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Making Nonsense
texts by Janno Mclaughlin

Intended as a gesture of love, Making Nonsense is a  celebration of colour, life, optimism,  and the compassion that unites us in  such  tumultuous and topsy turvy times.

The exhibition is an intentionally wonky and imperfect response to 2020, an attempt to make sense of life’s crazy circus — which is central to all my work — but which here also hopes to be a defiantly open-hearted hug to the world.


The large-scale installation work and paintings  in this exhibition were made in response to the sense of doom that seemed to hang over the world in 2020: the pande- mic, ugly politics, deforestation, bush fires, and the effects of global climate change being felt everywhere and all at once.


Embedded within Making Nonsense is an open call international community project titled ‘Esperanza’ which has been designed to allow us to reach out and to (metaphorically) hold hands in this year of Covid 19. Having spent the majority of my adult life as an expat overseas, many close friends are still scattered across multiple countries. In 2020 as each country fell to the devastation of the virus and people everywhere were isolated and stranded in their homes, it felt important to try and gather together as a global community.


‘Esperanza’, meaning hope in Spanish, has materialised in Making Nonsense as a collection of soft sculptural multi-cultural ‘dolls’, layered, patched and hand stitched to muslin. Patches submitted from friends and strangers speak to shared experiences of love, resilience, loneliness, loss and uncertainty. These offerings celebrate optimism, solidarity and the blessings of life. Statements of hope and  humour are juxta positioned with those of outrage and despair.


‘Esperanza’ acknowledges an emo- tional journey as well as the physical movement of the patches traveling across the world by post. Immense effort has been involved in the making and sending of these pieces now joined together. Makers range from young to old and from within and out- side of an established arts community. I returned a thank you gift  to each maker of a hand stitched red silken heart to note my absolute gratitude.


Sharing the installation space with ‘Esperanza’ are stitched, sculptural creatures that grace a ‘Mad Hatter’s’ table, with an oversized sequined teapot. Improbable flowers and trees hang alongside giant paintings of spring blossoms, birds and strange beings.

Familiar motifs  and circus metaphors, gorillas, elephants and birds, act as reminders of the need to protect our vulnerable natural  world.


The palm trees suggest deforestation and the need to awaken our obligation to save the planet. An exuberant proliferation of imagery, pattern and colour is designed to be a playful celebration of life, oscillating in scale from big ‘wallpaper’ gestures to tiny moments of quirky collage and introspection. These are scattered thoughts amidst an abundance of fabric, stitching, sequins and soft sculpture. Muslin is stitched and bandaged to acknowledge frailty, fears and vulnerability, but at the same time evoking cocoons, metamorphosis and the necessity to adapt.


These artworks speak to the darkness of our times by holding on to light. They are postcards to another world where life and love, kindness, honesty, inclusion, nature and the beauty of happiness can thrive.

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