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Threads through Creation by Jacqui Parkinson

by
25 March 2022

Pat Ashworth sees a touring exhibition at Southwell Minster

Detail of Panel 12: Goodbye to Eden (Genesis 3.8-24). More images in the gallery

Detail of Panel 12: Goodbye to Eden (Genesis 3.8-24). More images in the gallery

THE impact of “Threads through Creation” is so immediate that you can hear sighs of wonder from viewers confronting the 12 textile panels for the first time. There is a second audible intake of breath when they move forward and observe the very fine detail contained in the stitching. It is like putting on spectacles and realising how the world has opened up.

So, the first of the sequence depicts a vortex of movement born out of nothing, a first encounter with the recurring spiral motif of God as the Trinity. There are flashes of gold leaf; small, dancing whirlwinds of something ignited. Step closer, and your eyes spot things previously invisible: finely stitched fossils and ammonites in waiting for the next stage.

There is a continuity about all this, and an embrace of science. Jacqui Parkinson has worked on these giant panels for three years, as she did on “Threads through Revelation”. That exhibition toured to 14 cathedrals between 2016 and 2018 and was seen by over half a million visitors. Her work is particularly vivid at Southwell, where the sandstone is benign and warm, and colours shine like stained glass.

She has the passion of Sir David Attenborough and a joy and fervour in telling the Christian story which is both childlike and deeply profound. Her work is pure visual storytelling, as joyful and engaging as a picture book. There is just one abstract panel, the creation of light, in which the bold shards of black and white are puzzling at first. Is this shards of darkness on a background of light, or shards of light on a background of darkness? It proves to be both, the one unable to exist without the other.

There is every shade of colour in these myriad silks and fabrics, and so much movement in the stitching. The artist depicts everything from plunging torrents to fine mist and snowflakes in Water and sky; every frond, tendril, acorn cup and sycamore wing in the flower and vegetable garden that is Eden.

She has run wild when it comes to the extravagance of creatures: toucans, monkeys, seahorses, starlings, dolphins all joyfully present with their spoors and tracks and prints. Adam cradles a white mouse, and a butterfly has settled on a rippling-haired Eve.

So, the shock of the Fall is acute. Satan’s expulsion from heaven is akin to a flawed dive, a slow-motion descent that doesn’t plummet, but weaves and twists as sinuously as the serpent. The figure’s wrists are crossed, the fingers flat and splayed; the insoles of his feet are upturned. He falls through the shards of light and darkness of the earlier panel, while small angel figures with gossamer wings peer down from above.

Most chilling, though, is the final panel, Goodbye to Eden. It depicts the silent, dignified, inevitable exit of the animals, descending a steep and angular zigzag path. Their heads are down. You sense enormity. A lamb between Adam’s legs looks directly out of the picture, a signpost of what is to come.


At Southwell Minster until 24 April. www.southwellminster.org

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