitating disease sometimes causes Marion to become so exhausted that, she says, her “hands no longer feel as though they have fingers, just fields of pain”. There are no obvious signifiers of the disease and Marion’s work is also a way to describe this disjuncture between her own physical feeling and visible appearance.


Crochet does not fall easily into a fine art category and it is because of the M.E. that Marion works this medium, having studied, and previously worked, with video. More so than drawing, painting or even knitting, crochet is the way of making that Marion finds to be the least physically demanding and it is also something that it is possible for her to do while she is lying on her back, a position that she is forced to take for most hours of the day. Marion talks about her work as being akin to paintings, presenting them framed, flat against the wall but despite the necessity of circumstance crochet feels like a remarkably appropriate medium, suggesting as it does the vague familiarity of something bygone.


In her blog Marion asks “Is it strange to feel affection for your creations?” and it is true that each of her pieces has its own jaunty personality, not unlike a figure from the fairy tales that Marion is inspired by, stories, which like this work, may be superficially child-like but are certainly not child-ish. A series of ‘hairpieces’ which Marion has called ‘Five Perfect Maidens’ consists of five small dresses crocheted out of artificial human hair, inspired by the Brothers Grimm tale of ‘All-kinds-of-fur’ in which a beautiful Princess sets her father the challenge of presenting her with a cloak made from the fur of every species of animal in his kingdom in an attempt to delay their imminent incestuous marriage. These small dresses refer not only to this fantastical tale but also the pressures that contemporary women are under to remain looking like children, removing their hair and remaining as small, or slim, as they can.


Marion weaves a terrific sense of humanity and humour into her crochet, which manages to relate both to her own specific situation and to more universal concerns. In her blog Marion writes incredibly honestly and generously about her experiences of M.E. and it is possible to get a sense of how important making art is in her struggle with illness which serves as a reminder that the best art is exactly that; a deeply human exploration into, and attempt to make sense of, the life that we all are living.


Image credits:


_Materials: crocheted from JaggerSpun Zephyr Wool-Silk, hung from
mattress needle_
_Dimensions: 61 cm x 90 cm_

2. ACROBAT (2010)
_Material: crocheted from zephyr wool-silk_
_Dimensions: 29 cm x 69 cm _

_Materials: crocheted from artificial hair; double-pointed knitting
needles, twigs, wire_
_Dimensions: each dress between around 20 - 25 cm wide and 25 - 30 cm
high _

_Materials: crocheted from combined viscose and woollen embroidery
_Dimensions: 19 x 29.5 cm and 18.5 x 31 cm___

_Dimensions: 25 cm x 50 cm and 24.5 cm x 44 cm_
_Materials: crocheted from a virgin wool/polyester mixture

6. LR’S GIRL (2012)
_Materials: hand-me-down wool/polyester mixture _
_Dimensions: 41 cm x 31 cm_
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