Camilla Hanney

Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology

By Sheena Barrett

Camilla Hanney, 2015

"There is no escape from bones; their shadows prefigure our future."

- Mark C Taylor, Sacred Bones, Cabinet Magazine, Issue 28 Winter 2007/08


Throughout history, bones have been used as spiritual signifiers of life and death. Both human and animal bones have been imbued with a sense of the sacred, sometimes with the possibility of reanimation. As relics they have been celebrated for their metaphysical connection to a venerated life and the protection that they potentially embody. As material, their ability to last after all else has perished and their accessibility and durability ensured their use in times when nothing was wasted.

Camilla Hanney's work uses bones in a manner at once beautiful and grotesque.

The most compelling piece in the installation comprises a series of bones, drilled into with intricate lace patterns. These sculptures play on the name bone lace sometimes used to describe bobbin lace. In the Victorian era the bobbins were often made of animal bone with inscriptions carved into their surface and marked with ink. 

Here Hanney is interested in the close relationship between lace and prostitution, revealing a conflicting underside to the virtuous material. Inherent in the work is a tension between our compulsion to gaze at what we should be disturbed by and admiration for its beauty.

At the height of production and distribution, lace makers, often working in their own homes, in Victorian England often supplemented their income through prostitution. In Ireland, lace was often made in laundries or workhouses by women effectively incarcerated for becoming pregnant outside of marriage. 

In a degree show strongly punctuated by architectural interventions, Hanney’s installation has taken full advantage of the natural light streaming in from the large windows overhead, picking up the delicate lace pricking in a paper screen. 

Lacework stenciled on the floor forces you to mind your step entering the installation. The artist had wanted to use bone dust but was prevented from doing do by the health and safety policy of IADT. Instead she has used plain flour and conveniently added to the tensions between the domestic and the institution historically associated with lace. Which comes first, the prostitution or the lacemaking.

Bone Lace Series is a strong body of work. Layered and potent with a considered use of materials. The drilled bones are in some instances crudely embroidered, adding to the sense of sacred ritual.