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Wonder and Dread - Artist Alke Schmidt Tells Tales from the Global Textile industry
Uthra Rajgopal in: Selvedge Magazine, issue 86, January 2019, page 14
Rear Window - The Price of Fashion

The World Today with Tariq Ali (video): Documentary filmmaker Leah Borromeo discusses the ethics of the fashion industry with artist Alke Schmidt.


Tangled Yarns: Alke Schmidt at the William Morris Gallery

Part 2
[...] Tangled Yarns is an eminently apt title for this exhibition; it would be impossible to separate out the strands of race and gender, exploitation and violence with which the textiles industry is intertwined, and Alke doesn't attempt to. Instead, she explores how these strands relate to one another, in a triumph of intersectionality. [....] More...

Part 1
The William Morris Gallery is very canny at showing contemporary artists whose output would have been looked upon most favourably by Morris himself. None more so than the latest exhibition by Alke Schmidt, Tangled Yarns. If Morris was alive today I'm sure he would have felt as passionately about Alke's call for social justice through her exposure of the murky world of the textile industry as about her highly skilled handicraft.  More....

© Kate Rolison 2014/15


Tangled Yarns

If within reach of the William Morris Gallery [...] , don’t miss Alke Schmidt’s exhibition TANGLED YARNS, an inventive and stimulating display about elements of the cotton trade from 18th to 21st centuries, asking the questions that should be asked about the sources and economic bases of the textiles that we wear and use.  Questions that Morris himself confronted with his Marxist understanding of political economy. 

The display consists of large intricately worked hangings that at first beguile the eye and then disturb the brain, but simultaneously invite one to reconcile or live with or reject the global processes of exploitation.  And do so in a curiously delicate rather than polemical manner, so the visual pleasure of the original fabrics survives their mutilation by referents to the brutal histories that went and continue to go into their making. […..]

There's more too on the fashion industry than I perceived, which could be politically useful now that fashion is the dominant cultural manifestation of the day .  This is a project that deserves and will reward future showings at other venues, so I hope Schmidt has had many offers!  See Jan Marsh's blog

© Jan Marsh 2014


More reviews of Tangled Yarns:


Alke Schmidt...Tangled Yarns

by East London Craft Guerilla

Tangled Yarns, MoDA 

by Maggie Wood


Supply Chain Reaction, COVER Magazine

by Jonathan R Jones


"Lure of the East" in the 2013 Summer Show at Penny Fielding Gallery

["Lure of the East" is a] thought provoking painting by socially conscious artist Alke Schmidt. At first glance it seems obvious that the machinists are working in an Asian clothes sweatshop. But with closer inspection, more layers to the painting are discovered. The painting is overlaid with a textiles pattern, which I read in two ways; it is a traditional Asian design, or a cheap and cheerful design for the mass market. It seems to have seeped into the women's skin; they are unable to escape their cultural heritage, which now includes manufacturing cheap high street clothing for Westerners. Their face masks could be to protect them from their unhygienic working environment; it also reminds me of the hysteria, which seemed particularly concentrated in the East, following the outbreak of SARs and then bird flu, and the wearing of such masks, which I remember was common amongst Asian tourists at the time. Finally, the black mass of cloth waiting to be sewn to the right of the machinists is redolent of the drudgery of working in such a sweatshop, and the murky business practises of the multinational companies overseeing such work.

© Kate Rolison 2013


Alke Schmidt: New Paintings -  Penny Fielding Gallery, 2012

These recent works by Alke Schmidt are portraits of girls and women working, resting, and fighting their corner. They are painted upon backgrounds made from decorative patterned fabrics and newsprints, creating an intriguing and beautiful balance of physical materials and the painted image. The spatial tension between these two opposing planes heightens and underlines the contradictions between the individuality of these women and the world at large with its agendas and demands.

Delicately painted, the women are often alone and seem small against the might of industry.  The backgrounds on which they are painted appear at first to be colourful, sweet and benign but are, on closer inspection, metaphors for a mass produced world which reveals itself to be sinister, harsh, and without empathy.

These paintings unsettle, with great intelligence, our typical view of the fashion and beauty industry. They show women of different cultures and ages in the chain of production: at their place of work, fighting for their rights, or simply lost in thought  - never as victims, but as focused and gracious forces within the giant of manufacture.

Alke Schmidt's art practice is driven equally by her love of creating beautiful, often highly decorative images and her passion for equality and justice. The works in this show reflect Alke's on going concerns with the textile industry and its global supply chain, the role of women as producers and consumers of fashion, and stereotypes of female beauty. Inspired by her recent trip to India, the focus of her paintings has increasingly shifted to women in developing countries. 

© Penny Fielding 2012


Alke Schmidt: New Paintings - Exhibition Review

Making use of Penny Fielding's new cleared out gallery space is a very insightful, thought-provoking and even challenging series of paintings dealing with the confinement of women within the fashion production line, and in society in a whole.

The canvases are the material of the subject: she captures the stereotype of girls' fashion by painting bright pink material of ballerinas and princesses. But there is dark side to the fashion industry that is really being tackled - the mass production sweat-shops that ensure the powerful fashion of the West is well and cheaply stocked. An industry that exists for, and is funded by women of higher stature. There are soft paintings of east Asian women stitching with heads down and fading within the exploitation of the industry. However, Alke Schmidt broadens the spectrum by reaching into history when these sweatshops existed within the West, there is a gorgeous, ghostly paintings of early 20th century English women, sewing away with the canvas being material from the period. 

By equating the fashion industry to female labour and oppression, there is a deeper metaphor I think at work in her paintings too. As much as the cheap mass-produced materials that are made in sweatshops are a commodity to the fashion industry, the women themselves are a commodity. This metaphor comes to the forefront in her piece 'The Fairer Sex', a rich oil painting of a dark skinned girl on a brides wanted newspaper page in India. A list of trait or physical attributes with fair skin being the most highlighted, they do read like lists for furniture.

It isn't all doom and gloom of the resigned life of objectified and exploited women, there is a rebellion and challenging of the system at work. Putting two fingers up at the fashion industry and all the way up to social attitudes, even if it is only by throwing a spindle of weave.

© Hassan Hawda 2012


SPILL - Alke Schmidt & Della Rees @ The Stone Space, 2012

Exhibition review & artist interview by Silvia Krupinska -  Video


Beauty and Ambiguity

Interview: Conceptual artist Alke Schmidt reveals the logic behind her dramatic pictures. pdf

Judith Amanthis, Morning Star, 17 Dec 2008


Scent of Fresh Air

Review of Mixed Blessing show at Signal Gallery, Morning Star, 9 Dec 2008

Alke Schmidt's collages, "ready-made" fabrics printed with scenes of idyllic natural beauty, seduce and soothe the eye. Then grey destruction foreces its way into the foreground - wilting ice poles in Tipping Point, a charred tree trunk in Growth Economics and bellicose Co2 chimneys in Remember Your Origins. 

While Schmidt's connection to 1930 anti-nazi John Heartfield and his photomontages is clear, she's moved both technique and debate way forward. Beauty, so much embodies in nature, has to be saved, but one problem is that tools of destruction like the bitumen oil extractor in The Great Tar Rush can look weirdly wonderful.

Full article

© Judith Amanthis


Could it be a Thing of Beauty?

Sarah Cosgrove, Waltham Forest Guardian, 7 Sep 2006  pdf


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