Research Point – Part C

How do you view textile art?  Do you think about it in the same way that you would look at a painting or a piece of sculpture?  How far do you feel it has been accepted as a medium for fine art by the fine art establishment?

Yes I look at textile art in the same way I would view a painting or sculpture and I believe textile art encompasses a wide range of skills and design development just as painting and sculptural works do.  The problem I see, in my mind, is the definition of textile art.

The question of whether something can be considered ‘art’ or not is very subjective and personal opinions abound.  In recent correspondence with my tutor it was suggested that I check out the work of a couple of current textile artists on-line.  This I did, only to find that – with one in particular – I couldn’t understand either the message being portrayed or the final composition.  My tutor sent me an interesting and insightful response when I told her this and it has reminded me that we are all at different stages of our creative evolvement and whilst I may not appreciate this work now perhaps I will review my thoughts in the future as I become more experienced.

Is textile art accepted by the fine art establishment?  What an interesting question. Firstly, what exactly is fine art?  Being British by birth I always understood it to mean painting and drawing only, so I wanted to see what the definition is here in Australia.  One of the people I spoke to was Kerry Stern at Sydney College of the Arts, part of The University of Sydney.  She was intrigued by my question and informed me that their establishment teaches fine arts which includes painting, printing, sculpture and drama.  Having told me that they do not cover textile arts she then went on to say that printing will quite often be applied to textiles of some description ……… so perhaps that could be classed as textile art.

One of our major art centres, or organisations, here in Sydney is Object.  They are soon to be renamed Australian Centre for Design.  Object has issued a mission statement going forward to 2015 which is embracing the changing culture of our society, the needs of audiences and what the public expects from the art world in the future and it is formulating plans on how to deliver a wide range of arts in many formats.  There appear to be no boundaries to what can be explored and what may, or may not, be classed as art in the future.  They base their criteria on design.  The brilliant thing about Object is that they have realised that design and creative thinking doesn’t only apply to art but also to business and society in general through many avenues including architecture, infrastructure, schools and education, etc..  They have wide-reaching contacts and, without quoting wholesale from their website, they are blurring the divide between fine arts and textile arts, making both acceptable to larger audiences.

Reflecting on my many visits to various major galleries and exhibitions around Australia, both contemporary and more traditional, I continually see textiles being presented as major artworks.  Looking at The Fine Art Society of London website I see that the section entitled The Fine Art Society Contemporary showcases many artists who are including mixed media into their paintings.

So, back to the question: Is textile art accepted by the fine art establishment?  I think progress is being made, public expectations are changing and whilst there will always be purists in every camp I see more acceptance and integration coming in the future.


About Claire B

I am a passionate printmaker, paper maker and book artist. I'm a 'forever' student and frequently attend courses and workshops to extend and improve my creative skills.
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