|Ethos & History
The next Fibreworks meeting will be the AGM held on 6th October 2012 at 8.30 for 9 am sharp. Helga's home, 21a Alexander Ave, Kloof.
MINUTES OF FIBREWORKS MEETING :
Minutes of the last meeting were in the May newsletter.
Fibreworks VII:- 'Contexturise' at University of Johannesburg, FADA Gallery.
Firstly my thanks to the National Fibreworks members for staging this fascinating exhibition, and for asking me to open it.
Before getting into some reflections on the title and temper of this exhibition, I would like to briefly reflect on the nature of this grouping: In a defining statement, the Fibreworks group notes that they represent a nationwide collective who work in a vast range of fibre and textile media; with numerous artworks in public and private collections. This purpose statement goes on to explain that Fibreworks aims to promote textile/fibre art as "a serious art form, providing both intellectual stimulation and emotional support for its members, most of whom are women". This assertion points to two central notions inescapable in the oeuvre of textile and fibre art practice: the arts and crafts debate (with all the gender and cultural politics that belong to this anathema); and collaborative art practices and guilds.
In some respects the gender configuration of this particular group seems to affirm the now malignant gripe of feminists decrying the stereotypes of 'women's work' - sewing, stitching, mending, and embroidering having been staged as part of the 'irrational specter' of femininity. But within the postmodern economy of disciplinary parody we now see a revival of this once stigmatised medium, gracing the walls of contemporary galleries the world over. Within this new economy of the stitch, gender is less delineated. For instance we see numerous male artists and designers taking up knitting, crocheting and quilting in the pursuit of thoroughly unwholesome ends (the artists Mike Kelly and Yinka Shonibare spring immediately to mind). I would be remiss not to mention our own local masculine 'habidashers', Lawrence Lemaoana and Nicholas Hlobo being prominent exponents of this artistic form. We should also not forget the very masculine ethos of the fashion world that boasts designers such as Martin Margiela, Hussein Chalayan and the late Alexander McQueen. The liminal fashion produced by these designers is a hybrid formation of fashion, art and performance.
That said, fibre and textile practices have not lost their allure for contemporary female practitioners. From the profane quilts of Tracy Emin to the 'upcycled' tapestries of Frederique Morrel, to the weekend knitter, the attraction of this material practice is ubiquitous. Situated within the current preference for re-reading and re-defining entangled complex identity, fibre and textile mediums present a fitting and redolent medium for the re-dress of complex modern identity.
The very existence of the Fibreworks group suggests that the solitary spaces of the contemporary gallery are not enough to satisfy this medium and its practitioners. This archaic practice of knot, stitch, loop, warp and weft, desires (as if by design) more convivial ends, sharing and companionship, discourse and discovery. I am reminded of the guilds of times past - and in this I mean not to point to the rather tedious binary discourse of the arts and craft debate ? but rather to signal the collaborative and hybrid spaces of practice that are enabled and nurtured within such a grouping.
Now to the title of the exhibition Contexturize, and some observations on the works that you will see tonight. The publicity blurb for the exhibition notes that the title, 'Contexturize' alludes to related words such as 'context', 'text' and 'texture'. The blurb goes on to discuss the almost fetishistic relationship of fibre artists to the phenomenon of texture, which is manifest in representational, sculptural, garment-like, visual and tactile ways.
I would muse further here on the meanings of words such as 'text' and 'context' in this neologism. One's immediate response is to think of the use of written text often evidenced in fiber artworks, and the narrative contexts that can inform an artwork; but lets go deeper and consider the register of this textual voice. Is the fibre artwork, in its twisting, weaving lines of warp and weft related in literary terms more to the strict grammar of narrative language? I would argue not. Proposing rather that fibre art is more akin to the 'iconic syntax' of poetry - the vision of the word. Let me unpack that a bit: I am always struck by the manner in which poetry 'leaves the page' (so to speak) as if conjured alchemically into images in the mind of the reader. Sentences that break the rules of logic can and do evoke the sweltering depths of pictorial imagination. This 'poetic syntax' is in my mind more in keeping with the provocative objects that emerge from fibre art practices. Like the poem, the grammars of selvage and seam are disrupted and entwined, resulting in unpredictable and evocative forms that belong and don't belong to this world. In experiencing these forms we are transformed and transported.
Continuing in this register let me draw you into my thoughts about the artworks on this exhibition:
Let me speak here only of impressions, trend, mark and meaning.
Submerged kimonos and an Ukeo-E geisha embroidery.
A kimono become designer labels ?
A work that seamlessly joins in terms unresolved,
The implacable relationship of the material East to the West.
Postages, love letters, and some travel implied.
Harbingers of the indexical time of making. As if
A shared past belonging to both maker and viewer;
But invariably unique.
Engorged and engorging textured fabrics,
Knitted, crocheted, embroidered, quilted, felted - felt.
A textile carnival and lent - flesh and bone,
Guts and entrails. Cones and squares,
Small, smaller, smallest, the chirosophy of hand and machine.
These cyborg hatchlings.
The 'carte de tendre' revisited here -
Rivers of thread and cartographic appliqué, still reliquary forms Hanging mantles of metaphor, mark and meaning.
Further, deconstructed dress. Cut apart
And patterned on the present - yellow numbers seem important Somehow.
Silken thread, cocoons and insect life
Seen and ripped from the invisible
Economy of farming and production.
Animal presence in medium and made of medium,
Cloaking the human, wearing the body
In closing I would like to stay with things poetic and read from the lines of one of the most breathtaking voices of our time - Poet Laureate till his death in 1998 - Ted Hughes. This particular poem, 'The Rag Rug' was published in an anthology entitled Birthday Letters. This volume is dedicated to the poet's children Frieda and Nicholas; and is a volcanic poetic account of the married life of Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes, which ended tragically with her suicide in 1963. Seamus Heaney (1998) describes the volume as the "psychic equivalent of the bends", I employ it here for the startling truths that are uttered about the quite measured introspection of fibre art practice and the conduit it represents for intellectual and emotional being:
The Rag Rug by Ted Hughes
Somebody had made one. You admired it.
So you began to make your rag rug.
You needed to do it. Played on by lightnings
You needed an earth. Maybe. Or needed
To pull something out of yourself -
Some tapeworm of the psyche. I was simply
Happy to watch your scissors being fearless
As you sliced your old wool dresses,
Your cast-offs, once so costly,
Into bandages. Dark venous blood,
Daffodil yellow. You plaited them
Into a rope. You massaged them
Into the new life of a motley viper
That writhed out of the grave
Of your wardrobe. Like the buried wrapping
Of old mummy non-selves. You bowed
Like a potter
Over the turning hub of your rich rag rug
That widened its wheel,
Searching out the perimeter of a music-
The tongues of the loose ends flickering in air.
Issuing like a fugue out of the whorls
Of your fingertips. It calmed you,
Creating the serpent that coiled
Into a carpet. And the carpet
Lifted us, as it turned and returned,
Out of that crimson room of our cardiac days.
It freed me. It freed you
To do something that seemed almost nothing.
Whenever you worked at your carpet I felt happy.
Then I could read Conrad's novels to you.
I could cradle your freed mind in my voice,
Chapter by chapter, sentence by sentence,
Word by word: The Heart of Darkness,
The Secret Sharer. The same, I could feel
Your fingers caressing my reading, hour after hour,
Fitting together the serpent's jumbled rainbow.
I was like the snake-charmer - my voice
Swaying you over your heaped coils. While you
Unearthed something deeper than our verses.
A knowledge like the halves of a broken magnet.
Those long, crimson-shadowed evenings of ours
More like the breath-held camera moments
Of reaching to touch a falcon that does not fly off.
As if I held your hand to stroke a falcon
With your hand.
Later (not much later)
Your diary confided to whoever
What furies you bled into that rug.
As if you had dragged, like your own entrails,
Out through your navel.
Hughes, T. 1998. Birthday Letters. London: Faber and Faber Limited.
"Fibreworks VII was held at University of Johannesburg Bunting Road campus in May. This is a prestigious gallery that has hosted some thought provoking exhibitions in the past. It is a two floor space with excellent lighting and the perfect venue to promote contemporary textile art to a wide audience. My intention was to make the statement that we are more than just craftspeople; we are thinkers, writers, investigators, observers, commentators and lifetime students of creative textile art.
Art quilts are developing as a genre in their own right, this piecework revitalizes conceptions of what a "quilt" can be, we are constantly defining and evolving in the medium and developing its immense potential in the use of uncommon threads.
I wanted artists who were making art about Something. Not necessarily something intellectually demanding or even earthshattering, but definitely Something that motivated the artists to create works of high standard in both manufacture and intent. I wanted originality combined with a strong concept and skilled use of the medium, colour and composition, a high aesthetic quality and in-depth content.
My aim was to create a diverse and visually exciting exhibition that contained a selection of all our members, expressing their individual artistic voices. It took six days to hang the work, with the invaluable help of the assistant curator Sally Rumball. The result was a unified composition on the walls in which each work complimented its neighbors and enhanced the visual flow.
Imagine my shock/horror then, when the first person to enter the room squealed in aggrieved tones "maar dis naaldwerk!" Suffice to say I was a teeny bit flustered. That was the only derogatory comment. The high standard, exceptional workmanship and design captivated the many visitors, judging by the tributes in the visitor's books. They found the pieces intriguing and appreciated the ingenuity of the artists and designers as well as the diversity of media and technique.
The show included over eighty pieces, ranging from compelling and meditative personal statements to elegant beaded glitter and glamour and even a touch of whimsy. There was thread painting, paper collage, shibori, wire weaving, embroidery, photo transfer, knitting, found objects, soft sculpture and art to wear.
Our guest artist was Inge Hyson, a senior lecturer in Graphic Design at UJ. I saw her exhibition entitled "The Mindful Garden". I was fascinated by the grace, beauty and discipline of her painting and her innovative use of handmade paper, collaged string, fibre and fabric. Her source of inspiration is nature and her interpretation is subtle and convincing. I chose her installation of ethereal, white, translucent muslin, stitched and appliqued with ghostly plant forms, a symbolic implication of the cycles of growth and regeneration. The gauziness was a sophisticated statement contrasting with the vibrancy of our pieces.
Ann-Marie Tully was our guest speaker. She has a prodigious list of awards and accomplishments. She is an artist, ceramicist, curator and art theorist. She is a published academic, lecturer and writer. She has exhibited widely and is represented in both local and international collections. She has also had work accepted by Innovative Threads.
The exhibition was handsome, a feast for the eye and a tribute to all the artists who participated.
I feel privileged to have curated this show."
A big thank you, once again Jenny, for all your hard work.
Major Minors IV
Major Minors IV will open at Artisan Gallery on October 3rd 2012 @ 17:30. The exhibition will be opened by Estelle Hudson who is a clinical social worker and a narrative therapist.
Ingrid Lotter, the new curator of Artisan Gallery, has kindly organized a function for all the Fibreworks artists to introduce themselves to her at the gallery on Friday 5th October 2012 @ 17:30. She is looking forward to meeting us!
There is no need for anyone to collect their work from the gallery. Helga and Jeanette will collect the work and it will remain with Helga until the next exhibition.
Sue Akerman, Gillian Gerhardt and Bruce Atwood are exhibiting work at the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg. It will be opened by Celia de Villiers on December 13th 2012.
Sue Akerman tells us more about the show:
"This is a culmination of a year's work by 3 KwaZulu Natal artists; essentially a fibre artist, Sue Akerman, a wood artist Bruce Attwood and a painter Gill Gerhardt.
Intention: Towards the end of 2011 we were brainstorming over a cup of coffee and were discussing the inter-personal co-operation that would need to exist in a relationship between artists working on a communal canvass, be it wood or steel or whatever. Taking into consideration the given diversity of each artists vision and original abstract thinking process, and allowing that part of the process would by necessity be organic in nature, we wondered if it could be a feasible project or simply a dubious decline into chaos. We decided to try a few experimental pieces (eventually most of the pieces turned out to be experimental!) with 3 simple rules in place to keep us from trampling each other's egos and ideas into the dust.
1. It had to be playful and fun - any pompous, pedantic inclinations would spend time in the sin bin.
2. If we really didn't like something someone else had done, we had to be honest, but also must give positive content as to how it could be changed.
3. Commit to the work - the work load was huge, but it was the only way to turn the fantasy into reality.
Process: All 3 of us would brainstorm the design, with ideas passing back and forth. Bruce would then begin the skeleton of the design and thereafter hand the place back to Sue or myself. We would then work in different components of our own to the design or even change certain aspects and then give it back to Bruce who would repeat the process of fine tuning and changing certain elements on the piece. Some pieces travelled backwards and forwards between the 3 of us several times before we declared it "finished".
Results: With each finished piece, we found that we had a new courage to work more extensively on each other's original work. With a better trust in each other's concepts, the eclectic mix of different media and materials used supported our learning and growing process with pieces progressively improving and becoming more exciting. Barriers and preconceived perceptions of what is considered "correct" were breaking down and we had begun to work on the very edge of the so-called "art piece" - digging into it and finding the forms and textures, light and shadow that we needed to enhance our work. 3 very disparate beings had been able to fuse together a single entity without losing anything of their own unique vision."
Thank you Sue! This promises to be a good exhibition.
MACS Exhibition: Yesterday's News - Tomorrow's Promise
Kobie Venter from the Tatham Art Gallery has extended this invitation to all of us:
(Some of you have already submitted work to Jutta for this show, thanks very much).
"You are invited by Midlands Art and Crafts Society, supported by Tatham Art Gallery, to take part in the MACS QUILT CHALLENGE.
No, you don't have to make a bed-size cover or wall-hanging! You need to make a small, A4 sized artwork in any medium, but with a quilt-like appearance. The theme, 'Yesterday's News - Tomorrow's Promise' may be freely interpreted. Traditionally, quilts are stitched with a number of blocks (9, 12, 16 etc) and three layers of fabric, but such decisions depend on the imagination of the makers. We encourage you to break with tradition and create something different and exciting, e.g., using recycled paper and glue.
The Tatham Art Gallery has invited MACS to display these works in the Schreiner Gallery from Wednesday 12 December 2012 to Sunday 10 February 2013.
The deadline for entries, which have to be delivered to MACS at 23 Haldane Road, is Wednesday 31 October. Entry forms will be available at MACS and at the Gallery. If your work is for sale, please keep in mind that there is a 20% commission. Each artwork must have a hanging mechanism.
There will be no selection, but in terms of space constraints the Gallery reserves the right to exclude unsuitable entries.
Surprise us with unusual materials or interpretations!"
For more information, contact Kobie at 033 3922819 or MACS at 033 3866500.
everyONEcounts Campaign against Human Trafficking
Lara Mellon has invited us to contribute a small art work (30cm x 20cm) for the South African everyONEcounts Campaign.
For more details see: http://everyonecounts.co.za/blogs/news/6156012-artist-brief-2012
Deadline: 15 November 2012
More news from our members:
And now to don my other artist's beret……………………
I am the representative of Studio Art Quilt Association for South Africa. I have been showing the travelling exhibition "This is a Quilt", a selection of forty four 12" x 12" works framed in white foam board, around the country. The little pieces are powerfully expressive and are of a high caliber, illustrating the potential of the art quilt in expressing personal convictions and individual statements, as well as humour and culture. I have CDs of these inspiring little works and they can also be seen in this month's Stitches magazine.
I urge you to join this international group. Our work needs to be seen in other venues, we have reached a glass ceiling in this country. We speak with a unique language and vocabulary in artistic terms and should be on the world stage. I have been invited to exhibit at two venues in the States and one in Taiwan through my membership. I know the subs are expensive, but only five percent of people go to galleries and they are not the buying public. We have to ask ourselves, what are we doing this art work for, if not to be seen?
The purpose and mission of SAQA is to:
Promote art quilts to major art publications, museums and galleries.
Educate the public about art quilts.
Serve as a forum for the professional development of quilt artists.
Act as a resource for curators, dealers, consultants, teachers, students, and collectors.
SAQA publishes a thrice yearly professional journal, hosts an active and progressive online community and website, assembles numerous traveling exhibitions, and provides art quilt education and critique opportunities.
Think about it.
Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life - Pablo Picasso
That's all for now! If you have any news for our next newsletter, please send it to email@example.com we would love to hear from you!