In brief, this exhibition comprises of:
An exhibition that will challenge perceptions of quilt making, revealing a strong and vibrant contemporary craft form that is just as likely to be found hanging on a gallery wall or urban loft apartment as it is in a rural farmhouse. Quilts by national and Cumbrian makers have been selected for their quality of craftsmanship and design, use of colour and innovative approaches. The unique story behind each piece will also be told in the exhibition, either through accompanying sketches and material revealing how each quilt came to be or through the storytelling ability of the quilt itself. – Rheged
The reason I wanted to visit this exhibition, was more down to technique usage than the quilting concept. However this was not a traditional quilt exhibition, as the images show. I will briefly document my highlights, as well as extend my thoughts within my physical body of work:
The first piece which caught my attention, was this one, inspired by Boro work. Having previously looked into this myself and having an ongoing interest in the themes which underpin it, I took a close look. Traditional white stitching lines were seen, along with the usual colour of cloth.
It has a planned yet unplanned look. The pieces are all well cut and not frayed, yet together, they create a very pieced together jigsaw; overlapping at times. The artist here has highlighted areas by using tiny bits of cloth, in contrast to the usual size. This was a well known idea when using the technique in history.
Jayne Gunner is the artist, the piece above named ‘After Boro’. In other words, her response to the technique.
Above: This artist, Kate Dowty, has worked on a similar theme (Boro). A quilter for twenty years. However there is more to this piece than just a technique. Reading the info on the wall, we find that the red surface stitching we observe, is not just a contemporary highlight, but used to depict the debris we find washed up on shore; thus the “Boro” becomes the sea. Honestly, on looking at this piece, I would never have understood it’s concept without the information. However it does now make sense. I feel that this is a good representation of work coming away from ins inspiration point, its building block and becoming something fresh and new.
Sculptural forms of quilting and sampling were also seen. The concertina piece (above right) reminded me of my own concertina sketchbooks from past years:
The one in the exhibition was full of colour fabric swatches; said to help the artist decide what to use. The image on the left shows a circular form…maybe for the sculptural side rather than artists use practically.
What interests me most when visiting exhibitions, is the “behind the scenes” work. In this case, glass cases housed well spaced curated items. They had room to breath and another person may have said that they were actually given “too much” space. However this made us notice them more. Samples were observed, as well as a selected page in an artists sketchbook. In each case, labels directed us from this swatch to the finished piece, so that clear links could be perceived.
This is a good learning point for myself; making things clear, but also being selective with what is shown. Space can have effect.
The work by Kate Crossley especially made my mum stand and observe. Speechless. Three items on show, each with thousands of hours work. They had already become museum pieces in their own right; they were artefacts. A working clock as seen far left, defies any hint of the traditional embroidery form. The idea of quilting takes on new meaning. The curation of each object she made, the spacing, the housing of objects within, is worth seeing.
Do I like it?
No. But I am in awe. For myself, its too much, too busy, yet it has it’s place. Curation detail is a good educational point for me., something I need to take on board. The objects are each a collection in themselves. How will I place my “collection”?
The contemporary quilt used to convey messages and meanings are expressed above. The piece right was by Sara Impey. She stated on her brief next to her work, that “social commentary” is something she likes to weave in through her work. This piece especially reminded me of Tracy Emin’s wall hangings at the Tate a few years ago.
Simply named “Social Fabric” it was made on an antique bed quilt. She used the material to help tell the story. Much of the text embroidered, deals with the use of the quilt and the memories associated with it.
Above: Close ups of the traditional quilts, seen in a room off to one side, separate. These quilts were originally collected by Rosemary Blackett-Ord from 1950 onward, and the quilts themselves date from as far back as the 18th Century. In a time when quilting had fallen out of fashion, she found a deep fascination in historical quilts from Cumbria and beyond, and the stories that they told. As quilts once again found popular favour, this collection of quilts became more well known and exhibited numerous times. Several of the quilts are now in the collection of the Bowes Museum. Thus they are on loan. The fabrics look just as modern as many observed throughout the rest of the exhibition; crossing the divide, they are timeless. They have not aged too badly, thus show that they have strength, something that modern fabrics lack at times.
Lastly, above Cas Holmes work. A sample piece from her most recent book ‘Stitched Stories’. Her work is expressive, yet her themes may at times be tame. The theme here is florals, yet the piece, especially that red hand dyed scrim, looks bloody. Her work has a hardness, which takes away from the safeness.
I love the simplistic intuitive stitch. She is having an almost diary like conversation with herself I feel. Its as if she “saw” that flower and wanted to record it. Instead of pen, she used her needle. She is an artist who I may choose to look into further. Not her work as such, but her methods and thinking surrounding the outcomes.
I have many other images which I could write about. However I have chosen the key ones to document. I have kept the rest in a folder, thus I can use them for future research.
What are a few key points which I feel I can take from the exhibition?
- The outcome we create, doesn’t have to look like the original concept or point of inspiration. It is a stronger thing, to be able to step away from it, challenge and make new. We can explain our starting points if we need to, but they don’t need to be obvious.
- Curation needs careful thought. Space is more than detail, or maybe we need to pick out one detail?
- Many techniques were challenged though the exhibition. I can go through all my images, look further into the artists as I carry on and implement some ideas which maybe I have not tried yet, or tried in a different way.
- Use of 3D came into this exhibition, challenging the perception of what a quilt may be. Are there other forms of textiles, which I myself could challenge? When does an art form have to be defined? Can it appear unnamed and new, or does it always have to come under a technique name?