Tag Archives: fibre art

Statement of current practice

The last piece of written work needed to go in this week too – a critical evaluation of all of our reflection over the course of the MA. It really hits home that this is all nearly over now, and time to move onwards and upwards hopefully! We were asked to put forward a statement of our current practice – a design principle or artists’ statement for us as we move on. This was a rather pleasant task to write I thought. So here we are:

Artists’ statement:

My work explores our concepts of self, by looking for our encounters with ourselves as we travel through life, where we can glimpse some fragment of truth about who we are. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-existing identities, we can see how these strands are built from places which become part of us through our lives. Shadows of real and imagined places embed themselves into the self, an interconnection of experience, memory and fiction. These shadows haunt us as we pass through the spaces of the world, generating belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My practice is based upon exploring these shadows, searching for a sense of belonging which cannot be found. When so much of our individual experiences of people and places are filtered through our cultural psychology, what happens when you have no place you feel is home?

At its root, my work is a conversation between language and memory. These are the tools which facilitate the relationship between our internal and external worlds – the bridge between the physical world and our world of personal experience. Language allows us to communicate with each other, to talk to ourselves, and to identify ourselves. I engage with the language of poetry as a way to access the communication of our inner self, both as a raw, immediate art form in itself, as well as exploring the possibilities of the visual poem through the materiality of ink, paper and fibres.

Many of the processes I use in my work are based on the creation of structure through transformation, layering and repetition. My interests are now aligned to my methods: using a material which is conceptually elegant to make a constructed material which encapsulates both its own inherent narrative as well as my own. I have combined the use of this material language with a working process which allows the fibres space to demonstrate their properties. Installation as an immersive experience is a natural expression of a concept based around ideas of personal place.

A slight change of plan

I had decided some time ago about presenting a book of poetry alongside my final show installation. A few posts ago, I talked about making a handmade book of single line calligraphic poetry which would offer a glimpse of the fragment of identity being invoked for each of the map strings. I even posted a picture of my lovely multi-coloured book model!

Well….on a lovely, rainy walk with my other half, I was talking through the ideas behind the book. He asked, perfectly innocently, channelling Maiko from afar, how the words would link to the actual material map strings I had made. A thought appeared in my head – which said how the premise of my whole installation is about experiencing my handmade material. A material which speaks for itself without the need for any intervention.  I had only a week ago said during my symposium talk that:

My journey has brought me back to myself
Looking for my shadows in the memories of the places I have been
Creating a language built of material,
a material which speaks so loudly for itself, it offers its own story,
a material poem perhaps: a physical manifestation of the memory of place …

There is after all no difference
Between a poem carved with metal and ink and a stream of words pulled out of the back of your mind
or the material poem itself, a thousand square miles of remembered places cut, twisted and condensed into a single piece of paper yarn

So a new idea: a slight change of idea, was born. Instead of just putting in the isolated lines of poetry in a fancy book…..(which I must admit was slightly risky to take on having never made one like this before)……I would instead present the lines of poetry in a book alongside the material they were inspired from. This would give a sort of taxonomy of the map strings as individual identity fragments before they are combined into a single encounter in the physical installation.

My book therefore becomes a taxonomy of maps and of identity.  A taxonomy is a classification.  It is not like an atlas (a book of maps or charts); the taxonomy does not collect, it classifies.

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I asked myself while doing the photoshoot for the book, why I should not just present the string loops as they are for the show, why bother with a hanging installation? I was pleased to know the answer to this inside my head already. I want people to experience the “encounter” with myself as more than just an observation of a taxonomy, to instead become a part of the work within the room. Each separate string is just a fragment of identity which does not exist in isolation. The installation brings together each aspect of placeidentity to combine to offer a glimpse of the whole sense of self.

Instead of a handmade book, I have created a shiny professional art book which suits this idea much better.  Having spent all weekend doing the photoshoot and editing, it’s now on order, so that part of my show work is now done too. Can’t wait to see the finished copy!

8 days until show build
24 days until the show opens

Re-visiting thread installations

Maiko said she felt the beauty of the map string may be being diluted through the construction of the weaving, turning the piece into just a representation of the landscape and not much more. So, let’s take the extreme case: what if I don’t do any weaving at all?

There could be something more subtle and more ‘pure’ perhaps in making an installation directly with the map strings. Universal stories of physical places transformed and twisted into long paths. Each string perhaps a different place which is part of my sense of self (those places I choose to be). Then I can overlay my personal stories onto them through poetry or some constructed visual language?

I went back through some of the inspirations on this type of installation which I had come across before in previous fibre art research, to see if any new conclusions could be drawn, and came across the work of Anne Lindberg. Her practice has been described as a drawing language (which is what immediately attracted me to her, back when I was doing a lot of my abstract drawings). She creates installations and 2D drawings that are both abstract and immersive acting as “a mirror of how [she] experiences the world”.

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Anne states that her “sculpture and drawings inhabit a non-verbal place resonant with such primal human conditions. Systemic and non-representational, these works are subtle, rhythmic, abstract, and immersive. I find beauty and disturbance through shifts in tool, layering and material to create passages of tone, density, speed, path and frequency within a system”.

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She describes her work as a kind of self-portraiture. “Within the quiet reserve and formal abstraction is a strong impulse to speak from a deep place within myself about that is private, vulnerable, fragile, and perceptive to the human condition. My work is a mirror of how I experience the world, and as I negotiate physicality, optics and ideas through drawing languages, my voice withholds, blurs, teases and veils. I frequently return to subtle distinctions between drawing as noun and verb as a long held focus in my studio practice. This blurred distinction drives my fascination with an expanded definition of drawing languages and the resurgence of drawing in contemporary art. My collective body of work is an iteration of this language.”

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Looking back over my work from the last two years (although so much of it has been confused), you can still see the predominance of my love for the line. This was where I started back with the dimensionality project, thread drawings and then moving onto my first experiments in basketry. Perhaps this is a natural place for me to end up? The question is however, will I have enough time to resolve a new idea – or is this new idea in fact just a resolution of everything which has come before?

 

Water, paper, time.

After a while deep in the grasp of my proposal context, I have spent a day going back into process and looking at what new processes may be relevant to take my work on to the next step. This has brought me back to paper and specifically to making my own handmade papers, which I have been toying with on and off since I started college. The time is now right!

There are some great books and online sites which delve into the process of paper making, particularly using plant fibres – which would be a natural extension to my Genius Loci work. Either as paper made directly from plants, or as inclusions or dyestuffs. Plenty to experiment with.

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This led me onto looking at a couple of inspiring artists using handmade paper as their main medium. First, using mainly paper and pigment is American artist Ellie Winberg.  She explores the tactile nature of the paper, creating abstract shapes and textures. I like the minimalism of her works which bring out more of the “paper-ness” of the material.

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From here, I came across another US artist Aimee Lee, who seems to have become something of an ambassador for traditional Korean paper making and paper weaving techniques. Her work reminded me of the basketry work we did at West Dean – I wonder if our teacher had any exposure to the Korean technique, known as jiseung. Aimee is a great example of an end-to-end papermaker, or rather from “root to sheet”. Her works “examine traditional objects used in various moments of life and history…I alter these forms by changing their proportions, shapes, and pairings to see how older technologies and stories inform contemporary versions of objects we use to this day. To design new function and form for paper as a substantive material, I invent book structures and print directly onto woven, knitted, and sewn paper. These pieces challenge the usual assumptions about the strength, heft, and capacity of paper to be both itself and something still to be imagined.

A couple of my favourites from her extensive gallery online:

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After this, I went further into paper making processes and discovered Helen Hiebert who has written a number of books on paper making and makes very interesting, almost meditative paper sculptures and artists’ books.  Two examples of her work I liked are below, as well as a beautifully crafted video which introduces her process: “Water Paper Time is an intimate examination of the organic, non-static, sculptural, and time-based qualities of Helen Hiebert’s process in paper making.

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What I took away from this fascinating video was the exciting idea of allowing the paper to exhibit its own internal energies, its own wildness, with you the maker only shaping and encouraging that process to occur. I very much like the idea of following up this process within my own practice. This can be combined with my idea of mark making of place – using locally grown fibres or dyestuffs to imprint the essence of place within the papers.

My internal Maiko-monitor (the little voice that sits on my shoulder and asks me why are you doing this?) asked what the relevance of paper is within my project context. I have a proto-thought on this developing so far: paper is most often a substrate – an aether – onto which language and thought are organised. It takes the role that the path does; the ground beneath our feet allows us to explore the world while our eyes and minds look beyond. What can we see in the areas in between the words?

Textile basketry @ West Dean College

Great weekend at West Dean, such a lovely place and a lovely tutor, Mary Crabb. We were focussing on the technique of twining, which I was first introduced to in Shane’s basketry worktop at Stave Hill last term. This course however, was looking specifically at soft structures, using textile fibres to create the basket forms. A great technique which I very much enjoyed using, where the structure is formed from the strength of the weave without needing any wood or wire supports. I think this is going to be a very interesting thing to explore back in my MA work.

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The group was 10 ladies all with a range of interests and experiences, but all of us pretty much new to basketry. It was a great atmosphere and set up, West Dean comes highly recommended – especially the Sunday roast and rhubarb crumble! This was our tutor, Mary Crabb hanging up some of our samples for display. Most of the structural supports we used were a thick paper yarn, after that we used either thinner paper yarns or any other mixed fibres – it was fascinating to see what people’s colour and textural choices were, from the huge box of goodies Mary brought for us to use.

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We were taught five initial samples using different techniques and applications of twining including a couple using willow supports. It was up to us how we developed those samples and if we wanted to add any 3D aspects or keep them flat. In light of what I am trying to do with my Camberwell work, I thought trying to see where the 3D elements could come would be most useful!

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Sunday was a little different, as we were encouraged to “freestyle” and use the techniques we had been taught on anything we had liked most. I tried two things – first a very miniature basket (so cute!!!)

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The second piece was a bit more experimental, where I wanted to see how far I could push the structural properties of the technique. This isn’t yet finished, so I will continue to work on this at home – just need to get some more paper yarn on order!

Finally, here is a shot of the work which Mary does – quite a lot of her current pieces are working with thin wires. Amazing meticulous work which takes days to do. Let’s see if I can come up with anything quite as interesting! Overall a great course.

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The Politics of Fibre

Notes from Talk at the Whitechapel Art Gallery by Janis Jefferies and Grant Watson

– artists working outside the traditional expectations of what textiles is
– textiles being looked at as a sculptural material
– liberating the surface from the content of the frame
– break the rigidity of definitions, break the frame of reference
– natural connection from fibre to line to language
– textile and fibre works mutating, being reinvented according to the discourse of the moment
– thread of human connection
– ways of making and nun making the world
– is your craft expanding? Can you play and invent and re-invent? Once tidies up, framed and on the wall the work takes up its position and its discourse is fixed
– do we still have a hierarchy of materials or is there more acknowledgement of the repertoire of possibilities?
– so often a Political context – feminism often labelled when it isn’t
– textiles can be a transitory, mobile medium
– there are still issues of language and meaning, what you call your work can define how it is perceived

Lots and lots of artist references as well to look up
– Sam Gilliam
– Al Loving
– Richard Tuttle
– Richard Smith
– Anne Wilson (invisible labour made visible thought performance)
– Abocanowitz
– Lenore Tawney

And a few shows:
– Deliberate Entanglements (1975)
– Decorum
– Thread Lines
– Open Letter
– Textile art and the social fabric

Key thoughts for me to take forward
– AUTONOMY V UTILITY
– textiles as a transitory material