This exercise concerns analysing the composition of a textile work of art. I am slightly split between two pieces so have decided to do both …. one is a portrait piece by Lily Hillage and the other a quilt by Caryl Fallert Bryer-Gentry. For both pieces the course material tells me to note down what I see – for me there is a little humour in doing an annotation of the textile piece because during my art history studies I only managed to annotate one painting without having to make corrections after tutor feedback so I am more than happy to drop the terminology and just refer to the questions asked in the course notes.
Starting with the overall impression – I usually dislike portraits as a whole … one of my quirks of my Asperger’s is I am not entirely comfortable with some faces in works of art or paintings although for some reason the Baroque and Renaissance period works are not an issue. However the simple nature of this portrait and the slightly shy look on the girls face gives an impression of innocence and sweet nature which I feel totally at ease with. What immediately draws me in is the butterfly and also the floral head dress which are at opposing angles meeting in a slightly off centre arrow point just at the top left of the girl’s forehead. This arrow type format draws my eye down to her face which is additionally framed by the soft waves of her hair which are also going in a slightly diagonal Y shaped format but this time drawing your eye up from the bottom left towards the flower at the top and the facial features. The lines of the shoulder at the bottom right both lead your eye down to that corner but then back up again to the hair which combined with the flowers and butterfly contain your eye within the framework and concentrates your gaze upon the simple lines used to capture the facial details and in particular on her eyes. The torn edges of the paper further serve to frame the portrait with the fawn coloured background paper acting as an outer border – the colours of brown and pink are triadic on the colour wheel and produce a vibrant and lively image despite the soft tones that are predominantly used. The artist has used 3 different tones of pink from very light to mid pink to a darker pink and ranging from a reddish pink butterfly through to one that appears to have more blue tone which is used for the hair and the pale pinks of the roses being seemingly tinted just with white …. this combination of pinks really brings a harmony and balance to the overall image. The artist has also just used a simple pen to add the details of the hair and facial features – there is evident of the street art/theatre influences of her work. Finally I note the glitter and beads or crystals that are used to highlight the butterfly and flowers – the butterfly is glued or stitched on to add a three-dimensional element and the crystals further add to this effect.
I do feel that this artist wanted to indicate a calming and slightly shy young woman but I also feel that there is an element of sadness or melancholy in her gaze and this almost makes me want to find a narrative and know her story – it leads me to question the influences behind this work and wonder if this is a personal story of identity or a story connected to someone the artist knows.
The only issue I have with this piece is the question over whether it is a textile art or mixed media?
With that in mind I chose this quilt by Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry titled Duet #4 which was an entry into the International Quilt Festival, Houston and which I found on Pinterest but also have full permission from the artist to share.
What immediately draws me? colour, colour, colour …. the use I find extraordinary due to its vibrancy and yet total harmony. Ms Fallert-Gentry has used primarily an orange and blue complementary colour scheme on a diagonal axis dividing the quilt in two but with the heads and beaks of the birds overlapping each other in almost a yin and yang symbol effect. I further note that at the top and bottom of the quilt particular in the top left and bottom right corner the feathers blend the warm and cool colour scheme together as if working around a colour wheel – at first you notice the diagonals but then start to realise that maybe in fact the scheme is circular …. I am noticing a spiral format which is reminiscent of the Fibonacci sequence and Golden Spiral and know, as mentioned in my blog in the Golden Section, that the artist has done many quilts on the Fibonacci numbers. I question then whether in fact this piece is designed as a Fibonacci quilt but translated into this duet of two birds – the number sequence is seen in feathers on birds so this is a logical conclusion and hence the use of it immediately brings the harmony and dynamism that you would expect along with the aesthetically balanced result.
I do feel the artist intends to concentrate the viewers eye on the heads of the birds at the centre of the quilt and the subtle spiral of the Fibonacci sequence brings your eye to rest gently and naturally at what appears to be eye-level – I suspect that the quilt was designed to be hung at a certain height. I note the flatter soft green area which is absolutely dead centre and goes from a soft citrus tone on the left through to a mid-toned but darker leaf green on the right with this area being behind the shoulders of the orange bird and centred around both of the necks and this in turn for me draws my eye up to the heads and eyes of the birds. The colours of the feathers are much darker at the bottom of the quilt and lighter at the top with mid-tones at the centre … it is almost as if you are looking at a sea themed scene with the birds heads just below the horizon but capturing and holding your gaze.
This is a quilt I could happily look at for hours – the detail is exquisite and I know having seen close up photographs of this artist’s work that the free motion quilting really adds a textural element to the work that does not distract but enhances the colours, the applique and the fabrics to their best effect.
If I finally think about whether this piece captures an emotion or place for me I find this quilt captures a mixture of joy, love and harmony in the same way that the yin and yang symbol is symbolic of the interconnection and interaction of light and dark that when together create absolute harmony and a whole. The image created I also find is reminiscent of Japanese cranes during their mating dance …. the image of the two birds entwining their necks in greeting and in order to enforce and renew their bond so question whether their is an influence of inference of Japanese culture – the combination of Yin and Yang and the possibility of the Japanese cranes certainly lead me to think of an Eastern influence on this artist.
To conclude I have really enjoyed doing this exercise – I am unsure if it is correct but feel that I am looking at textile art with the knowledge of my art history but at the same time in a much freer manner and being able to express how I see the textile works and what I feel about the composition. I am learning about the use of the lines of composition to draw the viewer in and the use of colour or those linear qualities to bring energy or calmness to the piece and feel that I can take this further. I am aware that during the course of earlier studies I have really struggled with composition and this exercise and the research has somehow explained the basics in a much clearer fashion that actually makes sense …. whether I can put it into practice in the next exercise will remain to be seen but here is hoping!!
Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry. 1997-2015. Bryerpatch Studio Gallery [online]. [Date accessed: July 2017]. Available from: http://www.bryerpatch.com/gallery/gallery.htm
Pinterest. [date unknown]. More from the International Quilt Festival [Date accessed: July 2017]. Available from: https://uk.pinterest.com/pin/412009065890317496/
TextileArtist.org. 2016. Spotlight on 5 contemporary textile artists [online]. [Date accessed: July 2017]. Available from: http://www.textileartist.org/urban-fiber-how-cities-drive-textile-art/