Art spaces, Artists, contemporaryart, Exhibitions, Galleries, Inspiration, Studio practice, Textiles

Entering the experiences of others

Imagine walking into a room where masses of cloth that appear to be stained with something like soot or even dirt are arranged over almost the entire floor. Huge paper panels hang from the walls, smeared with dull-coloured stains. Are these marks made by nature or the human hand? Are the surfaces weathered? Accidental? Angry? This was my response on entering the work of Carmen Argote, a Mexican artist living in the US, whose practice focuses strongly on her immediate environment, and her personal responses to it.

This exhibition, As Above, So Below, curated by Margot Norton at New York’s New Museum, is the result of two artist residencies the artist has undertaken in Guadalajara where she delved deeply into the rural and agricultural environments she encountered.

Responding to her surroundings through observation, bodily awareness, local architecture and agricultural activity, she has used materials from those environments directly in the works themselves. Organic substances like coffee, pine needles, avocado and cochineal are embedded into cloth and smudged onto paper through a process of dyeing, or applied to a support like paint. Reflecting an amalgamation of the corporeal and the spiritual in Argote’s practice, her exhibition’s title speaks to a belief in sacred geometry that sees Earth as a reflection of the heavens.

The scale of the installation seems to suck you in to taste the atmosphere she herself experienced. Argote’s work is a deeply felt response to her culture, new environments, and the political and economic relationship we all have with the land.

It was one of the memorable textile-based exhibitions I encountered on my recent trip to the US.

I loved the cluster of beautiful little textile collages I found by German artist Hannelore Baron at the Guggenheim‘s Artistic License: Six Takes on the Guggenheim Collection exhibition. Small, thoughtful and quite pained, they are exquisite little assemblages of life experience.

Born in Dillingen, Germany, in 1926, Baron and her family fled to New York in 1941 to escape the escalating Nazi hold over Europe. Sadly the trauma inflicted on her led to mental breakdowns and claustrophobia as an adult and she lived out her troubled life in an insular and solitary way.

Her work embodies a deep sadness, interwoven with the fragile specialness of life and the uncertainties inherent in the human condition. It’s as though she has caught fragments of things while they were falling around her and cobbled them together in a way that both reveals and conceals her personal experiences and her inner turmoil of depression, claustrophobia and life-long breakdowns.

Beautiful little works in every way.

While in San Francisco it was a treat to accidentally stumble upon a beautiful, intimately scaled exhibition of lovingly mended central Asian storage bags at the de Young Museum. The Turkmen Storage Bag exhibition highlighted not only the different designs of cultural groups but the amazing mending evident on most of the pieces. I’m always drawn to mending for a variety of reasons so I was a sucker for this one. These pieces were lush and richly coloured. So important, so useful, and so laden with meaning, that the wear and tear, as well as the repair stitching, was simply and artfully magic.

Small and thoughtfully put together, this was another textile highlight of the trip.

I love the feeling of excitement that goes with chance discovery. Seeing how others respond to life experience is always an education in itself. What better way to do this than through engaging with art?

rhondapryor.com

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Artists, Inspiration, repair, Studio practice, Textiles, Uncategorized, upcycling

The heirloom theory

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Donya Coward, Brown sitting Rabbit – photograph from her website

Do you have any artists or makers who do it for you? Are they an inspiration for your principles and practice?

I often find research addictive. One find leads to another. Before you know it you’ve got a chain of inspiration and empathic appreciation for the work of others that informs your own work and sits comfortably with your beliefs and principles.

Discarded materials, ratty old preloved garments, mending, and disparate bits & pieces often have reuse potential that goes unheeded. Memory is embedded into everything. These examples of creative work are very much aligned with my own philosophy and love of materials.

Slow work.

Hand work.

Considered.

Ethical.

I say that (ethical) because I firmly believe in the Less Is More theory.

Less consumption, more human contact, less fast-paced living. Purchase something of great quality that you love, that will last and last – and take pleasure in handing it on to others when the time comes.

Donya Coward is an artist whose work is an exquisite example of what I like to call ‘the heirloom theory’. She takes bits and pieces of very different materials and turns them into sculptures and other textile art that are brilliantly handworked treasures. You can see more of her incredibly detailed work here.

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Celia Pym, Norwegian Sweater – photograph from her website

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Celia Pym, Hope’s Sweater, 1951 – photograph from her website

Celia Pym is a UK artist whose penchant for darning and mending is a quirky and beautiful way of extending the life of garments and objects. In her hands anything textile can be preserved in a way that gives a refreshing and individual twist to its existence. You can see more of Celia’s unique projects here.

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Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

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Mayer Peace Collection – image from Instagram

Berlin designer Christine Mayer’s practice is one I’ve watched for a while. She is superbly skilled at repurposing textiles in a way that’s individual and deftly structured. Her work extends to theatre costumes as well as fashion. Check out her work here. I’m happy to say I’m a proud owner of one of Christine’s pieces, bought during trip to Berlin in 2012. Timeless and beautiful.

I love finding inspiration in the efforts of like-minded creatives. There is satisfaction in finding similarities in practice, using your own resources creatively, and sharing ideas, whatever limitations might be in place.

Who are the practitioners you find inspiring? Does your list keep growing? Let’s compare notes……

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