I was very lucky a couple of weeks ago to take advantage of some research done by my fellow OCA student and friend, Judy. We are both located in Australia and can’t participate in the UK Textile Study days we see advertised by OCA. So Judy took up the challenge and contacted them and Liz Smith very kindly sent her briefing notes, visit plan and a sheet on a Critical Approach to viewing works of art for us to use.
Judy then typed up a daily planner and off we went to Manly Art Gallery and Museum for our own Textile Study Visit.
I confess to being a bit daunted by what I thought was quite a rigid timetable but in fact it turned out to be brilliant. We started by walking around both exhibition rooms and making general comments to each other about the pieces.
Then we each chose two pieces to focus on in detail, one per room. The gallery staff were extremely helpful and let us take photos of the general layout of the spaces and then provided chairs for us to sit in front of our chosen pieces while we worked (even offering us a cup of tea when we returned after lunch). I was very impressed with the array of both the hanging pieces and the stories behind them which were displayed in glass-topped tables in front of the art works. There were some excellent visual processes of how the pieces developed from initial ideas to the final solution. A lesson for anyone interested in documenting their design development progression.
The first piece which drew my attention was this wonderful wall hanging entitled “Banksia” made by Amanda Daly. Amanda has written quite a detailed account of it on her blog and there are pictures of the materials and threads used. I include some relevant information here:
Size: 84 x 52cm
Techniques: Raw edge appliqué, wireform sewn into seed pods, machine stitching, pieces made separately and applied later. Quilting and embellishment was heavily stitched using textural threads and silk ribbon.
Fabrics: Cotton, silk, organza, scrim and Lutradur.
It was only when I moved to look at the materials provided to explain the process that I realised the whole piece had been measured and constructed using the Fibonacci number sequence. I’m a huge fan of using these numbers to effect in art works and was delighted to see someone else who obviously thinks the same way. The mind maps, drawings, fabric swatches and experimental samples were also a joy and reminded me to ensure I keep my own records diligently.
What is it that attracted me to it? Well, I’m naturally a neat person and I like clean lines, minimalist work and reduced colour palettes. Blue is my least preferred colour with green being a place my eye is always drawn to. “Banksia” speaks to me. I live high on a hill with numerous Banksias around my property and I love Australian flora. I watch these from first bloom, through to drying out, splitting and falling from the tree, and also after bush fires have singed them to blackened husks. This work demonstrates the beautiful colours of the full flowering tree against the resilience of the burnt remains still visible after even the fiercest fire has swept through the bushland. The Banksia is one of the marvels of naturally occurring bushfire regeneration. It’s not really possible to see the detail stitched on to the background in the photo but Amanda has machined every part of the Banksia from the leaves to individual depictions of parts of the dried pod.
I emailed Amanda and asked if she would allow me to use the photo above and she very graciously agreed. Then by complete coincidence, whilst I was at a meeting of an Australian textile group yesterday, I met her and we had a bit of a chat. I had no idea that we were both members of the same group and have probably met in the past without ever being introduced.
The disconcerting thing about it is that the photo in the catalogue (where this picture was taken from) shows the pieces hung in a different order than they actually were in the gallery. This leaves we wondering which is in fact Sun, Dirt or Water. I interpret this photo to be, from left to right: Water Dirt Sun but it could equally be Water Sun Dirt.
Size: 137 x 129cm
Techniques & Fabric: Pigment printed original digital images on silk, machine quilted and embroidered.
The visual processes displayed for these pieces were all machine stitched and printed images on paper and fabric.
The pieces themselves had no obvious focal point but each area was engaging by the use of linear machine stitching in differing directions and densities. Some shapes and marks on the fabric I interpreted as figures – vague and in a hazy background. There didn’t appear to be any hand work in evidence.
Kylie has written that she uses digital images printed on to silk, cotton and paper as well as using recycled, hand dyed and hand printed fabrics. She may quilt or embroider them, cut them up and reassemble parts in other collaged formats. Details of larger images often lead to new a new series of prints and textiles. She is inspired by the landscape and was listening to The Waifs ‘Sun Dirt Water’ album whilst making this piece.
I found it somewhat ambiguous. The colours were fairly muted, a little ‘fuzzy’ and running together but distinct enough to form interesting differences across each piece, and there was a lot to see and interpret. The longer I sat in front of it the more I discovered. I started making up my own story as to what was depicted. From a visual point of view I didn’t see the connection to the theme Regeneration but Kylie has stated in the catalogue “Regeneration describes both my process and use of materials in making my work ….. The process is circular, a constant regeneration of ideas …..”
Overall an interesting and stimulating day, if a little long because of all the travel involved. Other aspects of our visit have been covered by Judy on her blog.