On Saturday I went on my first OCA study visit to view the 62 Group of Textile Artist’s exhibition called Making Space, which is there as part of the Barnaby Festival in Macclesfield. The exhibition is being held in the Macclesfield Silk Museum, and as well as seeing Making Space, we were also able to visit the museum and the accompanying silk mill to see the original silk cloth looms.
After a brief get together in the cafe we made our way to the exhibition and immediately went our separate ways to look at the exhibits.
My initial impression was that this was a light and airy room but with not a lot to see. Then I realised that almost ever space and corner was filled with textile pieces. There was a very eclectic and varied mix of interpretations and techniques in evidence. In fact after a longer look round I could see that the room was quite cramped and although efforts had been made to place the pieces in the most flattering and pleasing way some of the exhibits had missed out and there was evidence that some pieces had been shoe horned into awkward corners.
It was difficult to really study all of the displays on a limited time budget so you had to gravitate to the pieces that caught your eye and the first piece that drew me in was Lucy Brown’s Ladies Companions.
They were inside a glass case which was a good idea because they just asked to be touched, to be examined but they were so delicate and intricate that I wouldn’t have trusted my clumsy hands with them!
The use of human hair woven into vintage sewing items gave them a slightly disturbing feel, not everyone agreed with me when I said they were macabre and made me think of strange talismans and voodoo dolls.
Reading through Lucy’s interview in Radical Thread (1). I was drawn to why and how she uses weaving as a language and a method to reconstruct/ re-invent raw materials to explore ideas about re-telling/re-working histories’ What a wonderful idea and so relevant to Part 4 of A Textile Vocabulary.
The next piece I was drawn to was Caroline Bartlett’s piece Journey. I was bound to be drawn to this one because it included smoking in its design. I loved the look and design of this piece, I liked the way it was self contained and simply hung on the wall without a frame. The clock likes shape links well to her description of the piece and links to time and duration.
I loved the use of smocking in this piece and the gentleness of the shape. The use of blue and the red bought the composition together, gviving it interesting points of light and focus.
I find Caroline’s particularly interesting and relevant to my own work on ATV. In Radical Thread she says ‘I like to work across a breath of practice, switching between gallery based work and responses to site; historical, museological and archival’
There is evidence in her work of the adaptation and transformation of traditional methods into thoughtful and considered pieces of contemporary art.
This is something I would love to be able to do successfully and I will take her words with me as I tackle the next exercise in ATV.
Ann Goddard’s pieces were the ones that engaged me the most, I really did have to stand on my hands to stop myself from touching and poking and prodding the textures and individual elements. I was helped by the fact they were displayed on the floor and getting down there would have meant getting back up, not an easy task these days!
I just loved the way these little cocoon like pieces were held within the harsh concrete mood. I wanted excavate down and dig them out to see what lay beneath.
I wrote in my notebook:
” you want to dig your fingers in and see if the concrete will release it’s captor. I feel the need to release the bud/large type pieces, pull them free and investigate the hole, what is left? What is behind/beneath the cotton?”
The other piece by Ann Goddard I found equally arresting. I loved the folded and spiky forms that were all the same but all also unique, they all lay in tantalising ways. There was a sadness about the piece, it was difficult to accept that these may have been dying or dead creatures struggling to survive in the wake of man’s destruction of their environment. It was particularly alluring that they had been laid out with distance between each piece and in their position below the window the pieces cast little or no shadow.
I love the way the pieces are called ‘twisted constructions that represent small life forms’
Already this exhibition had demonstrated the aims of the 62 Group to ‘show strong, innovative work to the widest possible public through the continuing exploration of this most basic medium which touches us all’. (1)
I particularly liked this quote from Ann Goddard, in the book of interviews of the members to celebrate their 50 years called Radical Thread, referring back to 2005, when the group (62) was questioning the relevance of calling themselves ‘textile’ artists.
Ann says ‘ because of my border position (between ceramics and textiles) I have never really known what to describe myself myself as, but I know I personally need the parameters of textile practice as an unlying influence on my work’ (2)
She goes on to say that she hopes the group continues to promote, and encourage awareness of, contemporary art practice using or referencing textile elements and processes in the broadest sense.
I’m was very aware that at this point I had not been drawn to any of the traditional style textile pieces, the quilts the embroideries. This in a way demonstrates the changes that undertaking this OCA course is bringing about in my personal view of textile art, at times this has been difficult, and yarn and linear explorations have particularly boggled my brain but as I stood in that bright room in Macclesfield surrounded by so much variety I felt suddenly revived and inspired.
It is wonderful how looking and appreciating the work of others can change your mind set in such a positive way.
The next pieces I looked at were Debbie Lyddon’s stunning beautiful pieces, Holed Cloth 1 & 2.
As I said, they are stunning, the pieces had been soaked in sea water for 6 weeks and grown a beautiful organic skin of salt crystals. At first the surface appeared matt but as you looked closer there were little glimmers and reflections of light. The pieces are folded so that your view through the holes is impeded, at times the holes are huge spaces of nothingness that then crumples and is blocked by the stiff fabric that surrounds it.
I love the way that the pieces have been displayed, it isn’t framed or protected but left open to the elements and I wonder how this will alter the salt cover? If I see it again will it be different?
At this point I made this observation in my notebooks:
“Change and the ability to alter (by my hand or nature) – I see this as a theme that I like in this exhibition”
There were 4 pieces that I felt linked in directly to my current project in A Textile Vocabulary and yarn collections.
Firstly there were Shuna Rendels own linear exploration and her larger resolved piece Reflect. I love the way she calls her technique: Complex Linking.
It was wonderful to find something at the exhibition that so perfectly demonstrated what has been required by the exercises in this part of ATV. I’m still not completely sure that I’m following the brief exactly but now I can see how the pieces you produce can be worked into pleasing forms and textile related pieces. Later this will be further demonstrated by Jean Drapers beautiful organic thread creation.
Shuna’s sculptural design was very fluid and tactile, it looked like it had grown out over the confines of its display plinth and was trying to see how far it could go before it toppled to the floor. I loved the contrast of the dark and light in the brown fibres and the gentle sweep of the base was very pleasing to the eye.
Jean Draper’s book about using structure has been one that I have referred to often during Part 4 of ATV and I was looking forward to seeing one of her pieces. I wasn’t disappointed but I did feel that it had been hung in a very poor location and in fact that was one of the low points of the exhibition; so much has been squeezed into such a small space that some of the pieces hadn’t been displayed to their best and both Jean’s and Jan Beaney’s work suffered for lack of space.
I loved Jean’s piece despite this and wrote in my notebook ‘beautiful twists & turns & links, layers of depth and texture and again a stand alone structural piece’
Dorothy Ann Daly’s exhibit was a more traditional selection, I wasn’t particularly wowed by the piece but I loved the description.
Finally I was taken by Atsuko Yamamoto’s beautiful lace called Time Warp. Again this piece wasn’t displayed to it’s best advantage, it was hung in front of a white background in shade so it was difficult to see the intricacies of the weave. It still had a beautiful ethereal quality to it and still cast some delightful shadows.
These pieces I have chosen to blog about were only a very small part of a very eclectic and varied exhibition and then the museum and the tour around the silk mill next door and the company of like minded artists made for a fabulous day.
The 62 Group of Textile Artists
Radical Thread (1) (2)
Macclesfield Silk Museum
Dorothy Ann Daly