Artists' Artists: Vicky Wright

Nicolas de Larmessin II, Habit de la lingère (The Seamstress’s Attire), 1695

Nicolas de Larmessin II, Habit de la lingère (The Seamstress’s Attire) from the series ‘Les Costumes Grotesques et les métiers’ (Fanciful Costumes and the Trades), 1695

With apologies to Heinrich von Kleist.

Trapped inside the costume of her occupation, the seamstress’s body is merely the operator: at once the centre of gravity and the prisoner of her work. She both is, and is not, this external shell. Her labours become a dance of gestures that turn into demonstrations of technical agility: the movement of her fingers conforms to the rhythms of the trade itself. As both puppet master and puppet, she weaves her patterns and is worn by them. Her limbs extend into the fragments of the dress. A man’s shirt sleeve below, some raw fabric, at her torso a set of drawers, each labelled with the material contained within: ‘D. de Flandre’ is short for Dentelle de Flandre or Lace from Flanders, the paraphernalia of the dressmaker.

Although she is part composed of inert things, she is not afflicted by the inactivity of matter: the dead weight of the pendulum becomes the swinging articulation of her limbs. Yet, the table reveals her fatigue. She must have it to repose on and recover from the effort of her dance, but her resting elbow clearly has no part in her mechanical choreography. The best she can do is make it as inconspicuous as possible.

Here, vulgar industry drives inanimate matter towards the graceful movement of the puppet who, in Kleist’s ‘On the Marionette Theatre’ (1810), was used to explore concepts of indivisibility between subject and object – arcing back to a prelapsarian innocence, where two points of this circular world meet.

Main image: Nicolas de Larmessin, II Habit de la lingère (The Seamstress’s Attire, detail), from the series ‘Les Costumes grotesques et les métiers’ (Fanciful Costumes and the Trades) 1695, prints. Courtesy: Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris, and Michel Hennin Collection

Vicky Wright lives in London, UK. In early 2017, she had a solo show at Josh Lilley, London. 

Issue 6

First published in Issue 6

October 2017

Most Read

A year marked by new visualizations, both controversial and celebrated, of the black body
The Courtauld Gallery, London, UK
Openings at the new ICA, The Bass and PAMM played out against a backdrop of geographic uncanniness and atmospheric...
With the recent razing of suburban slums, tightening censorship and the sad passing of Geng Jianyi, a year of...
Nicholas Mangan, Ancient Lights (detail), 2015, two-screen installation, solar panels, batteries, projectors powered by solar energy, dimensions variable. Courtesy: the artist, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne, Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland and Labor, Mexico
At once stagnant and dynamic, politically tense and blissfully buoyant, the French capital was a strange place to be...
From victims of Hurricane Harvey to the music of Roger Waters, 2017 has been full of renewed debate around support for...
In further news: MOCA Detroit suspends Jens Hoffmann after harassment allegations; Met refuses to remove ‘suggestive’...
‘Conflicts of interest’ may have cost Beatrix Ruf her Stedelijk job but the problem doesn’t just lie with individuals...
Her work animates the consequences of our colonial history and the construction of identity politics: in a divided...
France's President Emmanuel Macron meets Burkina Faso's President Roch Marc Christian Kabore at the Presidential Palace in Burkina Faso on November 28, 2017. Courtesy: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images
The French President’s recent comments hint at a dubious politics: using art restitution as a stopgap to France’s...
More from today’s Briefing: protesting Raghubir Singh; documenta artists defend exhibition (again); Enrico Castellani (...
Tiffany and Co., Sterling Silver Paper Cup, 2017, from the ‘Everyday Objects’ collection. Courtesy: Tiffany and Co., New York
Tiffany & Co.’s new range of gift objects and the shifting meaning of the ‘everyday’
From Hannah Black to Not Surprised, the changes demanded by today’s letter writers are still a long way from being...
Johan Grimonprez, Shadow World, 2016, film still. Courtesy: the artist, Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, Flatland Gallery, Amsterdam, Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Simi Valley, Louverture Films, Dillywood and Shadow World inc., New York
Johan Grimonprez’s recent films explore the mechanisms of the arms trade
A pivot to glass by the sculptor shows an attempt to see hope through political disillusionment
In further news: initiative for museum staff diversity; Gwangju Biennale's 2018 curators; Jens Hoffmann clarifies Front...
Ahead of Manifesta’s opening in Palermo next summer, the importance of remembering an alternative Mediterranean...
Inverting the gaze: real life biography, game play fantasy and Frantz Fanon combine in the British artist’s films
Old Food, 2017, production still. Courtesy: the artist, Galerie Isabella Bortolozzi, Berlin, Cabinet Gallery, London, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, New York and Rome, and dépendance, Brussels
Helen Marten responds to Ed Atkins’s new work, Old Food, currently showing at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin
Elsewhere: activists protest AfD with Holocaust Memorial replica; censorship at Kuala Lumpur Biennale; Venice Biennale'...
Twenty years after the First Cyberfeminist International at Documenta X, what does Cyberfeminism look like in...
Thinking about propaganda, palimpsests, and a presentation of Tino Sehgal works in Moscow
As London's Architectural Association celebrates 100 years of female students, rediscovering the city designed by women
Lin May Saeed, Lobster, 2017. Metal, 11 x 24 x 14.5 cm. Courtesy: the artist, Nicolas Krupp, Basel, Jacky Strenz, Frankfurt am Main and Lulu, Mexico City
Lulu, Mexico City, Mexico
For the 6th Amsterdam Art Weekend, our picks of the best shows and events across the Dutch capital
Highlights of the shows included in the third iteration of Dublin Gallery Weekend
An interview with Casco – Office for Art, Design and Theory, on new ways for art institutions to work
With her current show at Studio_Leigh, London, the artist shares some important images
Recent instances of censorship show an emboldened far right attacking the arts, queer identity and more: artists,...
The staggering price reached by Salvator Mundi prompts the question: what are you really buying when you buy an artwork?
Wong Kar-wai, Happy Together, 1997, film still. Courtesy: the artist and Alamy 
From the new issue of frieze: Changes in urban cultures and queer aesthetics across the Sinosphere 
On the occasion of two UK solo exhibitions, the British artist reflects on the art and events that have shaped her...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

October 2017

frieze magazine

November - December 2017

frieze magazine

January - February 2018