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Dawn Cole: The pillowcases

Lead artist Dawn Cole has been making work in response to diary since finding the archive of her Great Aunt Clarice in her parents loft in 2008. A research trip, in 2011, to Wimereux, France, where Clarice was first posted in 1915 sparked the beginning of the ideas behind Resting Place.

Wimereux was a major hospital centre. Set up in the early stages of the war it was in operation until June 1918 and used the local cemetery for burials. it is likely that Clarice would have nursed some of the men who are buried there.

Gravestones in Wimereux War Graves Cemetery are unusual, as they have been laid on the ground due to the sandy soil. The rectangular white headstones, laid in columns, resemble pillows that bring to mind the photographs of bed rows in hospital wards found in Clarice’s archive.

A pillowcase; carrier of our DNA, witness to our sleeping moments, our dreams and nightmares, our waking worries, procreation, birth and death. A seemingly insignificant piece of cloth that we give little thought to, other than perhaps for its aesthetic appearance.

The pages of this young woman’s diary are etched onto empty, hand embroidered pillowcases and as Resting Place continues on its journey the pillowcases will gradually be laid out and their story revealed.

'Resting Place incorporates not only the narrative of the diaries but springs also from Cole’s intensely personal engagement with her aunt’s story, with a larger family history, and with the nature of memory and remembrance as public ritual. This project moves away from the ‘private’ space of home and studio and gallery, into public arenas where it encompasses and re-stages communal acts of commemoration.'

Gill Saunders, Senior Curator, Prints, V&A London

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