Thursday 8 December 2011

Textile Sushi - Thoughts on Bite-Size

There was an  impressive turn out for Lesley Millar's talk on  Tuesday at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation - over 50 people including several of the artists, I felt very priviliged to be among them. 'Bite-Size' is an apt title for this exquisite exhibition, it struck me rather irreverently that it could be likened to a bento box of  sushi! So many items deceptively simple yet incredibly complex and thoughtful  in the choice and use of materials.Lesley showed slides for each maker which incorporated larger works from previous exhibitions as well as the current miniatures ,setting them in context of the partnerships that had evolved through the various projects.  I had about an hour to look round beforehand  but looked on objects with a informed  perspective after the talk  as the catalogue mainly  contained thoughts by the participants on these partnerships rather than descriptions of the pieces exhibited or artists statements.  A few days later, it is different pieces again that have stuck in my mind.

 Kyoko Kumai 'Whisper of Wind'
 Sue Lawty 'Lead XV'

Many pieces pushed the boundaries of what might be considered textiles - 2 of my favourite pieces were  woven  from metal! Apart from the skills demonstrated and their subtle beauty, I like how they play with the idea of softness and comfort of cloth.
Diana Harrison 'Damaged (work in progress)'  

Metal also featured in the form of pins in Diana Harrisons work.  I've admired her quilts since the early 1990's (or was it even earlier)  when I saw her work in an exhibition at the Crafts Council. She gave an absorbing talk at CQ AGM  about her work  a couple of years ago . What was so special about this piece was that it wasn't a scaled down quilt  but an intricate lace-like work in it's own right while still referencing her larger work.
 Masae Bamba 'Black Water'

I know textiles are tactile but why do some people always feel the need to handle work, look at the back , often thinking that 'do not touch' signs do not refer to them. Not that there were any such signs, it was probably thought that  the work would be respected. So I was rather shocked when someone started flicking through the layers of fabric of  'Black Water' treating it like a fabric sample book , not even returning the layers to their original position. I couldn't see a steward to alert - I didn't like to touch it myself. Lesley  herself referred to this incident in her talk asking  why couldn't people leave it alone and let it maintain it's mystery.
It had been restored after the talk so was able to appreciate it's powerful  depiction of a Tsunami wave ( many of the Japanese artists had been affected in some way) with the black swallowing  all the colour around it.  Knowing what it represented, it felt even more of a desecration.

It also made me think again of the challenges in making and displaying 3D work -  see Olga's posts for how  this exhibition has inspired her ( and for how 'Black Water' should look like). I wasn't happy about how my 'Taplow Vase' was displayed  in the Slough Museum show but I now see that part of the reason it was in that position was to prevent it being handled. The surroundings can make such a difference - I loved how the piece below was suspended in the window , interacting with the view behind .

Yoshiko Tanabe 'Fuwafwa Moyamoya'

After a couple of days digesting what I saw, I've realised how few stitched pieces there were. Many works were very skilled, elegant and precise but  for me rather clinical , lacking the obvious  imprint of the hand of the maker. One of the  exceptions was Celia Pym's 'Darned Sock' which  is the piece that has most stuck in my mind despite not taking a photo of it at the time, perhaps because I related to her recycling and giving new life to old textiles.
That choice probably says a lot about my taste  for earthy food rather than fine dining!


Olga Norris said...

I have been impatiently waiting for your post on the Lesley Millar talk. This exhibition has really got into my brain, and it is interesting to read how it has affected others also. I regret not having taken more photos, and I so wish that I could have gone again to look more and more. However, so much remains in my memory, and I keep turning over thoughts about many of the pieces. Bite Size is truly up there with the most inspirational exhibitions I have ever seen. I am glad that you enjoyed it too.

lisette said...

what a fabulous exhibition - wish it was still on when we visit....

thanks for the report - and the thoughts on people's lack of respect for textile works/touching etc. one reason why i am now mounting or stretching my pieces so that maybe people might see them as art rather than as 'just a piece of cloth'