Ghizlane Sahli at Sulger-Buel Gallery

To be honest, I’d never heard of either the artist or the gallery before visiting this exhibition. But a photo of Ghizlane Sahli’s work by the Sulger-Buel Gallery popped up on my Instagram feed, I followed the links, and a month later found myself tramping around the back streets of Borough in south London.

HT058 by Ghizlane Sahli

Ghizlane Sahli is a Moroccan artist who originally trained in architecture. The title of her first solo show in London, “Histoires de Tripes – Chapter II” is a literally visceral exploration of the human body.

HT066 (triptych) by ghizlane sahli
HT066 (Triptych)

In English, “tripe” can also mean “rubbish” – so it is fitting that Sahli uses discarded materials in her work. Plastic bottle tops and tubes are wrapped with silk yarn to form “alveoles” and then arranged on top of chicken wire in the shape of human organs.

HT062 by ghizlane sahli

HT050 by ghizlane sahliHT050

The colour and lustre of the silk yarn changes, depending on how it catches the light, so that white looks like silver one minute and mushroom grey the next.

Sahli works with local artisan women to create the alveoles for her work.

HT VOLUME by ghizlane sahli
HT070 by ghizlane sahli

Drawings of cellular structures, some with added embroidery, are also on display.

Histoires de Tripes – Chapter II runs at the Sulger-Buel Gallery until 7 May.

Woven balls

In November last year I attended a hexagonal weaving workshop with Polly Pollock, where we made hexagonal baskets. At the end of the workshop Polly demonstrated how to make a woven ball using flat cane, but we didn’t have time to try it ourselves.

A few weeks ago I came across a pile of discarded plastic strapping – the type used to secure boxes to wooden pallets by delivery companies. It was about the same width and thickness as the flat cane, so much to ESP’s horror, I decided to take it home and have a go at making a woven ball. (His horror was largely due to the fact that I didn’t have a bag at the time, so he had to carry it. 😉 )

Hexagonal weave actually lies flat, so to get a rounded structure you need to use pentagons rather than hexagons. I started by using five lengths of strap to create a pentagon.

Then I used a sixth strap to weave another layer of five pentagons. This formed the bottom half of the ball. To create the top half I wove another layer of five pentagons – the trickiest part of this is lining up the ends of each strap so that they overlap correctly, tucking them all in to form the single pentagon at the top.

After finishing I posted the final result on Instagram, whereupon someone asked if I’d tried making the 10-strand sphere! Not being one to shirk a challenge, I went off and found the instructions for this.

I started off with a pentagon made from five straps again, but this time added five more straps to surround the pentagon with a layer of hexagons rather than pentagons. After that it’s a case of working out where the other pentagons go: each pentagon is surrounded by hexagons. It was very satisfying to finish this!

Talking of recycling, I will be taking part in The Good Life: Revive, Recycle, Restore at the Weald & Downland Living Museum on 5 and 6 May (bank holiday weekend). I will be selling my garments and accessories upcycled with indigo and ecoprinting.

The museum is a fascinating collection of rescued rural homes and buildings spread across 40 acres of the South Downs, and this themed special event includes a fashion exchange, upcycling demonstrations, a repair cafe and various talks and taster classes.


Postmodernism at the V&A

You know you’re getting old when policemen start looking young – and when museum exhibitions cover periods you remember.

Such is the Postmodernism exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum, which I visited yesterday. I was a student in London in the early 1980s – the heyday of Michael Clark, Leigh Bowery, Andrew Logan, Laurie Anderson, David Byrne and Grace Jones, the dystopian era of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, the golden age of style magazines The Face and i-D. All these feature in the exhibition. (And I was disappointed to discover that the arabesque pose by Grace Jones on the cover of Island Life was in fact a fake; in those pre-PhotoShop days, the film was literally cut and pasted to produce the final image. Kind of sums up the movement, I suppose.)

Anyway, personal nostalgia aside, I enjoyed the section on adhocism, or bricolage. Anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss defined a bricoleur as “someone working with oddments left over from human endeavours”, and the examples on display included the punk jewellery of Bernard Schobinger, a concrete stereo by Ron Arad, and a glass chair by Danny Lane.

So my spectacle and smartphone cases recycled from plastic bags and old aeronautical charts are postmodern works. But, as the exhibition points out, this is a very Eurocentric view of art. In many countries, this type of recycling has been going on for decades and is an everyday necessity, not an artistic statement.

In these environmentally sensitive times, we are all postmodernists.