Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

The Medium is the Message: Simone Pheulpin

BY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Simone Pheulpin

“I was near securing sponsorship with a company that manufactured pins,” laughs French artist Simone Pheulpin, “until they realized that none of their pins would be visible in my sculptures. After that, they were not so keen!” The set back proved to be a minor one for Pheulpin who, for several decades now, has concentrated on a single material and technique for her artistic output. Working with linen sourced from a mill in France, her sculptures demonstrate the breadth and complexity that can result from a thoroughly focused artistic exploration.

Pheulpin’s self-taught method of construction depends entirely on a system of pleats and pins, which hold in place meters of fabric cut into strips of varying widths. In person, there is a surprising weight to these sculptures, caused not by the quantity of fabric she employs – which is substantial – but by the countless pins she uses to secure each layer of pleating. Much like weaving, there is little opportunity to undo. Not only would this involve unwinding many metres of linen, but also because the interior network of pins used to keep the fabric in place act like the barbs of interlocking wool which create felt – virtually impossible to untangle once they are secured.

In spite of these self-imposed limitations, each new work is begun with no preconception of where her materials will lead her. Crucially, Pheulpin has little way of envisioning how she will resolve the final pleat that must seamlessly resolve each sculpture’s shape. Instead, she allows her work to involve intuitively, the only parameters are size: not so large that she cannot reach the top, or so small that the length of a pin cannot be concealed inside. The results evoke the quiet rhythms of organic shapes: landscapes, seashells, fungi, fingerprints. All are eloquent and evocative reminders of the value of simplicity.

Modern Carpets & Textiles (issue 2: 80)