Observations: Sew and sews needle the west London art cognoscenti

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The Independent Culture

If your idea of embroidery is a fuddy-duddy, old-fashioned sewing skill, then a visit to the forthcoming exhibition, Beware of Embroidery, at west London's PM Gallery from 15 January, will change your mind. Five international artists – Kate Keara Pelen, Louise Riley, Tilleke Schwarz, Laura Splan and Tamar Stone – all employ their embroidery skills in very different ways but each brings the medium bang up date.

First up is Schwarz, whose handiwork is more akin to graffiti scribblings. Seemingly unconnected text and images float around the brightly coloured cloths; from a spinning monkey to food and phrases from a local newspaper that have caught her eye. "When I went back to art school to do more training, they saw the freedom I had in my drawings and advised me to stitch the same way," she explains.

Louise Riley is hand-stitching onto abandoned mattresses for three installations and then making a sculptural piece out of household furnishings. Each is based on how nature and society interact; one installation, The Birds, tells the story of two men researching the possibility of having a child together. 'I found the mattresses near to where I live and they're enormous. The first one I saw, I dragged home in a supermarket trolley and now I find one at least once a month,' says Riley.

On a smaller scale, Tamar Stone has tucked historic tales inside embroidered corsets while Kate Keara Pelen focuses on health care in an abstract way. Finally, equally intriguing is Laura Splan's series of computerised machine-embroidered delicate doilies and cosmetic facial peels which depict the structures of viruses such as HIV and Sars..

Beware of Embroidery is at PM Gallery, Ealing, 15 January to 27 February (Ealing.gov.uk; 020-8567 1227)