In my practice I manipulate yarn through traditional methods of constructing textiles such as crocheting and weaving to create two and three-dimensional pieces intended to question where the line between art and craft lies as well as the position of textiles as a contemporary art medium. Following in the footsteps of artists working within the Feminist Art Movement of the 1960’s and 70’s, such as Sheila Hicks and Faith Wilding, I intend to occupy the space forged by such artists for textiles within the gallery. Using textiles as a medium for sculpture and drawing, I push the flatness of pieces through the techniques and materials I employ, focusing on the repetitive nature of crocheting and weaving and what can be created from these seemingly mundane repetitions. Through performing these processes, I attempt to understand a recently renewed interest in textiles as an art medium within todays culture, evidenced through a recent retrospective exhibition of Anni Albers’ work and the UK’s largest exhibition of Sheila Hicks’ work in 2016 as well as the general upsurge in representation of textile artists in major contemporary galleries such as the Tate and the Hayward gallery.
My understanding of how textile-based work has previously been dismissed from the gallery space has been facilitated by Rozsika Parkers The Subversive Stitch which focuses on how embroidery was separated from fine art because of its historic association with the stereotypical submissive, domestic woman. The Dematerialisation of Art by Lucy Lippard and John Chandler has furthered my understanding of the dismissal of textiles through their suggestion in the 1960’s, that the studio had become the study; stating ‘the idea is paramount, and the material form is secondary’. A statement that is reductionist in its assumption that both idea and material cannot exist on par as reactionary, equal elements, or furthermore that medium cannot be the leading motivation. Through encountering the work of Mrinalini Mukherjee, Anni Albers and Chiharu Shiota, I have attempted to decipher how such contemporary artists have progressed the position of textiles within art since the publication of these texts through returning value to the physical art object.
In Suspended I crocheted 15 pairs of tights into cylindrical, bulbus tubes, a form I first began creating in Surface. These tubular reimagined tights hung from the ceiling encasing readymades questioning how domestic objects are risen to art objects, whilst demonstrating how crocheting becomes sculptural. In Loom, I focused on the processes of forming the piece, with every step of the construction requiring repetitive labour, the unruly final product emphasising the handmade nature of its construction and the honesty of the materials. This naturally fed into the collaborative piece Witches Hut, in which myself and two of my peers, reimagined the character of the modern-day witch as a feminist icon, with an interest in handmade, ritualistic processes, conscious of the historic condemnation of witches as a result of skills they held relating to crafting potions and forming mysterious objects. This installation contained stop-motion, sound and weaving amongst other elements, creating an intimate environment that celebrated craft. In Witches Hut II we dissected the elements of Witches Hut, hanging the individual components on a white wall to explore the role presentation plays in the elevation of pieces from everyday to high art objects. Three Weaves is an amalgamation of all of these concerns; from the centre of the ceiling hang three panels, woven using various traditional techniques that gradually deteriorate from structured symmetry to looser and more textured woven forms, all created using natural undyed wool, in varying levels of refinement, intended to expose materials and processes whilst highlighting the sculptural nature of the newly formed cloth. By hanging the pieces from the centre of the room they act as pillar-like intrusions within the space, that demand attention and imply importance. Imbedded into each woven panel are symbols taken from witches’ runes (a technique first experimented with in Spell) that cast a spell of hope and acceptance for women and craft within the gallery, projecting positive affirmations that encourage the acceptance of textiles as a valid contemporary art medium and give appreciation to such laborious crafts.