Commissioned for Lumiere Derry-Londonderry, Etchells’ A Stitch in Time is a 22-metre long and 2-metre high artwork of steel letters adorned with hundreds of LED bulbs, now permanently installed on top of old Rosemount Shirt Factory.
Speaking out to the rest of the city, the text for this work was simple, presenting a phrase chosen for its multiple layers of possible interpretation. The work makes a playful but direct reference to the historical context of shirt making and the work that went on at Rosemount Factory for so many years. At the same time, in recalling the complete text of the proverb from which it is taken (A stitch in time saves nine), the work suggests ideas of repair and care, and of disaster averted. Mending of fabric is on our minds of course – but the timely and patient work of mending lives, communities, political and social relations is also suggested in this simple phrase. Finally in its truncated form, the phrase ‘a stitch in time’ invokes the idea of the past and of time-travel, suggesting the stitch as a kind of imaginative looping back, a trip in time to something forgotten that is again suddenly present; the factory, the memory of another culture of labour and of other forms of work and community.
About Tim Etchells’ neon and LED works
Etchells’ neon and LED pieces often draw on his broader fascinations as an artist, writer and performance maker, exploring contradictory aspects of language – the speed, clarity and vividness with which it communicates narrative, image and ideas, and at the same time its amazing propensity to create a rich field of uncertainty and ambiguity.
Through simple phrases spelt out in neon, LED and other media, Etchells strives to create miniature narratives, moments of confusion, awkwardness, reflection and intimacy in public and gallery settings. Encountering the neon sign works, in the streets of a city or in the space of a white cube gallery, the viewer becomes implicated in a situation that’s not fully revealed, or a linguistic formulation that generates confusion or ambiguity. As often in Etchells’ work, in the neons the missing parts of the picture are as important as the elements that are present. Invoking a story, or projecting an idea out-of-context, the work invites us in, but into what exactly we can’t be sure.