A few days ago I visited this exhibition at Gallery Lane Cove. Nine artists were represented, from which I’ve chosen three to show here (and apologies for the quality of some of the photos – something about the lighting and my phone’s camera didn’t get on well.)
The works on the left are by Brook Morgan, woven Protea flowers and cotton thread. The exhibition was “created to examine traditional handicraft materials and techniques in a contemporary art context” (1). While the techniques used came from traditional craft – weaving, stitching, felting, crochet – a number of the artists demonstrated more modern concerns in their choices of materials, with recycled and rather unusual natural materials apparent.
Above is Letters From Home by Alice Brickhill. Materials include recycled fabrics and embroidery thread. Alice Brickhill grew up in Tasmania and has moved to Sydney as a tertiary student. The move from the more secluded island state is clearly of great significance in her work, which is filled with a sense of nostalgia in both materials and the theme she has chosen to explore. There is a strong sense of storytelling, but the details of the story remain obscure.
Two works from Gabriella Verstraeten’s Red Crosses Series are shown above – Tile no. 4 on the left and tile no. 5 on the right. The medium is freehand machine embroidery, rayon and metallic threads on synthetic ground fabric. In real life the colour of these works is absolutely glowing. While the threads used are a major part of this, the choice of colours produce a vibration and energy that drew me across the room. Abstract patterning is created using a few simple, repetitive motifs. The artist claims “there are no political statements, no emotional self-examinations, no messages.” (2) The rhythm, the surface created by the dense stitching, and the sheer pleasure in materials and stitch drive her.
Above are two more works by Brook Morgan. All are described as Protea Scroll, woven protea flowers, cotton thread. One aspect I particularly enjoyed in these works was the sense of rhythm in the striping of the wefts. It’s probably easiest to see if you click on the left-hand photo, as the colour of cotton changes gradually from orange to white. At first glance each work has an overall unity and sameness, but detailed examination finds the subtle variation of the materials themselves and the weaving process.
In her statement accompanying the exhibition Morgan emphasises the importance of engaging with her materials and process. She collects and prepares the grasses and flowers, creating a connection and communication with them. While the brittle materials pose challenges and limitations, her close involvement and knowledge gained open her to possibilities.
I’m not even slightly drawn to the use of “raw” natural materials in my own weaving – not for any particular reason other than that they don’t resonate with me – but I am filled with admiration at their use here. A simple variation in the way the material is inserted creates an amazing pattern. The piece on the right was described as Untitled – Loop Series comprising woven stick and cotton thread. I’ve wondered about “loop”, but perhaps that refers to the visual effect rather than the technique.
The works on the left are also from the Loop series (unfortunately this photo is where my camera struggled the most). The work on the left-hand side is described as woven stick, cotton thread. That on the right is woven found wire, cotton thread, although I thought I could also see bundles of white horsehair or something similar in it.
It’s interesting to compare Morgan’s Loop work with that of Liz Williamson – seen on the right and in my post of 24-Nov-2012. Morgan completed Masters Degree studies at COFA, where Williamson is Head, School of Design Studies. Both have used the same weave structure to create “Loop” series, both tend to use natural materials (often cotton, silk and leather in the case of Williamson), but scales and outcomes are quite different. Williamson has produced a wearable that I see as chic, elegant and urban while retaining a sense of enclosure and protection. Apart from her engagement with materials and methods I don’t know more of Morgan’s intent, but these works brought back to me vivid memories of a childhood holiday staying in shearer’s accommodation on a sheep station near Adaminaby. The house was surrounded by dry paddock, fenced in rusty wire and with an old horse which was rather cranky about my beginner attempts at riding. The materials, and the sense of a rural, larger, but still safe enclosure are a striking match.
(1) Brickhill, A. et al. (2013) Knit Knot Weave. Sydney: Gallery Lane Cove.
(2) Verstraeten, G. in Brickhill, A. et al. (2013) Knit Knot Weave. Sydney: Gallery Lane Cove.
Alice Brickhill: http://annual.cofa.unsw.edu.au/2012/graduates/1043/alice-rose-brickhill/11814 (not a lot of information, but some much better photographs).
Gabriella Verstraeten: http://www.gabriellaverstraeten.com
Brook Morgan: http://www.craftact.org.au/experienceofbeauty