Entangled: Threads & Making at Turner Contemporary

Yesterday I went on a bit of a nostalgia trip to Margate, a seaside resort on the north Kent coast. Somewhere in the loft is a photo of me aged 5, grinning into the camera without any top front teeth, waving a bucket and spade on a beach that apparently stretches for miles into the distance.

Childhood holidays apart, in recent history Margate’s main claim to fame was as the home of artist Tracey Emin. Then, in 2011, the Turner Contemporary gallery opened on the seafront, on the site where the eponymous artist stayed when visiting his mistress Mrs Booth.

The current exhibition, Entangled: Threads & Making, was finally enough to lure me out of my metropolitan bubble – and it was so worth it.

Intriguingly, the exhibition begins in the lift, where Samara Scott has covered the walls with old carpet decorated with yoghurt, plaster and food colouring. Sounds bizarre – but it makes for a wonderful riot of colour and texture.

But I did wonder how long the artist spent going up and down in the lift while installing it! 🙂

The colour continues with Anna Ray’s Margate Knot – 2,000 intertwining padded elements tied together, inspired by the colours of the cliffs, lichens and buildings around Margate.

The exhibition includes pieces by big names, such as Louise Bourgeois, Sonia Delaunay, Sheila Hicks and Anni Albers, but here I’m focusing on artists I hadn’t heard of whose work particularly appealed.

Christiane Löhr has two pieces in the exhibition. Her Horse Hair Column connects floor and ceiling and took four days to install. In another room, eight incredibly delicate structures made from grass stalks and seeds are displayed on a low stone plinth. Her close observation and knowledge of her materials means that she knows exactly the right time to pick the grass so that it has the right degree of flexibility and rigidity.

Paola Auziché’s Natural Fibres consisted of 37 pieces made from fibres such as chenille, hemp, raffia, cotton, jute and hemp, inspired by minarets in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Next door, Laura Ford’s Penguins looked on in bemusement.

More animals – ceramic sculptures of a lizard and a crab by Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro – were covered with handmade cotton crochet by Joana Vasconcelos.

Ursula von Rydingsvard cut cedar beams to resemble thick thread or reams of fabric for her work Thread Tremor.

I also loved Aiko Tezuka’s Loosening Fabric #6 (Entangled). The photo doesn’t really do it justice, but she has unravelled the threads of the central part of this piece of fabric so that it seems to flow down the wall and onto the floor. It can take an hour to unpick just 10cm of fabric!

Entangled: Threads and Making runs until Sunday 7 May – sorry for the late review.

While I was in Margate I also visited the extraordinary Shell Grotto. Nobody knows who made it or when, or why – it was discovered in 1835 and opened to the public in 1838. The walls of the passages and rotunda are covered with mosaics of around 4.6 million shells, most of which are British, though not necessarily local – the main shell used in the backgrounds is not found in Kent but around Southampton.

I even made a start on my own shell collection with a hearty bowl of spaghetti al vongole at the wonderful Hantverk & Found! 🙂

 

Josef Frank at Fashion and Textile Museum

josef-frank-spotlight4

If the long cold winter is getting you down, I can thoroughly recommend a visit to the Fashion and Textile Museum to see  “Josef Frank: Patterns – Furniture – Painting”. The riotous lushness of his colourful designs will send your spirits soaring.

The exhibition covers his textile designs, furniture and watercolours, including many paintings that have never been seen in public before. But it was his textile designs I found most entrancing, so I focus on those here.

Josef Frank (1885-1967) was born in Austria and trained as an architect. However, he was interested not only in construction but also in interior design, feeling that a home should be a cosy and comfortable haven.

In 1925 he founded the design and furnishings firm Haus & Garten, but in 1933, with anti-Semitism on the rise, he moved to Stockholm with his Swedish wife Anna. For almost 30 years he worked with Estrid Ericson at Svenskt Tenn, producing more than 2000 pieces of furniture and around 200 carpets, wallpapers and textile designs.

Frank was a great admirer of William Morris, as can be seen in his stylised motifs from nature, geometric order and repeat patterns.

josef-frank-1
Teheran, 1943-45
josef-frank-2
Nippon, 1943-45
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Nippon, 1943-45

 

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Aralia, 1928

There was humour, too, as in this design called “Italian Dinner”, showing aubergines, peas and garlic growing alongside a river stuffed with seafood.

Italian Dinner, 1943-45
Italian Dinner, 1943-45

Some designs zing with colour.

Three Islands in the Black Sea, 1935
Three Islands in the Black Sea, 1935

Others use a pared down palette.

Aristidia, 1925-30
Aristidia, 1925-30
Window, 1943
Window, 1943

Other natural inspirations included birds.

Green Birds in the Trees, 1943-45
Green Birds in the Trees, 1943-45
Anakreon, 1938
Anakreon, 1938

I also liked Rocks and Figs, clearly influenced by Chinese ink paintings of mountains.

Rocks and Figs, 1943-45
Rocks and Figs, 1943-45

In contrast, Terrazzo was inspired by agate rocks embedded in a terrazzo floor.

Terrazzo, 1943-45
Terrazzo, 1943-45

And Manhattan featured maps of New York.

Manhattan, 1943-45
Manhattan, 1943-45

Finally, there was also a complete room showing examples of how the furnishings worked together. So that’s where Ikea got the idea from! 😉

josef-frank-14

Josef Frank: Patterns – Furniture – Painting runs at the Fashion and Textile Museum until 7 May.

Svenskt Tenn still sells textiles, wallpaper and furniture designed by Frank – and its website has much better photos than mine!

And here are a couple of felt flowers I made, inspired by the exhibition. 🙂

frank-felt-flowers

Contemporary Textiles Fair 2 for 1 ticket

ctf17_eflyer

I’m excited to be taking part in the Contemporary Textiles Fair at the Landmark Arts Centre, Teddington, on 17-19 March.

The venue is a converted church, so it feels very spacious, even with 75 exhibitors showing a range of wearable and hangable art.

There will also be a talk by Anthea Godfrey, who is the Artistic Director of the Embroiders’ Guild and recently project manager of the Hardhome Embroidery, a large-scale Game of Thrones inspired artwork. And the Royal School of Needlework is offering two taster workshops on the Saturday.

The private view is on Friday 17 March, 6-8.30pm, with a bar. On Saturday and Sunday the fair is open 10am-5pm; a cafe is available.

The normal entry price is £4 but as a follower of this blog, you can use the flyer above to get free entry to the private view on Friday or to get two tickets for the price of one on Saturday and Sunday. Either download it, print it off and bring it with you or show it on your device at the entrance desk.

Hope to see you there!

Exhibitions at 10th International Shibori Symposium

The 10th International Shibori Symposium (10iss) in Oaxaca in November was spread over several venues. Most were in the centre of town, but the Centro de las Artes de San Agustin (CASA), about 45 minutes’ drive from the centre, was the location for many of the workshops and exhibitions.

This post will feature the exhibitions in and around CASA – be warned that there are lots of photos!

CASA is a former cotton mill that was converted into a stunning arts centre by local artist Francisco Toledo in 2000. Its hilltop location gives amazing views, and it has two exhibition halls and smaller rooms for running workshops.

Centro de las Artes de San Agustin Centro de las Artes de San Agustin

There are also some interesting sculptural plants!

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Indigo Earth: Shibori Kimono, Past and Present

This exhibition, curated by Yoshiko Nakamura and Consortium Arimatsu Narumi, featured a selection of historical and modern Japanese indigo-dyed kimono from Arimatsu and Narumi in Japan.

Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono Inidigo shibori kimono

Optica and Haptica

This exhibition showcased 12 pieces of clothing designed by Mexican designer Carla Fernandez, highlighting connections between the Mexican and Japanese traditions of ikat (known as jaspe in Mexican and kasuri in Japan).

The contemporary garments were wonderful, combining Japanese silhouettes and designs with traditional Mexican rebozo patterns.

Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment Carla Fernandez garment

Contemporary Art of Shibori and Ikat

The main exhibition hall at CASA was given over to a wide range of contemporary shibori artworks and wearables, curated by Yoshiko Wada and Trine Ellitsgaard.

And here I must apologise profusely to artists whose work I photographed but whose names I failed to record. I did photograph the name labels but because of the low lighting many of them came out blurred and unreadable. I have credited artists whose names are legible or whom I remembered, but if your work is featured without a credit, do let me know and I will remedy it as soon as possible!

Susan Schapira, Nine Birch Trees Dreaming of Summer
Susan Schapira, Nine Birch Trees Dreaming of Summer

san-agustin-2

Hiroyuki Shindo
Hiroyuki Shindo
Yosi Anaya, Snake Skeins
Yosi Anaya, Snake Skeins
Elisa Ligon, Untitled 2
Elisa Ligon, Untitled 2
Asif Shaikh and Jabbar Khatri, Bandhani Dress with Aari Embroidery
Asif Shaikh and Jabbar Khatri, Bandhani Dress with Aari Embroidery

san-agustin-7 san-agustin-8

Birgitta Lagerqvist, Blues 1-3
Birgitta Lagerqvist, Blues 1-3

san-agustin-11

Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Folded and Flat
Ana Lisa Hedstrom, Folded and Flat
Jorie Johnson
Jorie Johnson

Paper Jewellery

A short walk downhill from CASA is the papermaking cooperative Arte Papel Vista Hermosa, also founded by Francisco Toledo. Its members use bark, plants, flowers, cotton, hemp, silk, linen and pieces of shiny mica in their products. As well as seeing the artisans at work, visitors can have a go at making paper themselves.

Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Arte Papel Vista Hermosa

For this exhibition they worked with artist Kiff Slemmons to produce some stunningly intricate paper jewellery. And yes – I did end up buying a piece! 🙂

Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa Kiff Slemmons and Arte Papel Vista Hermosa

 

Inspired by Georgia O’Keeffe

There’s a wonderful exhibition of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work at Tate Modern at the moment. She is best known for her flower paintings, which are indeed wonderful – you can almost feel the blossoms unfurling before your eyes, the strong lines offset by gorgeously subtle colour gradations.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Jimson Weed No 1, 1932
Jimson Weed No 1, 1932

(Interestingly, O’Keeffe always denied the interpretation that her flowers were representations of the female body. This idea came from her husband, photographer and gallerist Alfred Stieglitz, who tellingly wrote: “Woman feels the World differently than Man feels it….The Woman receives the World through her Womb. That is her deepest feeling. Mind comes second.” OK, this was written in 1919, but some might say that attitudes towards women artists (or indeed women in general) haven’t changed much since then. 🙂  )

But I digress. One of the new discoveries for me in this exhibition was her charcoal work. Two early pieces, Special No 9 (1915) and No 15 Special (1916-17) seemed to glow on the wall, while her Eagle Claw and Bean Necklace from 1934 just blew me away with its precision.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Special No 9, 1915
Special No 9, 1915
Georgia O'Keeffe, No 15 Special, 1916-17
No 15 Special, 1916-17
georgia-okeeffe-eagle-claw-and-bean-necklace
Eagle Claw and Bean Necklace, 1934

There are lots of other great works, but in the last room Sky Above the Clouds III (1963) made me think of ombre indigo, which inspired me to try making a nuno felt piece.

Georgia O'Keeffe, Sky Above the Clouds III, 1963
Sky Above the Clouds III, 1963

I started by making a small sample using ombre indigo dyed cotton scrim topped with natural merino. After making this I wondered how it would look in reverse, so I made another sample with the scrim on top.

blue and white nuno felt ombre samples

I then did a small straw poll on Twitter and Instagram, asking people which version they preferred. As so often happens, opinion was divided! There was probably a small majority in favour of scrim on top – but then one person said that they liked them both and couldn’t I join them together?

So after a bit of re-engineering, here is the final work in progress.

ombre-hanging-3

On a larger scale in a portrait format I didn’t think the elliptical shapes would work, so I went for a repeating grid of circles instead, despite misgivings about being able to make them regular enough.

blue and white nuno felt ombre wallhanging

I also added some white tussah silk to the plain white circles for a bit of extra texture, which you can just about see in the detail shot below.

blue and white nuno felt ombre wallhanging detail

Georgia O’Keeffe runs at Tate Modern until 30 October.