Tag Archives: weaving

Artist’s Profile: Michael Brennand-Wood (v2)

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!

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highlights of the degree show

Almost a week has passed, since the exhibits came down, the walls were repainted and the lights turned off on our final degree show. It was a great experience, although I am glad it is all over. I promised you all some potted highlights, in case you didn’t make the show!

Do you know who you are?

If you turn and look back
Do you see the places you passed on your way here?
Each dwelling, carving it’s nature onto your identity,
However fleeting the pause.

Shadows, built from real and imagined places,
Embedding themselves into your self.
You may not even have noticed it happening
Until you were already gone.

The absolute identity does not exist;
The self is nothing but a haunting of memories, experiences and fiction.
Each pause is an unravelling,
A fragment of identity found or remembered;
A choice, a path, a longing.

You should not have come here looking for yourself.
You will find nothing.

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In total there was 221 metres of map string made from 32 individual maps, carefully chosen to represent specific places significant to my own identity. The book of poetry sits alongside offering a glimpse as to the nature of the memories belonging to each place, each thread.

And lots and lots of visitors!

Thanks again to everyone who helped make the show possible, particularly those who generously offered their help in sourcing or offering vintage maps. You all got a mention in my book 🙂

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Artists profile: Joell Baxter

An unexpected find while searching for something completely unrelated, is the weaving artist Joell Baxter. Her practice combines screen printing, weaving and colour theory in an exploration of visual perception and physical response. The placement of her multi-coloured, paper weaving sculptures evokes minimalist sculpture and interior design staples like carpets and pillows (and occasionally chairs too). Although her work is quite fine art-y (especially in the way she is inspired by the interplay of colours) but it is also very familiar and evocative of textile work. This cross-disciplinary approach inspired me as it is fascinating to see weaving linked so closely with painting and fine art instead of any formal links to contemporary basketry. Particularly while I am still searching for my own ‘label’.

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In her words she describes: “I have always made work that sits between disciplines and actively engages the viewer in different modes of looking. All of my work strongly references minimalism, in terms of its approach to space and to creating a one-on-one relationship between the viewer and the work. I use very basic processes and forms that are reminiscent of grade school arts and crafts projects like weaving potholders. I want to evoke an immediate sense of familiarity, almost a muscle memory of how the work was made. But after that initial response, I hope that what at first seemed familiar becomes strange and more complex.”

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“In planning my work, everything is extremely orderly and can be diagrammed as a set of instructions. I typically use colors in the order of the visible spectrum, so red follows orange follows yellow, and so on. But by weaving these colors together, they start to interact and become harder to name and distinguish. This is due to the inherent nature of weaving, where color relationships are constantly alternating through the pattern of over and under. So there is a kind of glitch introduced into the plans, forcing me to let go of absolute control over the results.”

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Great stuff!

Working Process show

Our pop-up work in progress show is now up in Camberwell Space Projects after a week or so of last minute prep. It looks really good, I’ve been quite impressed by the range of stuff on display – particularly since this is the first real show of work by the first years. No photos of the work yet, must get some next week.

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So in the end I put up two pieces, the mountain map and the sea weaving, alongside the two inspiration weaves/words. After testing I decided the pieces looked good on the wall – I think better than showing flat on a plinth or shelf. I got some useful minions to help me out too!

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Using the wall gave me a lot of options to play with angles and the view of both sides:

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Overall thoughts. The small pieces are nice, but I definitely want to do at least one big piece. I may not do three all the same size, but at least one work can be underway while I finalise the next two. Do I want to keep the threads loose at the back? This emphasises the two-sided nature of the map, and the excess of information which is lost in the view at the front (echoing the map versus the map legend). Does this become obvious though or does it just look untidy?

Map weaving III

I am currently feeling oddly optimistic about my final show plan. Perhaps because I have I think at last found a coherent way to bring my ideas into a manifest piece.

My plan is to show three pieces and some accompanying words in some form (book/essay perhaps). At the moment I have the ‘making plans’ for the first two pieces underway. The third piece is still undecided – I have two different ideas which I may need to do some tests on first before picking one. The accompanying book is a whole other ballgame…this is going to need some thought, but is at least a nice way to break up the stress of making so much yarn on my fingers!

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Map weaving II

So the map weaving continues. I finished what I think will be my final tests, based on the original idea for the map weaving – i.e. one large textured surface. As opposed to imposing some preplanned form onto the structure, I let this one be naturally shaped by the tension and making of the piece – so that this becomes shaped by my memories and experiences of the places.

Firstly, I re-did the weave of the sea maps:

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Then, I completed a new piece (which will be shown at the pop-up show) based on my mountain memories, the ups and downs of life, the building of character…

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I was really happy with the mountain map, it has come out with a lovely mix of colours and textures based on the qualities of the original maps: 9,230 square miles of UK mountain range. The shape of the weaving was done strictly on the grid (to keep the link with its origin as a grid map) but the tension changes gives it its lovely organic form. This is what I will do now as a much larger piece for the final show.

Now I know what I’m doing process wise, I can start planning out my pieces in detail. There are a number of key questions to ask now:

  • Finishing: do I leave the fringes or try to remove them?
  • Do I want to frame the final pieces?
  • Finalising how to shape the piece – based on topology of my memories or the place?
  • Keeping the decisions intentional: dictating the colour and form of the final pieces
  • How important are the labels and titles?
  • Do I make an accompanying essay/book/drawing to go alongside the pieces?

I know that I want it to be clear that the work is weaving, but not to make it explicitly a textile/basket form – i.e. so it just looks like a tapestry. This will be best served by covering up the fringe edges – either by process or by framing. One more test required here!

As to the shape, I need to decide what each of the pieces will be first and then plan out their shaping method and colouring pattern.

Lots to do!

Map weaving tests I

I’ve had two ideas for the final show based on my initial map weaving sample. After talking to Susan, I decided I had just enough time to do a quick test of both ideas before the work-in-progress show in March.

First idea test is now complete, and I showed this at a group crit this morning. With this test, I wanted to pick out one aspect of place identity, and let the form of the weaving be interpretive, based on my response to the place shown on the map, and my feelings of how that place infuses my own identity. This seemed to be completely lost on everyone, and the focus was more on the shape (“is this some sort of sea creature?”) than on anything more conceptual. They didn’t seem to get the idea that the piece was made with all one aspect of the map which I had deconstructed, nor the significance of the data on the label. Disappointing, but I have to remember a) this group is not the audience I am targeting with my work, and b) it was meant as a test and I did ask for the feedback after all.

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This brings me to the question as to whether my second idea may be ‘easier’ for people who aren’t inherently conceptual to engage with. Do I want to broaden the appeal of my work a little and make it more accessible? I don’t want to dumb down, but I don’t want it to be completely uninterpretable either. If only I get anything from it, that slightly defeats the point of the artwork. This beings me back to the low relief sculpture I mentioned in the last post. Removing the challenge of form (I would be weaving on the map grid) would mean I can focus solely on texture and colour….

I’m going to see if I can get a final test of this second idea done before the WIP show…but with only a few days left spare, I’m not sure if that’ll work in time!! Then it will really be time for a final decision and to start making the summer show pieces.

Narrative weaving

Catching up on new making and a couple of days of tutorial ups and downs…

After doing the colour experiments a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try doing a bigger piece which would show me what a larger piece of the paper weave would look like. So, last week I made a piece which incorporated the narrative materially into the weave; I based it on the idea of ‘origins’, and used of-place materials which spoke of one aspect of my place identity. Although this sounded like I knew what would come from it, looking back now it was clearly an early-stage, slightly unplanned experiment. Looking at the finished piece, there is something in it…but it’s a long way from being anything resolved. And perhaps not a final show worthy idea after all.

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After making this piece I tried to figure out what I didn’t like about it. More than anything else my choice of materials is perhaps the biggest question: paper, map, wheat and white willow. I know I wanted “English” materials, but this set doesn’t really fit together very well. Let’s not even discuss the fact that the paper is actually Japanese. My favourite pieces have all been ones which have had a single material propagated throughout, and this is a long way from that. Still, I thought there was something interesting in it….but I’m no longer sure quite what that was.

I had a catch-up with Maiko yesterday and unsurprisingly, she didn’t like it, and seemed unnervingly happy that I wasn’t pleased with it also. In fact, Maiko didn’t really think there was anything in any of the paper weaving samples I’ve done. Perhaps I see alone see something lovely in the coloured weft weave in particular, but that isn’t related to my current project. Something to file in the new ideas book I think?

So what next? Well, before I went in for my tutorial I imagined a mini-Maiko on my shoulder asking “Why? Why?” and went back to my project objectives:

I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at 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, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation. My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.

And this brought me back to the idea of using map weave and the ideas around the heterotopia – in Richard Long’s words where the sculpture and the place are one and the same. I was quite enjoying the deconstruction and reconstruction of the map back over the holidays (and the echo in constructing and deconstructing the sense of self). Time to revisit the map mini-project!

This was my new test piece done using plain 2-ply paper in place of the more time-consuming handmade map yarn:

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I really liked the vibrancy of structure in this piece and could envisage a really large, topological (topographical?) low relief sculpture made completely of maps. Something echoing the ups and downs of the evolution of one’s own sense of self across a lifetime?

When I showed Maiko these she went straight for the thread made of north sea blue, and seemed fascinated by this as an object in its own right. Unlike the restricted loom weaving, there is a lot of potential in this idea and we had a lively chat about some things to consider. Maiko suggested I had come full circle, arriving back where I started the course process-wise but with a different idea of making and the development of my ideas. [I certainly hope I have moved on after all this time and effort!??] I definitely had no clue about materiality and the agency of object (and process itself) when I started. I think this idea, although not yet fully resolved, can contain all the lessons I have learnt about making over my time at Camberwell.

Today, I followed up this chat with a tutorial with Susan J from the Book Arts course. We last met last June before the interim show – so much has come on since then! Really great chat and lots more ideas to think about. Nicely different yet complementary to the comments from Maiko. Importantly she reiterated that there is still time to experiment. I can a have a “plan for the show” right now without needing to know exactly to the mm what the final object will look like.  She said not to pin everything down too early, there is still time!

So a summary of my reflection from both discussions:

  • Colour will be a key factor to manipulate in the final object…
  • …as will tension – does the tension in the weaving echo tension in the landscape / geological or identity crisis?
  • Investigate the relationship of the grid as the basis of weaving and the grid as the basis of mapping
  • The form of the final object need not adhere to the grid, subversive weaving? Be wary of not making it look like a ‘basket’ though
  • It also doesn’t need to be a really big piece which contains every concept in one – I can focus it down, specific ideas to specific pieces, and show a series of works
  • Since I’m obsessed with words and this is conceptual art, use the labels to add extra layers of meaning to the work. I can make the display of the final pieces work to my advantage here – labels, libraries, context etc.
  • The weaving is a condensation of all of the information of the map into a new object, and this is quite a powerful image I can play with (e.g. this one piece of textile is made from 10 individual 1:25000 O/S maps etc). This is not only true spatially but temporally as well.
  • The map is normally a folded object so what am I saying by showing it in a non-folded form?
  • Do I want my pieces to be touchable, will you be able turn them over? OR do I want people to see the underneath but not be able to feel it?
  • on this point, a map it a two-sided object. The back either has a new map, a blank space or an index/legend of some kind. How will I make use of this or acknowledge this in the work?
  • Remember eggs and baskets!

 

Storytelling with colour

After my last post, I had a nice chat with the lovely Bridget and tested my provisional show plan with her. Her reaction was good (apparently my ideas have much more me-ness in it). She noted the ethereality apparent within both the paper weaving samples and my latest calligraphic poems. [I don’t think I have talked about these on the blog yet – so as a quick summary, I have started looking at my ‘place identity’ using my asemic, consciousness poetry – calligraphy on top of monoprinting]

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So after meeting with Bridget, I’ve been making more weaving samples, experimenting with different ways of mark-making using the weave. I’d like to incorporate my story physically into the weave (as opposed as to just writing on top of it).

The latest samples:

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I love the effects with the colour pieces, and am less convinced by literally weaving in the words. Not sure this looks great and it is just too……well, too readable perhaps? I tried different warp dyeing experiment following on from this, which turned into a horrible mess. I then decided to follow this with baking a batch of chocolate muffins (after giving away 16 cakes yesterday), only for this to result in a horrible mess too and end up in the kitchen bin. Urg.

Some days go like this I suppose!

Something different then, and instead of making, I’m thinking about form instead. What object am I creating with all of these weaves? Something wistful and ethereal with fragments of words and poetry drifting into and out of focus at certain points? Oooh, I like the sound of that [blogging is a great way to empty the mind, instead of just talking to yourself]. I have been wondering about the forms I made in Unit 1 – looking back to pieces such as desire line from last September. Can I do basketry with pieces of weaving, would this be some sort of meta-weave?  This is conceptually very attractive.

Initial 3-fold and 5-fold paper maquettes and a quick material test with the samples I’ve got so far. I think I may need to find a form that is a little more open.

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Turning towards the show

Time is running short and I need to start formulating a plan for the final show. There is still a little time to test – and the faster we have a plan, the faster we can begin testing each element.

Let’s begin with a re-statement of my final project proposal:

I am investigating the concept of self by examining the subjective reality we construct as we experience the world. By unravelling our sense of self as strands of multiple co-exisiting identities, I am looking at 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, generates belonging, displacement, familiarity or isolation.

My project is based upon the process of weaving, as it echoes my ideas of universality and locality: a single cloth constructed from countless individual strands. Within the fibres, I am seeking an expression of the complexity of our existence. Fragments of past, present and future co-existing for a fleeting moment, never to reform.  I am interested in bringing in my poetry and asemic calligraphy work into my fibre work – combining the the abstract and conceptual influences with the physical, viscerality of making. As of yet, I don’t know how I’m doing this…but let’s see if I can update this paragraph in a few months time!

To experimentation then….

Well, I started by going back to weaving paper yarns, and looking to see if I could incorporate marks onto the woven cloth. This piece was tested by painting the warp with my calligraphy ink.

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Then I followed this will another experiment using raw silk yarn and playing a little with the tension of the loom, seeing what changes in texture this would make by itself, without needing to paint over any marks in ink:

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So far the paper is winning!