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Materials Speak Dharma Taylor

25 Jan-26 Apr 2024

An exhibition of works by Dharma Taylor, exploring personal memory and narrative building through objects, with a particular focus on textiles.

Opening: Thursday 25 January 2024, 5:30pm – 7:30pm

Materials Speak is a personal exploration of memory and narrative of objects, with a particular focus on textiles. Designer Dharma Taylor was the Stuart Hall Library Artist-in-Residence, from May to July 2023. Departing from Stuart Hall’s text, ‘Constituting an Archive’ (2001), Dharma investigated the potential meaning for a ‘living archive’, and the role that objects play in our daily lives. Through the residency, Dharma further explored the history of tapestry and how textiles have been used by diasporic communities in fashion, design and architecture to build identity and belonging in new places. 

Woodgrain (2023), the central artwork in this exhibition, takes its inspiration from a vivid memory of the opening of a shipping container. The container consisted of objects belonging to  Dharma’s parents from an extensive visit to Barbados. Unfurled, the folds in the shipping container created a series of geometric shapes that formed the basis for her design. Dharma describes the arrival and unpacking of a shipping container as an act of transitioning through  the intricacies and shapes within the wood-grain. The work reflects upon notions of migration, home and returning, while interweaving these early memories within her design. 

Building upon tapestry traditions, Dharma unveils how textiles serve as ornamental elements as well as tools for expressing identity and fostering a sense of belonging in unfamiliar territories. Materials Speak invites you to reflect on how objects, instrumental in the formation of diasporic identities, can serve as conduits for cultural preservation and resilience, becoming carriers of cultural heritage and a testament of shared experiences.

About the artist

Dharma Taylor is a multidisciplinary designer and maker with a background specialising in menswear and textiles. She graduated from Rochester University for the creative arts with a BA in Fashion Design and the London College of Fashion with an MA in Menswear. She has developed her practice and explored working with new material, Dharma’s way of combining textiles with woodwork produces works of great beauty and deceptive simplicity.  Over the past few years through research-based projects, she has sought to observe aspects of the society and systems in which we exist. Inspired by diverse sources, from technology and poetry to ancient civilisations and cultural plurality. 

As an artist of dual heritage, she draws on her Caribbean and European lineage, creating work that allows her to explore her position within the Diaspora and contemporary British society. This perspective has long been the impetus behind her narrative-rich, design-driven, art methodology for making new work.  Since graduating she has worked on various artistic projects; they’ve been shown by a variety of national and international organisations and galleries including the Benaki Museum in Athens, the V&A and Tate Britain. She is currently a Lecturer in Fashion and Textiles at Central Saint Martins and splits her time between teaching and developing her practice. In an exciting development from her use of textiles, Dharma has approached working with wood in an organic way expressed through careful observation and respect of the natural material, paired with traditional carpentry techniques. The woodwork pieces are crafted in memory of her great-grandfather tapping into the carpentry world that he had a passion for.  

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