Research Point – visit an exhibition of contemporary textiles… make observations, notes and sketches (from the Handbook)
Love Lace showcased the work of 134 artists from 20 countries, the finalists of the 2011 Powerhouse Museum International Lace Award. I enjoyed everything about the exhibition, particularly how traditional concepts of lace and lace-making were challenged by different materials and techniques. I found that the works exhibited pushed the boundaries of what can be defined as “lace” without crossing them.
As part of this expanded understanding of the idea of “lace”, the exhibition also included a major temporary public art commission. Tsunami 1.26 by Canadian artist Janet Echelman was suspended above Sydney’s main street for a few months, challenging not only the idea of lace but also the scale and nature of the street itself. I was very marginally involved in the commission as part of my day job, and found it a most successful intervention into the public domain. Janet Echelman uses textile techniques in large public art commissions. I’m very interested in this idea and will devote a future blog post to her work.
My camera was being repaired when I visited the exhibition, and the phone photos included here are just aides-memoire. I sketched many of the works, and the support material for the exhibition is so thorough and comprehensive, I felt no need for additional photographic documentation.
The exhibition was well designed and the works well installed. I think there was a disconnect between the bold clean graphic style of the exhibition branding and collateral (website, app, catalog, etc) and the warm-toned penumbra of the exhibition itself. Despite this disconnect, however, I felt that each was just right: he bold graphics signaled the bold direction and break with tradition of the exhibition, while the dark spaces and careful illumination of the works showed the “holes” in the lace to best advantage. The photo above shown a view of the exhibition sourced from the internet as it was too dark for my phone to capture.
Below I’ll post images of some works that illustrate the range and variety on show, and look at a few works in more detail at the end.
Are We Made of Lace? by Lenka Suchanek (above). Six panels of enamelled copper wire bobbin lace on acrylic panels illustrating electron microscope images of plants and humans “all made from a primordial lace that cannot be seen with unaided eye, but it pervades everything. We live in an awesome lace world.” (from the artist’s statement)
Heirloom by Shona Wilson, an open-work assemblage made of natural found materials (twigs, seedpods, bones) and found plastic
In Memory Maps, artist Janie Matthews sought to explore how cloth can be used to describe a sense of place. The materials were cupro-ammonium viscose and polyester viscose fabric, clamp resist dyed, mono-screen printed and block printed with layers of fibre reactive dyes; the fabrics were chain stitched and machine-embroidered, manipulated with shibori techniques (arashi pole wrapped, kumo spider web) then etched with devoré technique. The results were very evocative, sort of map-y, detail below.
InterLace by Cecilia Heffer and Bert Bongers was an interactive video installation consisting of lace panels and a projection of Australian landscapes.
Untitled (uterus urinary) by Helen Pynor is constructed of knitted human hair.
The exibition website includes a link to this video:
The Moving Pattern by student Tomy Ka Chun Leung was made of laser-cut pasteboard and very effective.
The firstwork I’m looking at in more detail is Lace Fence by Joep Verhoeven Studio DEMAKERSVAN.It is a portion of wire fence consisting of two 2.2m x 2.2m panels of galvanised steel “chicken wire” which has been manipulated using traditional bobbin lace techniques to create patterns and designs. I was attracted to the scale and the possibilities opened for practical applications of this work (I have since found out that you can buy fences via droog.) An ingenious idea which was carried out with careful craftsmanship, ethically centered in a workshop in Bangalore.
I also enjoyed Electric Dream Birds by Nina Sisko-Risi. Three goofy bird-shaped sculptures made of electric guitar strings and crocheted copper wire. I loved the character of the birds and the connection to life, place, family and making evoked by the artist’s stament, worth repeating here in its entirety:
‘Electric Dream Birds is a playful take on my Finnish childhood memories of a teenage cousin drawing incredible imaginary birds.
This work developed from an idea I had a few years ago to make a lyre bird using recycled copper wire and guitar strings; materials that have a personal connection to my family. Copper reminds me of years lived in Port Kembla, near a now-closed copper smelter. Copper is also a reminder of my parents’ sculptures, as they mainly used bronze to produce monumental sculptures around Finland. The copper wire for Electric Dream Birds comes from my sons’ old crystal toy radio. The guitar strings were easy to come by as both our oldest sons play in a band, so I always have some strings around. One of my sons said that one of the materials used is his sweat because of the energetic type of music his band plays.’
Finally, Interlaced by Anna Lindsay MacDonald really caught my eye – partly because it is based on a map or street grid, but also because it is exceedingly similar (same idea, material and scale) to a little hand-pierced silver map portion I made in an introduction to silver jewellery course years ago at Pine Street Creative Arts Centre.
I had forgotten my little experiment but seeing Interlaced made me dig it up and re-evaluate it, and it also reinforced my ongoing interest in maps, cartography and street grids, it is probably here that I started thinking about focusing on maps for my theme book. My grid was based on the centre of Sydney, the area where a work and a pattern of streets that I have repeated reason to visit both in maps and in person. Anna Lindsay MacDonald’s map bracelet is an interweaving of the street networks of two Canadian cities. By meshing two grids and thereby inventing a place, MacDonald comments on cartographic processes and adds a personal element to her work.
Returning to the overall review of the exhibition, it is also worth noting the high standard of resources and additional content, from a comprehensive overview of the exhibition, to a bike tour (no longer available when we visited) that included observation of the “lacework” of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, lots of great online resources and educational material, such as an overview of lace-making techniques, videos of interviews, talks and workshops, and a pretty good App.
Finally, there was access to the Lace Study Centre which I can see will be a fantastic resource for the degree: