A Chinese Dream I & II


These quilts, both stitched and edged in ribbon, both contain an image of a world map in their centre. A Chinese Dream I was commissioned by the V&A for the exhibition Quilts 1700 - 2010, Hidden Histories, Untold Stories, and it's now in their collection. A Chinese Dream II (see in images) is a variation on I and was completed in 2021 during a lockdown. 

Stockwell’s beautiful yet subversive quilts use paper products to form a visual treatise on the Chinese economy. The quilts have been been created from one of the most transferable and anonymous paper objects within contemporary society: money. Through the careful selection of various newer and worn Chinese bank notes Stockwell forms visually arresting pieces that are at once a fluid, scale-like surface, and a political statement of the importance of China to the global trade network. Following visits to China in the 2000's, Stockwell observed how fast moving it's economy is and how this scale of growth contributes to China’s global power, particularly in the textile trade. 

These pieces form part of a series of quilts by Stockwell. Imperial Quilt, was made of maps of the world reconfigured with the Middle East at the centre and a swatch of America woven into every continent. Gathered and collected, the materials in all the quilts are everyday and familiar and refer to the politics of trade. For Stockwell, the continuing relevance of quilts lies in their connection to a ‘make do and mend mentality’ where recycling and ecology are an inherent part of the process and practice. 

Stockwell chooses these industrial and domestic ‘commodity’ materials because, in her words, they contain ‘stains of existence’ and ‘act as ready-made signifiers’ which she can sculpt and interweave in ways that delicately reveal their obscured politics and hidden beauty. Stockwell said: "While working in China and Taiwan (2006-8) I became fascinated by the incredible energy generated by the rapid rate of change. The quilt  'A Chinese Dream' is a result of my experiences and questions whether the Chinese are living their dream in the way that the American's lived theirs 50 years ago. I stitched and crafted almost 1000 money notes into a patterned, quilted map of the world. The piece refers to trade, ecology, geo-politics. For me personally it’s a beautiful, hand-made quilt stemming from a tradition of women recycling old clothes, passing on keepsakes and sharing in a familial process that transcends generations. Ironically the ritual processes involved in making a quilt seem to counter the crassness and inevitable corruption of money and consumerism. Money by its very nature is recycled; it’s covered with the residue of many hands, pockets and purses – what I call the "Stains of Existence'...." Yet we seldom think about what this everyday material actually is and consider our complex relationship with it."


Quilts 1700 - 2010 Hidden Histories, Untold Stories, Victoria & Albert Museum, 2010

Haptic Codes at Patrick Heide Contemporary Art, London 31st March-30th April 2022

A Chinese Dream 2
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Chinese Dream (detail)
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Susan Stockwell