Image and Interpretation: Encoding and Decoding a Narrative Textile Installation

Sonja Andrew

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


My research places textiles within a communication paradigm, considering cloth as a narrative form and examining the relationship between authorial intention and viewer interpretation. The personal and cultural experiences that inform the making and reading of textiles are considered through my practice, and the influence of content, cloth, and context on viewers’ interpretations of textiles in public spaces is examined. The visual content of my current work reflects on aspects of society, family, and cultural myth, particularly how the histories of past lives are represented and interpreted. The Ties That Bind II (2008) textile triptych is based on the experiences of a Quaker conscientious objector in the First World War and the consequences of his beliefs for himself and his family. The narrative sequence aims to visually communicate the family at the start of the war, the objector's imprisonment, and the postwar hostility towards conscientious objectors’ families. The visual content of the work was constructed within a semiotic framework in order to test the reading of individual signifiers and visual syntagms within the textiles. The textile triptych was exhibited without a content description at the Bankfield Museum and Art Gallery in West Yorkshire and Manchester Museum of Science and Industry in order to examine viewers’ interpretations of the narrative. This paper discusses the construction of the work and viewer responses to it at each site, exploring the meanings attributed to the individual images and narrative textile sequence, but also the personal and cultural influences that informed viewers’ interpretations of the textiles.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153-186
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of Textile Design Research and Practice
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


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