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Debbie Southerland

Associate Member

Who holds the franchise on the re-presentation of place?

My interdisciplinary practice is driven by an enquiry into the way in which we both experience and construct notions of place. The use of the flag and the postcard have become the primary referential vehicles that enable me to explore the mobility and often transient, (dis)located experiences of contemporary culture. The work draws heavily on my own experiences of travel and mobility.

Deceptively imperfect, the large-scale drawings register the repetitive banality of intense low-tech labour, and are as much about process as production. A simple system of line building generates potentially infinite configurations of hexagons to create a seemingly temporal and indeterminate space of no fixed scale. They are neither micro nor macro, but imaginary topographies of which I am the author. The regularity of the drawings is periodically ruptured, and it is through these ambiguous distortions that a sense of (dis)location begins to emerge through combined but unfixed references to flags and tents, referents of both territory and architectural mobility.

Aesthetically arresting the flag series alludes further towards notions of territory and community – the referential possibilities of the flag surface again and again and the apparent ambiguity of the images allows possible readings to overlap. Immediate signifiers but confused signs, the images simultaneously become dirtied clean washing? flags? political signals? National signs? urban decorations? Or architectural interventions?………..

The postcard like the flag is a document of intense location and is by its very nature, heavily inscribed yet simultaneously insufficient in representing place. Often using the same graphic structures as the flag they graft location and written experience together. Cities, Countries and Cultures are distilled, condensed and concentrated into single or multiple images on a card that normally measures 6” x 4”, they operate as a visual shorthand through the use of immediate signifiers. Place becomes branded by vista, merchandised through monument.

Drawing on the 16th C Italian tradition of Capriccio painting, whereby Artists painted consciously fictitious scenes allowing geographical landmarks, cultural curiosities, monuments, scales and imaginations to collide, (these) postcards allude as much to fictions as to truths. Often majestically generic, these images present impossible allusions to place through juxtaposition, false spectacle and cultural erasure. The readings of these ‘places’ therefore, like the postcards themselves, become mobile and transitional: coming from, going to, shifting between. The viewer’s immediate satisfaction of recognition is disrupted by the realisation that these ‘places’ have been written, re-written and over-written, even to the point of erasure.

Debbie Southerland


MA Textiles, Distinction. Goldsmiths College, 1998.
BA Hons Textiles, 1st class honours degree, Loughborough College of Art and Design. 1997

Current Teaching

September 2006 – present : Teaching and Learning Co-ordinator, (fractional post). Bristol School of Art and Design, UWE.
April 2005 – present : Programme Leader, Senior Lecturer BA (Hons) Textile Design, Bristol School of Art Media and Design, UWE, Bristol.

Prior Employment

February 2006, Guest Lecturer BA Hons Embroidery, Manchester Metropolitan University. Manchester.
July 2003 – April 2005 : Course Leader BA (hons) Contemporary Textile Practices, Norwich School of Art and Design.
2004 – 2005 : External Assessor Cambridge Regional College HND Fashion with Textiles, acting on behalf of Anglia Polytechnic University.
September 2002 - July 2003 : Acting Course Leader Critical Studies, BA (Hons) Textiles Goldsmiths College, London. (Sabbatical cover).
June 2001 : MA Textile Culture, Course development team and module author, Norwich School of Art and Design, Norwich.
Sept 1999 – June 2001 : Visiting Lecturer BTEC Foundation Course, Central Saint Martins School of Art, The London Institute, London


  • 2005
    • ‘Techniques of Memory’ Article published in Selvedge Textile Journal, Nov/Dec. Issue 8
    • ‘Arttextiles3’ Bury St Edmunds Gallery, for Embroidery magazine volume 56, published February.
  • 2000
    • ‘Bodies of Technology’ paper delivered at ‘Selvedges’, one-day conference, Norwich School of Art and Design, October.
  • 1998
    • ‘Textiles : Art or Smart, Material Culture’, Blueprint – Architecture, Design and Contemporary Culture, no 47, February.

Artists Groups and Awards

  • 2000
    • Recipient of ‘Awards for All’ National Lottery Grant.
  • 1999
    • Founding member of Pai Community Arts group.
  • 1997
    • Clothworkers Foundation education grant,

Selected Exhibitions

  • 2006
    • Soundscape : Venn festival, Bristol, UK.
    • Stokes Croft Open Studios, Bristol, UK.
  • 2005
    • Miniature print exhibition, Blackwell’s bookshop, Bristol, UK.
    • ETC, Enamel, Textile, Ceramic research group badge exhibition, Bristol School of Art Media and Design, Bristol, UK.
    • Open studios, Stokes Croft studios, Bristol, UK
  • 2004
    • Digital print privately commissioned by Dr Davis, Cardiff, Wales.
    • Nominated for ARTSEAST career development award.
    • E-Location, Group Exhibition, Visions Gallery, Tokyo.
  • 2001
    • East End Collaborations, Live drawing performance at The Peoples Palace - Queen Mary’s University. London.
  • 2000
    • East End Live, Animated performance projection at The Rhythm Factory, London.
    • Interaction, Café Gallery, Southwark Park, London. 2000
  • 1999
    • Ashowabouttime, Milch Gallery, London.
    • Frozen Fracture, Lewisham Art House London.
    • Colliseum Project IV, Live performance at The Foundry, London.

Debbie Southerland

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