Sunday, August 3, 2008

Paper, Lace and Light

Oxford Summer School runs for at week at the end of July, offering classes in arts, crafts, dance and music. This year I took a three day course with paper maker Jean Mould Hart entitled Paper, Lace and Light.
Working with a variety of pulps from recycled exhibition signs to the incredibly fine Kozo we produced a series of samples of textured and translucent papers.
Left is a sample of the 'paper' formed by teasing apart the wet fibres of Kozo pulp, this beautiful network rivals anything that can be made in bobbin lace and is remarkably strong when it is dry.
Abaca pulp was used to make this sheet of highly textured paper. Whilst still on the screen the pulp was subtly manipulated to produce this semi-translucent, highly textured result. The paper is even more interesting when back lit.
An open frame wrapped with cream coloured mohair yarn was dipped in abaca pulp and allowed to drip dry over a void to produce this wonderful three dimensional cobweb of paper.

Frank Gehry Pavilion

Each year a temporary pavilion is erected outside the Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, this year the designer is architect Frank Gehry.
Described by some as an exploding greenhouse.
To see some of his other works, such as the Gugenheim in Bilbao, the Dancing House in Prague or his Wiggle Chair put his name into google images.

Hyperbolic Crochet

Hyperbolic Crochet, at the Hayward, has been raved about, the mathematicians evidently think it is wonderful - sorry - it was dreadful!
The poster looked promising, being at the Hayward should have ensured quality but what we were presented with was for the most part second rate craft - fluffy messes, in inappropriate colours that did nothing to portray the splendors of the coral reef or the intricacy of its eco-system.
According to the website this installation is 'Fusing science and mathematics with fine art and handicraft, the reef is constantly updated by an ever-expanding group of participants from around the world.' It is the latter part of this statement that proves the undoing of the work - there is simply no quality control! Much of what is exhibited belongs at the Village Fete not in a 'Fine Art' installation.

Psycho Buildings

Psycho Buildings at The Hayward is a series of large installations of atists 'take' on architecture.
Place (Village) by Rachel Whiteread is a mixed media installation of recycled doll's houses, illuminated as if inhabited. The viewer walks down a 'street' between hillsides of miniature dwellings. The feeling is of being in Lilliput Land, slightly disconcerting in its distorted sense of scale and place. There is also an element of voyeurism as one looks into the apparently empty homes.
Observatory, Air-Port-City is a transparent dome positioned on one of the Hayward's outdoor sculpture terraces. Tomas Saraceno has designed it to be experienced from outside and within where there are two levels. In the domes ground floor area there is once again a sense of displacement, distortion and voyeurism as one watches those in the upper level through a thick layer of flexible plastic
Ernesto Neto's Stone Lip, Pepper Tits, Clove Love, Fog Frog is a walk-in environment that not only plays with the viewers visual senses but also their sense of smell. The fine mesh that forms the outer skin of the 'body' and also the fog/ceiling layer can appear lightweight and airy or dense and oppressive depending on ones viewing position, seen from above it becomes a soft filter but from below it is dark and sinister.

Traces at Walford Mill

Traces is a selected exhibition, by members of Textile Forum South West, being shown at Walford Mill in Dorset.

Janet Haigh's work is based on a sampler from Bristol Museum. Janet is inspired by the chance element inherent in any medium dependant on fire for its outcome, here the enamel has been stenciled through drawn work before firing and then the strips are joined together with needlelace insertion stitched in metal or wire thread.
Sue Bradley based her Memory Dress on her great grandmothers christening gown. The dress itself is machine knitted in lambswool and dissolvable yarn and is embellished with lace panels knitted in fine wire.

Fabric of Myth

Fabric of Myth at Compton Verney. A wide range of artworks are on display from pre-Raphaelite drawings to contemporary machine stitched pieces by Alice Kettle.
Michele Walker - Memoriam. Looking like a classic quilt made from pieced leather with a lambs wool 'fringe' closer inspection reveals a very different truth. The 'leather' is stitched plastic designed to look like the patterning of the skin on the back of the hand and the soft fringe is made from highly abrasive wire wool. The quilt is not intended to be the traditional comforter that is handed down through a family to keep memories alive. It is a testament to the loss of memory suffered by the artists' mother and her battle with the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's Disease. A very thought provoking piece.
Loenid Tishkov - Divers from Heaven. I loved this installation, infinitely variable in scale, the faces nestling in their fabric cocoons seemed like fragile memories in need of careful protection. One of the highlights of the exhibition was being invited by the attendant to unwrap, and re-wrap, the handling piece. This experience gave a wonderful sense of being a part of the creative process. The display has a sense of the spermatozoa race about it but the title tends to lead towards the idea of mans race towards the heavens. I was also very taken by Tishkovs' piece The Knitling, a part of which is a video of his mother ripping up old clothes to make strips of fabric which she crochets into a new form. This is based on a local tradition in which memories of family members are kept alive by the reuse of their old clothes and through which they are called upon to protect the user.
Arthur Bispo do Rosario - Presentation Cape. The Brazilian made it his mission to embroider this cape as a record of all of the things that he considered to be worth redeeming on Judgement Day. It is embroidered on the inside with the names of friends and acquaintances and the outside is covered with pictures of the items of his everyday life, from chequers board to trolley, broom to dominoes.
This was a fascinating exhibition with wide ranging ideas and it was the thinking behind the pieces that interested me more than the individual items on show.

New Designer 2008

New Designers showcases the work of this years Graduates, Part 1 includes Textiles, Accessories, Glass, Ceramics and Jewellery.

There were some fabulous pieces on display at this exhibition. Photography is strictly forbidden so business cards and postcards are eagerly sought, further information on the exhibitors can also be found at New Designers On-line.

Farnham's stand looked spectacular, the work having more space to breathe and better lighting than when shown at the college. The most outstanding display was the UWE stand where the exhibits were few but large and certainly challenged the expected notion of 'textiles'.
Debbie Smyth from West Wales School of the Arts showed a number of pieces including very a lacey installation of pin and thread pylons in the landscape. However she calls herself a 'Constructed Texitle Artist' and her postcards were of her constructed pieces such as this tape measure sphere.

One Year On showcased the work of former New Designers exhibitors who have now moved on to develop their own businesses. Sarah Brown (who's work I had admired at Art of the Stitch) was exhibiting here. 84 Hours is based on her investigations into the working conditions of bookbinder William Wood who died in 1788, who worked a standard 84 hour week
Also in One Year On was Brighton based jeweller Leah Varney-Burch whose soft sculptural pieces are a tactile joy and with the neck piece (right) retailing at £800 look to have a bright future.

Hana Kozubova

Hana Kozubova was exhibiting in a beautiful museum in Lanskroun, about 2 hours east of Vamberk. Showing mostly bobbin lace, with some tapestry, her work was primarily concerned with her surroundings, cobbled surfaces, gateways, windows and fountains all featured in quietly coloured pieces.

IV Bienale Czech Lace

The 4th Bienale of Czech Lace was staged in the sports hall at Vamberk. This selected exhibition is only open to Czech Lacemakers and has many sub-categories such as lace made with non traditional techniques.
Eva Damborska was awarded a Silver Medal for her piece
Maria Haromadova exhibited an installation called Confrontation, comprising a series of thread wrapped hearts on the wall behind this superbly crafted three-dimensional heart constructed in wire in bobbin lace.
Zuzanna Hromadova's vast hanging was fabricated entirely by glue gun, it had no right or wrong side and caught the light beautifully. A truly inspiring piece of lace in a non traditional technique.
Dana Varilova is perhaps my favourite bobbin lacemaker, this is not one of her more experimental pieces but I love the movement within the work. Each of the three layers is able to stand alone and produce wonderful shadows but when they are hung together as intended the depth and interplay of lines is amazing.
This collar by Alina Jaskova shows classical bobbin lace techniques used to full effect. Shading us achieved not only by a good range of colours but also by a willingness to add in or remove colours within the work. Further subtle shading is achieved by the working of part-rows, allowing the colour against which it is being worn to show through. The use of wire allows embellishing touches not possible in traditional thread.

Vamberk Lace Museum

The main exhibition at the museum was Three Centuries of Lace. It was fascinating to see how my interests have changed over the past visits to the museum, there were a number of pieces on display that I found to be highly relevant to my current work but that I did not remember seeing before (although I am told that they had been there two years ago).

In the downstairs rooms were exhibitions of late 20th century lace and recent work by Milca Eremiasova.

Eva Damborska

Eva Damborska, textile artist, was exhibiting at the Orlicka Gallery in the castle at Rychnov nad Kneznou. Working mainly in recycled materials her work, for me, qualifies as lace yet does not use traditional lacemaking techniques.

Contemporary Lace in the Czech Republic

Vamberk is a small town approximately 100 kilometers east of Prague, at the heart of a traditional lacemaking region it is home to an excellent museum of lace and a biennial international lace festival. Two years ago I attended the festival as an exhibitor but this year as a mere visitor I was able to spend more time at the accompanying exhibitions as well as visiting those in other towns such as Rychnov nad Kneznou and Lanskroun.
Alena Lenka Cechova had a retrospective exhibition of lace and weaving at the Museum in the castle at Rychnov nad Kneznou. I was particularly taken with this piece, approximately 6ft high and in two layers it combined needlelace and weaving in a particularly effective manner. Unable to read the titles I am uncertain whether the figure in the foreground is trying to escape from behind the fence or reach those who are trapped on the other side of it.