Heavyweight artist canvas becomes sculpture in the hands of Mary Little. Giving shape to memories from her childhood in Northern Ireland, she cuts and sews it into meditative wall hangings with titles derived from Irish words. A 2015 series Drumlin, from droimnin, or little ridge, evokes the rolling countryside; 2016’s Aran recalls the sweaters her mother used to knit.
The work is a creative departure for Little, who spent 25 years conceiving one-off furniture commissions for private clients before she began experimenting with canvas five years ago. The link between her careers, she says, is “how something makes you feel.” Her offbeat chairs, which are in such public collections as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, were rooted in comfort, while her canvas pieces are calming.
“My goal is to create pieces that are quiet, peaceful, and gentle. If I come to a corner, I prefer to soften it off.”
Little works with thick unbleached cotton because it’s neutral and stable—and a bit unpredictable when hung, as seen in Caughie and Neagh, both from 2018. “Gravity always has some effect on the work,” she says. Little hopes to tackle a large installation next, where the weight of the cloth would stretch her patterns into alluring new forms.