Sunday, March 4, 2012

Clothes are never a frivolity: they always mean something.-James Laver

We have a rich heritage of textile artists with icons of the field such as Sheila Hicks, Michael Brennand-Wood and Sonia Delaunay. I have always been a great admirer of Louise Bourgeois, who used a wide range of medium throughout her expansive career. She dealt with highly emotive, personal issues, a pioneer in confessional art that has become more popular in recent times with artists such as Tracey Emin. In this piece, a detail from her Cell series she used garments to represent the family unit, an aspect that was prominent in her work.

Louise Bourgeois, interior of Cell VII, 1998.

To quote writer and artist Quentin Bell  “Our clothes are too much a part of us for most of us ever to me entirely indifferent to their condition: it is as though the fabric where indeed a natural extension of the body, or even the soul.

This emphasises the potent quality that clothes can bring to art, heavily laden with metaphor they offer the artist an excellent medium with which to convey their ideas.

Looking again at the wonderful Guerra de la Paz, a collaborative I wrote about previously in 'The use of Fabric in Art'.

Guerra de la Paz, Pieta, 2005.

This piece, an appropriation of Michaelangelo’s masterpiece Pieta refers to the futility of war.
Their recurring themes reference classic imagery in a critical, contemporary light. They believe that their work has universal meaning. It speaks of life, its cyclical patterns and dichotomies.

Unidentified, 2011.
In 'Unidentified' the barbed wire topped fence is packed with found clothing that fittingly represents the oppressed masses. The garments are a resounding metaphor of people they represent – encaged within, as in a prison, or a death camp. Political awareness is resonant throughout their work, requiring little explanation.

It is important to the artists that the essence of the clothing used be as evident as the concept, whether it is incorporated as a whole or deconstructed. They stated that they started using clothing as a medium as there was an overwhelming abundance of it ….
‘the colour, texture, flexibility and archaeological quality defines a time-a place-the person who wore them-the society they come from……..
It brings the energy they embody which often directs us as how the garment is to be used.’

Manto (detail), 2011.

This picture is a detail from a recent piece, a large installation with an interactive performance. Its theme is matriarchal, using feminine lacy garments in whites and ivory tones. The visitor is welcomed in by an ambiguous figure to gently dance and then the figure falls onto the cushioned floor, to rise elegantly, ready to dance again. The cyclical, feminine theme attracted me as it parallels what I’m hoping to evoke in my current work.

In the recent exhibition ‘Material Actions’ I was introduced to the work of Lucy Brown. She makes sculptural textiles using deconstructed underwear and vintage costumes. Using the historic background of the garments to create works that explore and comment on femininity, identity, and body politics.

Lucy Brown, Limbo (detail), 2009.
With Limbo, using her signature undergarments, Brown highlights an aspect of the human condition. The piece is rather abstracted, with the clothing used as yarn to weave a piece that is evocative rather than representational.

She states ‘the work explores narratives around the absence and the presence of the body, clothing and unclothed, and issues surrounding female identity.
The garments history is an important factor to imbuing meaning into her work. This aspect  resonates with the choices I make in my own work.
My artistic practice has changed greatly since starting my degree course, previously I was happy painting in an abstract expressive manner BUT felt that I wanted to convey more socially aware, political messages in my work. I have discovered the most incredible artists over the last two years, especially those working with textiles and have found that this medium is particularly powerful in intimating meaning.

While we sleep, Clare Tigoglu, 2012.
In a recent piece of work 'While we sleep', an interdisciplinary installation, I used doilies en masse to comment on the changing gender roles apparent in society today.
I feel acutely aware of the need to recycle the fabrics that are available to us, for obvious ecological reasons and for my own means to utilise their anthropological sub-content to enhance concepts in my work.

I am starting a new film project using underwear to explore my own personal body politics.........just working out the logistics.