I first wrote a profile of textile artist Michael Brennand-Wood (MBW) back in Jan 2015. His was among the first profiles I wrote when starting my MA – and as I review past things now, I find I am still fascinated by his work. Time to investigate a little deeper!
El Rayo-X (1981)
MBW’s practice is a synthesis of historical and contemporary sources, both contextually and for his technique. He persistently works within what he describes as “contested areas of textile practice: embroidery, pattern, lace and recently floral imagery.”
Whilst respecting the history of textiles, he has built on old techniques and has tried to find new ways of thinking about them – skills such as weaving, knitting, lace-making and embroidery. He sought to move away from the decorative aspect of stitching, for example, to allow it to become more expressive. He also explored its sculptural potential as a mark made in relief on a flat plane. It is this exploration of the relationship between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional surface which piques my interest the most. MBW described his exploration of three-dimensional line, structure and pattern as:
Exploring the illusionary space between two and three dimensions, these works are colourful, dramatic, rhythmic and holographic in feel with intense detail that merges at a distance into strongly optical configurations – From MBW Website
Rather than creating an illusion of space with design or image, Michael adopts a Modernist approach of drawing attention to the physical characteristics of the thread, particularly its texture and tactile qualities. This leads to the following key characteristics of his practice:
- Structure: the underlying geometry is responsible for giving MBW’s works a good structural foundation. The surface may often appear free, expressionistic and even chaotic, but close examination will always reveal a unifying grid beneath the layers.
- Touch: MBW has stated that it is through touch, scent and sound – not just vision – that meaning is conveyed. The memory of feeling, smelling and even hearing the rustle or movement of certain materials interests the artist along with the resonance of textiles associated with specific events in life or history
- Materials: work incorporates diverse materials as paint, sand, wire, net, aluminium, wood, resins, ceramics, and he uses the techniques and processes associated with other disciplines such as sculpture, embroidery, weaving and carpentry.
- Meaning: each observer responds differently to the textiles, objects, colours and forms according to their own associations, but sometimes MBW guides his audience with signifiers, such as text, images or the inclusion of loaded objects and materials.
BABEL | Machine embroidery, wire, text, glass tile, resin, ceramic
LACE THE FINAL FRONTIER (2012) | Metal discs, acrylic paint
So what now?
Well, I remember some advice I saw for Foundation students once showing how to work with a reference artist’s processes and/or materials and use them as a platform for exploring further. This seems like a good place to start. I like the repetition of similar but non-identical forms; I like the grid structure which sits as a strong underlying foundation; I like the freedom of materials (a refreshing change from 100% maps only!)
A good opportunity to be inventive.