Tracey Clement photographed at her show, 'Paper Trail', 2008.

Tracey Clement photographed at her show, ‘Paper Trail,’ 2008.

My artworks seem wildly diverse, even to me. If there is anything that links all my disparate bodies of work it is my desire to convey meaning through meticulous (often tedious and usually skilled) labour intensive work.

While I am happy to admit to a certain obsessiveness, I’m not interested in process as such. The work involved in my creative projects is integral to the concept; part of the overall piece, a means to an end, not an end in itself. Each of my projects use work to convey different meanings, and those meanings would change if I didn’t do the work myself.

Here are some examples of how I use the notion of work in my artworks.


In my Border Zones (skins), which I call my ‘ladies’, the use of labour intensive sewing as a construction technique is an intentional reference to tailoring; the skilled process of making clothing fit. My skins are made-to-measure garments. They have anatomically accurate hands and feet, bulging tummies and swelling breasts, but the darts and seams that create these forms are clearly visible. The artifice is exposed. They are tailored like a well cut suit, an image which is emphasised by the intrusion of cuffs, collars and buttons. My skins present the body as malleable, adjustable; a deliberate construction wilfully subjected to the snip and stitch of the tailor’s art.


The second piece in my Border Zones series, Perimeter, is about the beauty, fragility and risk inherent in intimate relationships. It is a skeletal double blanket made entirely from white thread and more than 10,000 buttons and pins stitched on by hand. It is impossible to look at Perimeter without acknowledging the hundreds (probably thousands) of hours of work that went into making it. It is clearly, deliberately, labour intensive. The painstaking, hand crafted construction of my blanket literally invokes the sheer emotional effort required to stitch together an intimate relationship. Numerous people, noting the hours I spent crouched over the sewing machine or hand stitching tiny buttons onto my blanket would ask why I didn’t delegate these tasks, or employ sweat shop seamstresses. But to say this is to totally miss the point. A relationship requires work; it’s a tough job that cannot be outsourced.

Tracey Clement, ‘Target: Vines’ (detail), 2008-9, paper, pins, foam core board, 530 x 610mm.

Tracey Clement, ‘Target: Vines’ (detail), 2008-9, paper, pins, foam core board, 530 x 610mm.

In Paper Trail, the painstaking and time consuming labour involved in hand cutting the targets and hammering in thousands of pins is a symbol of our own complicity in the ecological crisis we now face. Climate change didn’t just happen, we laboured long and hard to create this current crisis.

Tracey Clement, 'Plastic City' (detail), 2012, plastic containers used in 12 months, dimensions variable.

The same principle applies to Post Premonitionism and Plastic City. The hours and hours of hard work involved in making a miniature city which will rust away to nothing, or a plastic one that will be recycled after a week, are also symbolic of futility; of mankind’s foolish hubris in thinking we can dominate and control nature.  With patient omnipotence, nature will always win in the end.

Tracey Clement

I am currently unrepresented. If you are interested in buying or showing my work, get in touch!