Ruthin Craft Centre
The Centre for the Applied Arts


Gallery 1

Nigel Hurlstone

The Wind from the Feet of the Dead 13 January 2024 – 17 March 2024

Presenting a new body of work at Ruthin Craft Centre, Nigel Hurlstone explores an enduring fascination with ‘dressing-up,’ a conjuring trick that allows a glimpse of other lives, from cricketer to curate. In a collection of self-portraits that figure the artist dressed in an array of outfits, Hurlstone reveals the potential of garments to oscillate between their practical, gendered, and fashionable territories into uncharted psychological, emotional and cinematic terrains; we see one man, but many people.

By presenting over 30 life size works in the gallery space, Hurlstone has manufactured something akin to an ominous tableau depicting a cast of characters that at some point, we have all encountered. They are familiar, yet also curiously historicised images. They allude to characters who might be long gone but persist in our cultural or familial memory.

Printed onto cloth and then embroidered, each portrait is disrupted through a veiling of thread; characters appear and disappear as if following the slight of a magician’s hand. A myriad of threads play on the surface of the cloth making for subtle shifts in rhythm, colour, and light. Hurlstone’s insistent dissection of the images through vertical tonal stripes also takes us to the photographer’s dark room where exposure tests move across the image until the light is just right. This work is made out of the same exacting precision and alludes as much to the magic of silver, bromide and paper as it does to needle and thread.

Whilst the portraits maybe mute, Hurlstone has written a series of short stories that have been adapted and produced by Steve Doherty of Giddy Goat Productions. Autobiographical in nature, they show people we might know, sometimes the people that we are, negotiating the end of life or chronic illness in predictable but also astonishing ways. These stories possess a similar quality to the portraiture, in that they initially disarm us through the deployment of familiar tropes and a cast of characters that make us laugh, cry or bristle with unease.

Nigel Hurlstone (b. 1970) studied for a BA in Embroidered Textiles at the former Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) where he was awarded a first-class honours degree. He then gained a MA (distinction) in textiles and was one of the first graduates to be an awarded a Ph.D with practice by MMU in 2000. He has worked simultaneously as a practitioner, writer and senior lecturer for the past thirty years and in 2014, established a studio in Ffynnongroyw, North Wales, where he now lives and works.

Curated by Gregory Parsons
Nigel Hurlstone’s portraiture photography: Dewi Tannatt Lloyd
Exhibition photography: Dewi Tannatt Lloyd

Publications Nigel Hurlstone

Nigel Hurlstone: The Wind from the Feet of the Dead

20 pages, softback
Full colour, 210x297mm
ISBN 978-1-911664-29-1

Language: English
Publication date: February 2024
To order call: 01824 704774 or email:



En masse, Nigel Hurlstone’s series of masculine portraits are reminiscent of a museum exhibit that might pay tribute to notable lives or heroic endeavours. Yet, these sepia toned, life-sized faded portraits are obfuscated by a veil of embroidery that places any obvious meaning just beyond reach. As hard as we try to unleash the clues necessary to decipher their significance, each image recedes, obscured from focus. All we can be sure of is that despite a myriad of costumed guises, only one face meets our gaze, that of the artist.

Hurlstone’s long fascination with photographic archives resurfaces in The Wind from the Feet of the Dead. Counter to the artist’s previous research into the forgotten narratives of faces extant only in paper records, he now turns the lens on himself, asking what histories are lost to the choices we made; to the fate that intervened?

Jo Hall