From Ellis’s artist statement:
The strangely allied terms of signification and importance are explored in my most recent work. They are re-considered through a long standing practice of pale and muted works, which speak quietly of an enduring and persistent nature that dwells quietly within the realm of traditional womens’ work and its often futile repetitions. The nature of these discreet yet insistent marks, scratches and stitches appear as an overwhelming desire, signifying the chaos cloaked beneath every search for order.
Ellis’s work features small, repeated marks which nevertheless have enough variety to imbue her pieces with life and energy. She is not trying to emulate a machine-made uniformity. This detail from Requiem I (2016) shows a background of marks which appear to be scratched on the surface randomly, through which neat loops are stitched in a grid, but the thread is allowed to fall in any direction. The combination of marks gives a sense of depth.
Knotted (2015) also makes use of a background onto which thread is applied. In this case the background is a fine, neat grid bearing the appearance of a woven fabric. Dark thread is knotted through the fabric, outlining edges of a design, but also spilling over those edges. The tiny size of the knots creates a subtle depth to the surface but also compels the viewer to linger, imagining the time taken to create each one in just the right place. The fading out of the knots gives a sense that the work might be unfinished. Ellis herself asks the question: “When is a work of art finished? It is often a random decision which indicates the function of free will in a series of obsessive, almost mechanical processes we would usually associate with the writings of Aldous Huxley and George Orwell.”
In Ritual III (2010), Ellis makes a long series of small marks which could be interpreted as very simplistic human figures performing a series of movements. The ‘ritual’ is not made explicit and Ellis sees rituals in both religious and secular worlds. Ritual imposes order on chaos. It is a way of governing actions, times and places. The marks in this piece are varied and distinct, but the whole is ordered in a grid which containes each mark in its own space. Although each mark is simple, the whole piece is very complex.
I appreciate the way that Ellis distills her ideas into small, simple marks made in repeated ways. Order and disorder are clearly held in tension in all her works. The scale of her work draws me in and makes me want to spend time examining each stitch and each mark, as well as considering the whole piece.
However, for me, the unrelenting grimness of her chosen colour palette is offputting and tends to make me think of the mechanical, the concrete, things without life. Some of her mark-making seems obscure to me and I can’t see it as more than pattern-making.