This exercise follows on from reading and responding to the article in which Edmund de Waal discusses where he feels craft is in regarding to visual arts and by this I mean whether it is in the lagoon that Grayson Perry refers to or alongside other visual arts. The course material speaks of labels and boundaries between disciplines and asks the student to consider visual art pieces that cross these boundaries or do not fit a specific label.
The student is asked to find a minimum of 4 examples of works that cross these boundaries – this is something that sounds easier than in fact it was! However I have found the following images:
Becky Knight – Depressions. This is technically a quilt and is the first in the series Ms Knight called Comfort Blankets. The actual quilt consists of pebbles and pills trapped underneath a sheer scrim and backed onto an old blanket but with the outline of a figure just visible. I include this as my first piece that crosses boundaries because much of the maker’s work calls into question the meaning of a quilt – she has also made ‘quilts’ using Guinness cans and also a ‘grandmothers garden’ style quilt but made up of old newspapers and bible pages which is designed to be seen from both sides.
Ms Knights work crosses the boundaries between traditional quilt making with the techniques into the art quilt genre but also into textile art and into the field of visual arts in its own right – the series are technically quilts as they consist of 3 layers but they are taken beyond the definition and into a different realm or genre by the use of found objects or recycled objects. I first came across Ms Knights work in a magazine and the work really resonates with me as I have suffered depression in the past – the feeling of being trapped and hidden behind a curtain with the figure neither wanting to be seen but not wanting to be hidden either and the emotions that the maker encapsulates within her work.
Sue Trevor is a textile artist I met last year at the Melbourne Arts Festival and whose work I question crosses the boundaries of sculpture and textiles or at least is on the cusp of doing so. Sue Trevor using a combination of stitch and fabrics to create three-dimensional objects such as this watering can and the flowers that can been to the right of the picture or indeed the bowl in the bottom right. Some of the objects she makes are more usually seen in ceramics or metal or plastic and hence why I include her work – is Sue’s work textile art or is it going across into textile sculpture or textile ‘ceramics’? the question is further enhanced by the fact that she encompasses bright fabrics and stitch on objects such as the water can which are more usually functional and somewhat dull and yet she has reminded the viewer of buyer of the use of the object by incorporating the flowers into the decoration.
Wendy Moyer – La Tigridia …. this artist is described on the website textileartist.org as a ‘sculptural textile artist’ and the words perfectly describe the way she crosses the boundaries between two genres.
Wendy Moyer uses a mixture of natural and man-made recycled fabrics in her work and literally uses fire to do the sculpting in the form of both a candle and butane torch which turn the flat petals or leaves into three-dimensional objects.
I am not sure why these textiles sculptures appeal to me so much but perhaps it is because they combine stitched painted fabrics with her innovative fire technique and consequentially also cross boundaries regarding natural forms with mechanics and wearable art or just simply as a floral style sculpture on a piece of discarded piece of driftwood.
I notice on Ms Moyer’s Facebook page a new piece which is incorporating poppies onto a radiation mask which she has titled ‘Sometimes the Poison is the Cure’ and Wendy has given me her very kind permission to use her image. This new piece has very personal resonance for me as I will be a 17 year survivor of a very rare cancer May 2017 and have worn that mask during my own treatment and so to see an artist use it to portray the cure whilst having the poppies as a sign of remembrance is very poignant for me and anyone else who knows the horrors of radiation as I understand Wendy Moyer does herself – she has turned something that is not pleasant but sometimes necessary to endure into a very thought provoking sculpture and also one that is very beautiful and signifies survival often against the odds …. the poppies of Flanders grew in land that had been ravaged by war and yet still grew with beauty and strength.
Judy Tadman – rope sculptures. I am realising I am a lover of organic style sculptures including the work of willow artist Laura Ellen Bacon and the work of Judy Tadman consequentially really appeals particularly perhaps due to the similarities to the former artist’s work but in a different medium. On first viewing in a photograph these large seed pods appear to be perhaps made of clay rather than a textile of some nature but they are formed with a combination or rope and crochet type techniques.
Judy Tadman takes a textile technique and works with abstract style forms and creates sculptures that are neither textiles nor traditional sculpture and hence has no definitive label or genre – like the other artists I have included her work crosses the boundaries between two forms of visual art. Ms Tadman’s background is nursing but ill-health forced her to retire early and consider a new career path and this lead eventually to her using sisal twine or rope and looking to use crochet in a non-traditional way.
Jennifer McCurdy – ceramic artist or ceramic sculpture? I question the label that the exquisite works of this artist will fall under and is she a craftswoman because she is ultimately a potter, like Edmund de Waal, or has she crossed the boundaries into that of a visual artist?
The pieces that are made are influenced by seed pods or sea shells but all are made of a translucent porcelain which is first thrown and then altered to create what Ms McCurdy describes on her website as ‘soft shadow’ and then after hardening it is then carved into energetic forms such as the one in my photograph. After firing the porcelain becomes both translucent and non-porous and is also sometimes gilded on the inside to illuminate and also to show new shapes or patterns – the gilding is another ancient technique which combines perfectly with the pottery. I personally love the ceramic sculptures that are based on seashells having been born in Plymouth and growing partially on the east coast of Lincolnshire – they remind me of the shells I picked up with the broken edges or holes softened by the sea and sand.
As I reflect on the images I have chosen I realise I am looking at works that cross boundaries between textile work and sculpture primarily but also with ceramics and sculpture in the work of Jennifer McCurdy – the artists or crafts people cross the boundaries between two different genres both in terms of the actual pieces but also in regards as to whether they are potters or textile artists or quilters or are they in the realms of visual arts i.e. sculptors or artists? I am unsure whether a definitive label is needed and whether the works need to fit in to one discipline or another – do these pieces reside in the craft lagoon or do they reside in the visual arts world or do I agree with Edmund de Waal in that the ‘lagoon’ does not exist? I can at least answer the last question because I do not feel that craft is separated from the visual art world in our modern age and that the lines have blurred to the point of no separation and that both different disciplines are now part of the same ocean. There is no question the two areas of craft and visual art have been separated throughout history, and perhaps with some justification in previous centuries but not total justification because I am not of the belief that craft is solely centred around technique because to reach the level of master craftsman a person must have a passion and therefore be able to put emotion into his work and also the ideas if the maker has been able to form the work of his own volition – yes the technique is absolutely crucial but surely that is also the case for any painter, sculptor or architect?
Regarding my own work I have only created 1 piece that has the potential to cross boundaries between disciplines due to reasons stated below – this photograph is of a bag front that forms part of my final piece for A Creative Approach and at the time of writing was awaiting assessment at the moment. I feel it crosses disciplines within the craft world at least and is on the cusp of crossing into the art world due to the combination of techniques. I do remember making a conscious decision in regards to wanting to cross the borders because of having been studying art history at the time and consequentially developing an interest in perspective in art – I used the photographs of trees to give the impression of a bridge from my original design but with altered perspective.
I have been asked to find up to 4 examples of my work ‘to demonstrate crossing boundaries between disciplines, resisting labels associated with categories of visual art or changing the viewers understanding of the work by giving the work a contrary label’ but have at this point only made the above finished sample.
I have however got a second design from the same assignment that I am wishing to develop into a piece that will push or cross boundaries – I am considering doing this as a part painted and part stitched piece with the potential for a three-dimensional aspect if it because an object such as a cube.
I feel that one of the reasons I have not as yet got more pieces is partly because I come from a more traditionally based background of embroidery and quilting and also because I have not done the Mixed Media Textiles course and worked perhaps in more of a comfort zone than I perhaps realised during my previous course (A Creative Approach). I feel my background is still hankering after playing by the rules of tradition and technique and so is perhaps based in the origins of the craft world but is now wanting to push into the blurred boundaries of the visual arts world – in effect I have been in the old lagoon but wanting to push the ambition and push the emotion and imagination that takes me beyond pure technique and into that ocean of the art world if Grayson Perry’s analogy is to be accepted.
I am still at the stage where I am just beginning to experiment with really mixing media in terms of textiles, painting or sculpture and am intrigued to see how this experimentation will develop particularly throughout this course.
The final part of this exercise was to create a piece of work that combined two or more visual disciplines.
For this first sample piece I painted a very simple and loose rose-bud on some relatively cheap paper and then ‘exploded’ it before using a blanket stitch to applique the pieces to a background fabric – I have been working on a series of painted studies of roses and had wanted to develop these into textiles but had been unsure of how so this proved a perfect exercise. I added some felt-tip pen ‘chain stitch’ style marks and also some scraps of ice-dyed fabric for additional texture to create ‘petals’.
As a more formal style analysis I reflect on the combination of a loosely painted rose which contrasts with the textural elements created with appliqued fabric ‘petals and the grey chevron style tweed fabric background. I feel the explosion of the rose creates an abstract piece which is further enhanced by the stitching on purely the curved outlines of the painting plus the addition of the chain-stitch style marking against the much softer colours of the image.
This work is a combination of differing disciplines to create a new mixed-media piece and therefore crosses boundaries or blurs them and this itself does teach me the importance of labels – by having distinctive labels you can create an immediate impression of a piece of work but by using a label that makes the viewer question the art work you can change how it is perceived or understood. My own rose I would label ‘Scattered Roses’ or ‘Exploded Roses’ which creates very differing impressions – the gentle scattering of rose petals or the forceful violent explosion created perhaps by an impact of some nature. I feel now that this piece does strongly influence how useful I feel labels are – the two names create such differing emotions that I need to now consider labels as part of the design or creative process.
Knight, B. 2008-2012. Comfort Quilts [online]. [Date Accessed: 5 February 2017] Available from: http://www.beckyknight.co.uk/comfortblankets.html
McCurdy, J. [date unknown]. Jennifer McCurdy [online]. [Date Accessed: 5 February 2017]. Available from: https://www.jennifermccurdy.com/index.shtml
Tadman, J [date unknown]. Judy Tadman [online]. [Date Accessed: 5 February 2017]. Available from: http://judytadman.co.uk/index.html
TextileArtist.org. 2016. 5 sculpture artists using textile techniques [online]. [Date Accessed: 5 February 2017]. Available from: http://www.textileartist.org/5-sculpture-artists-using-textile-techniques/
TextileArtist.org. 2016. Wendy Moyer interview: Textile Sculptures [online]. [Date Accessed: 5 February 2017]. Available from: http://www.textileartist.org/wendy-moyer-interview-textile-sculptures/