Eye-catching embroidered murals

Dominique Schroller

Published on 12.02.2020

Portuguese artist Aheneah combines modern graphics and traditional embroidery techniques to create large-format murals.

Aheneah developed the techniques she uses for creating her large murals while studying design. As part of her bachelor thesis, she explored the connection between digitally generated graphics and analogue handicrafts. The results of all this interesting mix are impressive works which take up a whole wall and transform pixels consisting of an individual cross-stitch into large, almost photo-realistic images. Aheneah has succeeded in creating contemporary works of art that present a traditional craft in a new context using digital technology.

The artist’s embroidered murals reference a traditional Portuguese craft. Portugal has a long heritage of embroidery. It has survived in many regions of the country and is not just something that is maintained by the older generation but is a craft that has no problem finding new practitioners amongst the young. Embroidery is practised across the generations in villages and towns, from church halls to facebook groups. You find embroidery used in the private sphere in peoples’ homes, on garments, but also on sale at local farmers’ markets, and it is also a popular souvenir for tourists.

Aheneah’s works of art showcase the traditional craft in a modern context. She breaks down photographic images and drawings into individual pixels on her computer and then converts the pixels into individual cross stitches, which she late “embroiders” on a bare wall or house facade. She created her first wall installation in September 2016, a sports shoe entitled “Go Big or Go Home” and which was initially intended as an experiment. Aheneah used it to test just how suitable cross-stitch was as a technique, laying the foundation for her later murals, which can be found all over Europe in the meantime.

In 2019, Aheneah created two murals in the French town of Bayonne. They were intended to inspire viewers, to pause, take a deep breath and simply enjoy the moment. As the artist explains, “Living in an age that is very much determined by technology means that we often forget just how complicated, rich, yet fragile, the ecosystem in which we live actually is”. The subject only really reveals itself when viewed from a distance. At close range, the individual cross-stitches merely appear to be different splashes of colour. It is only as you step back that they merge to become the image of a face.

Aheneah has gained fame throughout Europe in the meantime. Alongside her artistic output, she also teaches her cross-stitch technique in workshops and at communal events and regularly presents new works at different textile festivals, such as the renowned British Textile Biennial.

Images: Aheneah