Southern Geometries at Fondation Cartier

One of the other exhibitions I specifically visited Paris to see was Southern Geometries, from Mexico to Patagonia, at the Fondation Cartier.

Exploring the geometric art of South America, the exhibition included architecture, painting, sculpture, ceramics and textiles from indigenous communities as well as well known artists.

For me the textile highlight was Brumas, an installation by Olga de Amaral. Layered curtains of cotton thread painted with acrylic and gesso hung in the centre of a darkened room, the colours and shapes changing as you walked around it. And the shadows on the floor were equally fascinating.

There were also some delightful woven bags on show, mostly from Paraguay. In the picture below, those on the top row are by the Nivaklé, who weave by hand but also use a vertical  loom. The designs show an Andean influence.

Those in the bottom row are by the Ayoreo, one of the last nomadic hunter-gatherer tribes of South America. Woven from plant fibres or wool, the geometric patterns hark back to Pre-Columbian art.

Also from Paraguay were these wonderful chief’s sticks woven from plant fibres by the Mbyá-Guarani tribe. The light coloured fibres are bamboo, while the darker ones are some kind of creeper. Again, the patterns have been inherited from the Pre-Columbian era.

Paraguay chief's sticks

I also have to mention these vessels by Mexican ceramicist Gustavo Pérez. Although clay rather than textiles, they look as though they could be leather or even paper.

Ceramics by Gustavo Perez Ceramics by Gustavo Perez Ceramics by Gustavo Perez

Southern Geometries, from Mexico to Patagonia runs at Fondation Cartier until 24 February.

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Art of Bamboo in Japan at Quai Branly Museum

I’m just back from a five-day trip to Paris, where there were a few exhibitions I wanted to see. Foremost of these was the Art of Bamboo in Japan (Fendre l’Air) at the Quai Branly Museum.

I’ve written previously about the history of bamboo basketry in Japan and some of the main makers. What this exhibition does exceptionally well is trace the development of bamboo art from a functional but still beautiful craft to contemporary sculptural forms.

Rokansai, widely considered to be the most important bamboo artist of the 20th century, developed the concept of three types of basket:

  • Shin: Formal pieces that are symmetrical and very neatly plaited
  • Gyo: Semi-formal pieces, either symmetrical with irregular weaving or asymmetrical with regular weaving, or a combination of both
  • So: Informal pieces, often free form, that my integrate a handle made of a rhizome.

As a material, bamboo is supple, light, astonishingly flexible yet mechanically resistant, and impermeable – as these pieces show.

Ryumon Motif by Honma Hideaki
Spiral basket for ikebana by Tanabe Chikuunsai II
Detail of Chikuunsai II basket
Basket for ikebana “Fenced” by Iizuka Rokansai
Work by Honda Shoryu
Mugen by Morigami Jin
Work by Morigami Jin
Work by Hiroi Yasushi
Ichiyo by Nagakura Ken’ichi
Disappear I and Disappear V by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

“Art of Bamboo in Japan” runs at the Quai Branly Museum until 7 April 2019.

Felting in France

Apologies for the long silence – I had a sudden rush of website work before I headed off to Acheres, just outside Paris, for a five-day felting workshop with Maria Friese and Ariane Mariane. Both these felters are German, living in France, and the students were mostly French, but also included one Swiss, one Belgian, one American (who had lived in Acheres for 20 years) and two Brits – Abigail Thomas of Felt meets Cloth and me.

The five days was split up into two sessions of two days and three days, and students could mix and match, working with one tutor for all the days or spending two days with one and three days with the other. I elected to stay with Maria for all five days, as her work has a really organic feel that appealed to me. As we got talking we discovered other mutual interests in origami and pitcher plants, so I think I made the right choice!

We spent the first two days making a sampler to practise techniques – attaching spikes, and using resists and prefelts to create surface designs.

Maria's sample
Maria’s sample

Maria suggested making a rectangular sample, but I opted for a circle, which was a bit challenging when it came to squeezing in as many elements as possible!

No - it's not a blue pizza, it's my sample!
No – it’s not a blue pizza, it’s my sample!

As usual, it was fascinating to see the different interpretations of the same techniques.

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The other group working with Ariane Mariane made sample pieces of jewellery in the first two days, and then we all got together to admire each other’s work and compare results.

Image copyright Ariane Mariane
Image copyright Ariane Mariane

Image copyright Ariane Mariane
Image copyright Ariane Mariane

For the next three days we worked on a project incorporating those techniques. Those of us with Maria made a vessel; those who worked with Ariane could choose to make a hat or a bag. Maria and Ariane had brought in lots of samples to inspire us!

Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria

Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria

Vessel by Maria
Vessel by Maria

Hat by Ariane, modelled by Monique (image copyright Ariane Mariane)
Hat by Ariane, modelled by Monique (image copyright Ariane Mariane)

Again, we started by making samples to calculate shrinkage, before moving on to the main piece. I got a bit obsessed by the flaps, so decided to try making a Chinese-style vessel adorned with these.

Sample to calculate shrinkage
Sample to calculate shrinkage

Work in progress
Work in progress

Finished vessel (with Maria in the background)
Finished vessel (with Maria in the background)

I also had a little time at the end to make another sample using one of the other resist techniques.

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Ours was a relatively sedate class – next door, we could hear the sound of bags and hats being thrown on the floor to help the shrinking process!

Finally, on the Friday evening, we held a small exhibition for friends, family and other visitors to come and see the fruits of our labours.

Student work
Student work

Student work
Student work

Student work
Student work

Student work
Student work

Maria's work - what we are aiming for!
Maria’s work – what we are aiming for!

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All in all, it was a fabulous five days of learning a lot from thoughtful tutors and making new friends. Highly recommended.

ESP amused himself by going into Paris every day and visiting as many museums as possible(19 plus Versailles in total!). He did so much walking that I think he must have strained a ligament in his ankle – he’s currently walking with a limp. 😦

We then headed down to the Dordogne to visit Joan, one of my sister Women of the Cloth, and her husband Anthony, who have a house there. We talked about the possibility of us running some workshops there next year – very exciting!

As the weather finally cleared up, we went back north for a couple of days in the Loire valley. We stayed in the extraordinary Chateau de Chemery, with a loom and spinning wheels in our room, and visited the stunning gardens of Villandry and  Chaumont.

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A felt planter at Chaumont!
A felt planter at Chaumont!

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Sadly, we were one day late getting home due to a faulty brake caliper, a long wait for the AA and a stupendous thunderstorm. But that doesn’t spoil a trip full of inspiration and excitement – can’t wait to get felting again!