Some things last a long time: Amelia Skelton

October 27 - November 11, 2023

We are pleased to present Some things last a long time, Amelia Skelton’s first solo presentation with Nasha Gallery. 


Memory is not an instrument for exploring the past, but rather a medium … which is experienced, just as the earth is the medium in which ancient cities lie buried. 


        Walter Benjamin, Excavation and Memory (1932) 


Adopting a Benjaminesque approach to quilt making, assemblage, and sculpture, Amelia Skelton’s exhibition, ‘Some things last a long time’, digs down into the complex social dimensions of textiles, reveling in the memories and histories embedded in their fibers. The central standalone sculpture, ‘Bricks (Well)’ (2023), provides an incisive example of this. Built from found materials packaged in transparent vinyl plastic ‘bricks’, the structure urges the viewer to look not only down but into the material layers of its construction. Ironically playing with the idea of a well as a means of excavation by exposing its very means, the work also draws the viewer into the political implications of ‘extraction’ itself, with the well’s dry bottom a droll reminder of the resources so often exploited by the fast-fashion monocultures of contemporary consumerism.  


Textiles are pervasive and recalcitrant in nature, and despite their propensity to wear and tear, they persist far beyond the generations of their manufacture. The late American musician Daniel Johnston found a similar defiant persistence in love, as expressed in his melancholic song, ‘Some Things Last A Long Time’ (1990), which gives the title to Skelton’s exhibition. The speaker in this song describes how a picture left on his wall by a past love has remained as ‘bright as ever’ despite the passing of time. The lyrics are, of course, not simply a remark on the stubborn persistence of paintwork, but the way memories remain indelibly attached to specific objects. The capacity for our material possessions to hold on to memories and histories is what enables them to transcend a state of inert matter and become lively fragments that can either joyfully enrich or mournfully haunt our day-to-day lives. 


The ten individual quilts scattered along the walls of NASHA gallery further attest to Skelton’s interest in textiles as memory-laden objects. Incorporating various materials and images, from scraps of clothing donated by the artist’s friends to a Woolworths shopping bag and archival images depicting textile production, these wadding-thickened quilts transform disused and forgotten materials into an embodied archive of their encounters. In ‘A buried city’ (2023), for example, an image of an expansive cotton field is placed beside a close-up image of spine-like stitchwork which, viewed from a distance, also provides the skeletal body to a teddy bear’s head placed above it. This scalar shifting social critique is as tongue-in-cheek as it is an interrogation of the complex socio-ecological relations embedded in the materials. 

Skelton’s archaeological approach to assemblage is further complemented, or complicated, by the intricate layers of her own stitchwork, beading, and embroidery. We witness, for instance, scraps of words and language—lifted from Johnston’s song, Benjamin’s essay, the artist’s memory—run across the vibrant juxtaposition of materials like concrete poetry, adding yet another playful, punk-aesthetic layer to Skelton’s excavations. 


Hanging like disheveled cultural artefacts or ancient stone tablets unearthed from the ruins of our present dystopia, Skelton’s works encourage viewers to use their eyes slowly, to dig down into the fragments, sort through the layers of embellishment, and decode the narratives of the materials themselves. To paraphrase Benjamin, ‘Some things last a long time’ provides a window unto an artist who works with and through textiles as a medium in which all our lives lie buried.


– Jake Goetz