Taken apart and arranged on black velvet like a Victorian pressed flower arrangement or natural history specimen, the shapes of the glove pieces suggest anatomy, botany, calligraphy, and reveal the complexity of their making. The sixteen pieces of fabric and three metres of joining seams that compose a pair of gloves are attached using decorative stitches (feather stitch and herringbone) familiar to female hands of the past who wore gloves like these.
— Vita Cochran, 2022
Vita Cochran (b.1975 Te-Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, New Zealand) is based in Sydney, Australia. Cochran received a Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Auckland and since then, has made work informed by a keen knowledge of art and design, drawing upon modernist forms and feminist histories.
Cochran has long been inclined to the skilful repurposing of vintage clothing and materials — cutting, unpicking, and restitching them into something other. This tendency has resulted in the exhibition Holding Patterns, which includes a series of Cochran’s ‘exploded’ gloves and coats, items of clothing that have been carefully dissected by the artist until the garments are reduced to their component parts, the individual pieces splayed out in a satisfying pattern that reveals the intimate characteristics of both the material and making process.
In Cochran’s glove works, delicate lines of stitching snake across coloured backgrounds in green, pink, yellow, orange, brown, and black, creating a new abstracted physiology akin to some kind of sartorial Rorschach. With titles borrowed from their labels, which include Personality and Rendez Vous, these works act as placeholders or stand-ins for a body, and we cannot help but wonder at the people who wore these items of clothing, donning these garments in preparation for a special event or readying themselves for a long journey. The fabric displays gentle traces of wear and tear; the occasional stain or pilling on the fingertips where the gloves have touched countless surfaces, carried objects, and clasped the hands of loved ones.
Alongside, a series of geometric bags are adorned with appliqué gloves. Cochran is well-known for her distinctive handmade bags, which the artist has been creating for over twenty years. While these bags are determinedly, even rebelliously playful — made not only from gloves, but buttons, triangles, flowers, ropes, and zips — they are also often overtly academic — with designs inspired by historic shapes, patterns, and designs such as the 19th century ‘chatelaine’. “I’m never not excited to sit at my desk and start on a new one. Since these bags are carriers, I suppose you could reflect that I’ve put time into them – that they contain passages of work and life”, says Cochran. “Certainly, when I go back to each bag, I remember when and where I was, who was on my mind. More interesting than that […] is the fact that other people carry these bags away and use them for things, and to hold things, that I don’t control.”
A previous project with Anna Miles Gallery saw Cochran bringing to life rugs featured in modern paintings by artists such as Giorgio de Chirico, Édouard Vuillard, Henri Matisse, and Sonia Delaunay. Other recent exhibitions include Apartment 33 – the Dress-un-maker and the Clay-tailor, Funaki Gallery Melbourne; Exploded Coats, Anna Miles Gallery, Soft Landing, Page Galleries; The Stories We Tell Ourselves, The Dowse Art Museum; An Anthology of Bags, Anna Miles Gallery; The Rooms, Tauranga Art Gallery; and Pocket Histories, Te Uru Waitakare Contemporary Gallery. Cochran’s work is held in private and public collections including Te Papa Tongarewa, Otago Museum, The Dowse Art Museum, and Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira.