Friday, 22 February 2008

Arabian costume

I discovered this useful website through reading the latest issue of the OATG newsletter. The Mansoojat Foundation was set up by a group of Saudi women interested in the ethnic textiles and costume of the Arabian peninsula. It includes many excellent photographs and information on events. The group are trying to collect more costumes but the skills used to produce them are dying out.

Oxford Asian Textile Group

I have been a member of the OATG for several years. They always have a good programme of events and an interesting newsletter. The website also contains a series of useful links to museums and organisations covering textiles. The latest newsletter reports that once the extension to the Ashmolean Museum is completed there will be a large area devoted to textiles so more of the collection will be displayed. It also reports on the proposed closure of the Textile Conservation Centre at Winchester. Other topics in this issue are Central Asian ikats, Karakalpak textiles, Saudi Arabian costume, and Burmese woven tapes.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The space between

This exhibition of work by Anne Griffiths was held at the Vale and Downland Museum in Wantage. She specialises in working with delicate fabrics embellished with transparent appliqué and with etched or laser cut Perspex. This work was based on the spaces between things. She says she is interested in the ambiguity that exists in the boundaries between the fibres in woven fabric. Her etched and laser cut pieces appealed to me most; I particularly liked the shadows they caused to fall on the wall behind them. The framing system she uses is similar to the Muji photo frames, but the four corner links are extended behind to ensure the work lies flat and evenly spaced from the wall, maintaining a flat area for the shadows. Two of the etched pieces were limited editions of 20.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Cloth and culture now

This exhibition was brought together by Lesley Millar to encourage an understanding of the links between traditional and contemporary practice. It represents the work of 35 textile artists from six countries. Below are some of the pieces I found most influential for my practice.

Mare Kelpman’s Estonian National Embroidery appeals to me because of its lace-like qualities. She has cleverly used two layers of pattern in different sizes and also the shadows they produce to form a multilayered piece that looks effective from all angles. The piece would not have been so effective if the layers had not overlapped. It has inspired me to use some paper cut outs in my practice.

Reflective surface by Helena Hietanen uses light and fibres to produce an interesting installation that also has a slight movement to it. It looks a complicated structure but taking to her she explained that it rolled up easily for transportation. I am always interested in how artists make large installations that are easily transportable as this is a problem in my own practice.

The tubes of Light by Agneta Hobin were attractive, especially the shadows they cast and the slight iridescence of the material, but I thought they would have looked much more effective if they had been at least double their length.

Shoku Nomura’s installation of washi was not as effective as I had thought it would be. She says in the catalogue that she is interested in how you can see a soft light through washi. I was expecting this light to be more luminous; perhaps the lighting conditions were not quite right. This is probably the case because the installation looks more effective in my photos than it did in life. I attended Shoku’s workshop on the Sunday when she showed us her technique. I thoroughly enjoyed this and was convinced that washi paper is luminous and that there are numerous possibilities for using it in my practice.

Ieva Krumina’s hanging Nobody appealed to me because of its lace-like qualities. It forms an attractive piece from a distance and rewards a closer look by being full of intricate detail.

I generally find tapestries too solid for my taste but Sue Lawty’s installation Call and Response comprising four pieces in different media was fabulous. Her lead, stone and digital pieces were quite open, and the colours in her linen tapestry were very subtle with several changes of shade and slight alterations of texture. I have been considering projecting images onto walls as part of my practice and this installation encouraged me to take this further.

Washi demonstration by Shoko Nomura

Shoko Nomura gave a demonstration of working with washi at the The Culture of Cloth Symposium at the Sainsbury Centre on 27 January 2008. She uses layers of washi to create sheets of paper that are combined to produce luminous installations.

Washi demonstration by Shoko Nomura

She starts with a sheet of washi on an acrylic board. Then adds a layer of dempun nori – a special starch glue – which gives the paper its sheen. She then adds layers of torn washi paper to build up very subtle patterns in the paper.

Once the pattern is complete it is no longer possible to determine where it begins or ends; a feature that Shoko is keen to express in her work. She feels that the process of layering the paper is as important as the finished work. I certainly found it a very therapeutic and all absorbing process to apply the layers of washi and feel them sinking into each other to form the final paper. The instructions for making the paper are in my sample book.

Talk by Mitsuo Toyazaki

Mitsuo Toyazaki talked about his work as part of The Cloth and Culture Symposium weekend on 27 January 2008. The work he has in the current exhibition is Passage of Time, an installation of four maple leaf shapes made of buttons on a plinth . Each leaf is a different colour to represent one of the four seasons.

Professor Toyazaki is an avid collector of functional objects and has a large collection of buttons, although they are not indigenous to Japan. He has made previous installations using buttons and relies on volunteers to help him lay them out. Part of the attractions of these pieces for him is their transience and once they have been exhibited the buttons are returned to his collection.

Mitsuo Toyazaki showed us slides of his previous work and explained where the inspiration for each came from. One of his earlier works was Growth in which he dyed working gloves with indigo then spread them in rows so they looked like cabbages growing in a field. He told us he prefers to create patterns rather than images and showed us his work entitled Safety cloth, which is made up of 80,000 woven safety pins in different colours. From a distance this piece resembles a crochet blanket.

Two pieces based on the Japanese national flag were interesting. Box lunch was a clever use of traditional Japanese food, a rectangular container of rice with a cherry tomato in the centre, to resemble the Japanese flag. Polka dots was made up of numerous flags sewn together to produce a polka dot pattern. This was an effort to make the Japanese flag, which has strong military connotations into a harmless fun pattern of polka dots.

Other artworks in which Mitsuo Toyazaki has used buttons include Kara, a shirt with a pattern made of small holes formed from burns from an incense stick. His inspiration here was an Ise paper stencil, which has a very lace-like quality. Fireworks were the inspiration for Tamatane Mitzabore, which is made up of circles of buttons on the floor. A haiku was the inspiration for Sound of water another series of concentric circles of buttons. While the tea ceremony inspired Colour of tea. Made up of wine glasses half full of brown buttons. This was a play on the fact that the colours of the buttons all have cha (tea) as part of their Japanese names.

I liked the use of the incense sticks and will try making some patterns using this method of burning holes in paper and cloth. I also thought his use of safety pins was very clever especially with the double meaning they imply, they could be a good material with which to make blindfolds.

The Culture of Cloth Sainsbury Centre 26 January 2008

This conference was held to celebrate the launch of the exhibition Cloth and Culture Now. Lectures covered a wide range of textiles including historical and cultural contexts of cloth. The illustrations are all details of Sue Lawty’s installation Call and Response in the exhibition.

First Sandy Heslop talked about Cloth and the making of Europe. He explained that in Europe culture was considered to have begun with the Fall of man. In the Bible, Adam and Eve required clothing to show they were cultured. He told us how important cloth was in the culture and economic life of the mediaeval period. For example, many heraldic devices include motifs that are easy to achieve in cloth. He gave a very interesting talk on the importance of technology and outside influences on the development of cloth in Europe.

Victoria Mitchell then gave a talk entitled Textile tradition meets contemporary art. She described how Cecilia Vicuna uses string and thread to trace the links and unities between people, in particular by using the game of cat’s cradle. She also talked about Anni Albers, who was interested in pre-Columbian textiles, and the conflict between art and craft. In ‘Thinking through craft’ Mondrian’s art is compared with the textiles of Albers; although their work is very similar it is perceived differently. Similarly, Katherine de Zega compares Eva Hesse with Anni Albers; again their work is very similar although one paints and the other produces textiles.

In the discussion, Lesley Millar, who organised the Cloth and Culture Now exhibition, said that for this exhibition she had considered the UK tradition to be the industrial revolution. When selecting work she had not looked for people who repeated traditional practice but those who had used it as a base to move on to the contemporary. Sandy Heslop noted that the present art and craft debate may be a result of the industrial revolution because the manufacture of goods inspired Ruskin and Morris to promote the handmade.

Jean-Loup Rousselot then spoke about Chilkat robes. These are woven cloaks/aprons from the NW of America/Canada. Naoko Yoshimoto spoke about Garments worn in Japanese rights of passage. She explained that white is worn in Japanese rights of passage because it conveys the feeling of being confined. It is worn at times of transformation.
Kadri Viires talked about the Ritual textiles of the Seto people. These are woven scarves used to drape over icons in Estonia. Egle Ganda Bogdaniene discussed art therapy projects and Luder Tietz talked about Queer theory.