Chilean artist Juana Gómez uses weaving and embroidery to explore themes of genealogy, mythology and biology in her own female lineage. Juana Gómez: Distaff is at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, until 22 December.
Juana Gómez’s hand-embroidered photographic canvases combine the spheres of scientific exploration with ancestral tradition.
Weaving complex scientific and mythological patterns on to images of both her own and her daughters’ bodies, her work is interested in placing mankind within a broader context of interconnectivity.
Rather than seeing us as individuals, detached from one another and the world around us, Gómez positions us as part of an ancient chain that goes back to the origin of life: a combination of patterns, molecules and small organisms.
Images of Gómez and her daughters populate the exhibition, along with the hands of four generations of their female line.
The word ‘distaff’ defines both the matrilineal branch of a family, and also the ‘domestic life’, describing a tool that bears the same name used for manually spinning fleece.
Both meanings are relevant to Gómez’s work … an art form customarily inherited through the matriarchal line, spinning or weaving was traditionally passed from mother to daughter.
The embroidery encompassing their bodies creates a link between them that is both physical and symbolic, telling of blood ties and the passing of time.
Her daughters are embroidered with extraordinary labyrinths of nervous systems, silver threaded organs, bacteria, and the symbols found on traditional Latin American textiles.
Folklore and myth have an evident influence on the artist’s iconography, as exemplified in the tattooed crow on her hand, highlighted in black thread on one of the works in the exhibition. Crows are representative in certain cultures of ancestral memories, are linked to death, and were also known to possess the gift of vision.
Unified in tissues and cells, by their heritage, by the air they breathe and the blood that passes just a few millimetres below the skin, Gómez highlights the unseen elements that unite generations. All words from Carolina Castro’s curatorial text for the exhibition.