Jessa Fairbrother: The Trapeze Artist

British artist, Jessa Fairbrother, uses the body-as-site to explore communal meanings and is concerned with making explicit the moment when performed gesture and gaze of the viewer collide.


Fairbrother’s new series, The Trapeze Artist (2020-2021) is the result of two years work, undertaken largely during the UK lock-downs, which concentrates on the sensation of imagined flight. Using a series of embroidered or perforated symbols to connect groupings she continues to employ minute sewing needles to mark the surface of the photograph by hand. 


Funding from QEST has enabled the self-taught embroiderer to undertake formalised training with the Royal School of Needlework to complete the Certificate in Technical Embroidery, perfecting techniques for use in her contemporary photographic work. This series continue her long-term exploration writing her own language with and on the body.


“The trapeze artist shows no fear. Hup hup! she says, launching off the platform, leaping to catch the fly-bar in mid air and give her audience a magnificent performance of flight in the darkness.

I think of being in the darkness of an unknown, stitching through the year as the world turned upside down. Sleep has been fitful at times. We hope sleep will be restorative. But sometimes it isn’t. Where do we go in our dreams?

In my dream I can fly…. maybe it is not an imagining, but a half-remembering.

 Flying or falling, held by a thread I do not see, only feel. There is a sensation of being on a swing. I sense momentum propelling me higher each time, until I'm not swinging backwards and forwards anymore, only flying upwards and onwards. My awareness of the rope evaporates ... untethered, I soar through the air. Instead of gravity pulling me back I am suspended above trees, above water, looking down. I see no fly-bar…but I am flying. I feel the edge of the universe.…and I know it is beautiful.

I use my thread to mark stitch by stitch, making my own swing which is sewn to the sky.”


- Jessa Fairbrother, 2021



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