Over the weekend I read an article about the Slovenian illustrator Lubya Yesnk, best known for her work on Stilyan Bosnic’s magnum opus Empty Fingers Over the Sea and on the backpage of the ‘ruthlessly punctual’ Maribor Gazette.
Somewhere near the end of this pleasingly long piece of journalism Yesnk starts opening up about her domestic surroundings. She lives, it transpires, in an open-plan house overlooking the Drava. The walls of the house are painted the ‘colour of custard’ and remain ‘unadorned, relatively, by artwork’. There is very little furniture save ‘three wicker chairs and a table designed for children’s tea parties’. Her mother’s oven ‘stands in the corner, by the window, looking forlornly out, like a dog’.
The most distinct thing about Yesnk’s house however, is the amount of fabric flung about the floors. ‘I own seventeen duvets’, she explains, ‘all of different weights’. On top of this she possesses ‘no end of sheets, pillow cases, rugs and towels’. These are all thrown about the house: kicked into peaks and pushed against walls, folded into soft squares and rolled into misshapen balls. Every morning they are arranged into fresh, random patterns, from which the artist takes her inspiration. This, and this only, is how she begins: drawing not from the flesh, or from the landscape, but from fabric. The lie of the cloth is all. ‘The chance falling of fabric is my every starting point,’ she notes in her cracked-but-not-quite-broken English. ‘I am the woman of the crazy folds’.
The strange folds of fabric have, of course, fascinated artists for centuries. Had the Madonna worn less loose clothing, one might question whether painters would have created quite so many religious works. The robes, the robes – oh those delightfully tortured robes! Where would we be without them? One wonders, also, if there is a literary equivalent. So many visual artists turn to the curious visual stratagems of twisted cloth for inspiration. Do we men of words have a similar tool? Which is to say, is there such a thing as a linguistic drapery?