Monday, 29 August 2011

Festival of Quilts and Abstract Art 2: SAQA

The second exhibition that inspired me was Beyond Comfort by SAQA.   I have to say that I had an advantage here as I did two sessions on the stand and this meant I could study the pieces in more detail.  You can see photos of the whole exhibit at
and look at the individual pieces by going to:

I always find the SAQA standing inspiring and this was no exception.  I noticed that lots of people were particularly interested in Kristin La Flamme's three apron shaped quilts about the life of an army wife.  I think the juxtaposition of symbols of traditional women's roles and the use of the apron shape really made you think about the lives these women live.  Here in the south-west, huge numbers of people have careers in the military, especially the navy, and almost every evening our regional news programme has a military related item, often about yet another casualty in Afghanistan. These frequently feature interviews with the women left behind, so I could relate to the images she included as well as the messages she was giving us.

The apron quilts were on the wall behind us as we sat at the table, though, and it was the quilt immediately opposite me that I really had time to study.  This was Sampler Revisited by Joan Sowada and used fabrics she had rusted.  This was a very good example of putting samples together so I was interested to find another quilt by her in the Quilt National 2011 book which I received a couple of days ago.  'Full Measure' is completely different, being a portrait of two girls looking towards the right of the picture and designed to illustrate: 'the female spirit, firmly planted and fully present'.  Together these two pieces illustrate Sowada's versatility but also I think tell the amateur quilter that it is quite acceptable to vary one's style quite dramatically.

Probably one reason I liked it was because I am working on something similar: pieces of rusted fabric combined with samples from an indigo workshop.  Mine is about the same size as Sampler Revisited and seeing something like this in a juried exhibition made me think perhaps mine is not so bad after all!  I should have it finished in a week or so and will then put it on the blog.

On the wall to the left of us was Bad News by Elly van Steenbeek.  This was another abstract piece incorporating unusual materials including a piece of iron and paper.  She suggests that the piece of iron found in a park is a symbol of waste and telling us something about modern life and the environment.  There were also several pieces that were virtually monochromatic.  Working in tones of black and white seems rather popular at the moment and removing colour certainly draws the viewer's attention to other aspects of the design such as line.

So where do these quilts leave us in relation to the statement about abstract art in my previous posting?  I like the idea that contemporary artists have dialogues with concepts and ideas that were expressed by people fifty years ago and I suspect that because quilt art is a newer medium, we probably have plenty more to say.  Talking about these ideas with my husband (not an arty type), however, has also made me think about another question: if you can tell that a piece is, say, a landscape, does that mean it is not abstract?  And does that mean that it is not 'worth' as much as one that addresses thoughts and layers of meaning in the mind.  I don't know.

There were other exhibitions that addressed these issues so I will continue posting about them.

Festival of Quilts and Abstract Art 1

I suspect I am like many other people in finding the invited exhibitions at the Festival of Quilts particularly inspirational.   There are always several that give me new ideas and 2011 was no exception.  I have now had time to mull over what I saw, even though I chose to take very few photographs.  I am very conscious of copyright issues these days so I tend to buy the catalogues rather than take photographs that then sit on the computer and are forgotten.  This posting is therefore totally photoless!

I find myself attracted to more abstract quilts so I was very interested in how the statement below might apply to the quilts I saw.  It appears in the press release for the Tate St Ives winter exhibition that opens on 8 October.
The contemporary position of abstract painting is problematic.  It can be seen to be synonymous with a modernist moment that has long since passed, and ideology which led the medium to stagnate in self-reflexivity and ideas of historical progression.  The Indiscipline of Painting (title of the new exhibition) challenges such assumptions.  It reveals how painting's modernist histories, languages and positions have continued to provoke ongoing dialogues with contemporary practitioners, even as painting's decline and death has been routinely and erroneously declared.
Does this statement, which is initially quite dismissive of abstract work, apply to art quilts I ask myself?  I think overall we would say that art quilters continue to engage with contemporary issues and there were several exhibitions at FOQ where I could see this happening.  The first was by a Dutch group, TEXUI

The catalogue says that their artwork 'can be characterised as a quest for images expressing deeper layers of the mind...even a matter of aspects of everyday life gives food for reflection, are taken out of its context and given new meaning in a different order'.  It goes on to say that the use of experimental techniques and materials is an aspect of this.  The pieces they showed ranged from those where the viewer could recognise and identify with the subject matter (Crocodile by Elke Boesewinkel, The Wall by Jacqueline de Jong-van-Balen and Windmill by Willy Doreleijers) to others which were very abstract so that you had to ask yourself how the subject matter related to the title (Human Rights by Hanne Capel, Tape-e-stry by Annette Jeukens and light 2 by Jelly Dijkstra).  My favourite, however, was Genesis-'And the Word was...' by Rita Berghuis-Ensing.  So I have to ask myself what it is I am responding to.  Is it the colour (because of course I am a colour freak), the overall design, or the techniques?  How many of us, I wonder, respond instinctively to some combination of these and how many more intellectually to the ideas being expressed?  I suggest you go to the website to see more of their work although at the time of writing I could not find a page that had all these pieces on it together.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cornwall Design Fair

After ten days away at the Festival of Quilts and a family wedding, I have decided I am going to go backwards in my attempts to catch up with this blog and start with the event I went to today.  The Cornwall Design Fair is a high class craft fair that I usually miss because it in on the same dates as the Festival of Quilts.  But with FOQ being a week earlier this year I was able to go for the first time for several years.  What's more it has moved and is now held at Trereife House which is very near us.

Trereife House is one of a string of period gentlemen's residences that encircle Penzance.  It has wonderful gardens which you can see better in this photo, and views down to and across Mounts Bay.

There is also a small orchard in a walled garden:

The trees are medlars which is quite unusual these days.  The fruit look rather sad at the moment but I am sure they are meant to be like this.

The Craft Fair attracts lots of local designer-makers who exhibit in marquees.  I was pleased to see lots of younger artists just starting out and great displays from both Truro College and Plymouth College.  I was particularly taken with two pieces by one of the Truro students: long hangings made from linen, one with vertical rows of machine stitching and the other with vertical hand-stitching Kanta style depicting a sun and descending lines.  Unfortunately she had not put her name by the pieces and as the student looking after the stand was a wood-turner, I have no idea who she is.  Obviously I was not going to photograph the pieces without permission.

There were a lot of jewellers underlining the popularity of this option on art and design courses in this area.  I can easily be tempted by silver rings and bracelets but keep telling myself these days that I have more pieces of silver jewellery than I will ever wear.  Also quite a few potters.  There is also a long history of pottery in this area, due in part to the legacy of Leach.  There were some beautiful bowls on the Leach Pottery stand  I particularly liked the ones made by Jack Doherty who is the lead potter.  They had wonderful glazes that really represent the colours of the sea and sand in St Ives but I am afraid there are no photos of them on the website.  I was also struck by how blue is returning as a colour in pottery.  There were several people with lots of blue pieces.  I will put some photos up later but I resisted buying all but one piece as we have nowhere to keep things that we do not use regularly any more.  In my youth I used to collect pottery and have memories of lugging pieces round Europe in my suitcase.  They are still all treasured.

Textiles were also well represented, everything from weaving and knitting to digitally printed silk, appliqued household textiles and some wonderful felt.  Becky Williams had lovely small framed felt pictures with applique and stitching on them .   Again, she works in blue.  Someone told me that if you really want to sell things down here you have to do things that represent the sea and use blue.  She certainly ticks all the boxes!

The other useful aspect of an event like this is that you learn about other events, some of which are new.  Lamorna is a valley about five miles west of Penzance where members of the Newlyn School lived.  Today it is home to at least two dozen artists and craftspeople so it is good to see that they are having their own arts festival at the end of September.   And even nearer for me is the Chapel Gallery in Gulval which has an exhibition in the earlier part of September.  And there is the St Ives Festival in September.  I think I have made a mistake in deciding to go on holiday for part of September.