Saturday, August 3, 2013

'Craft/Work' exhibition round-up

I recently curated an exhibition of craft work at the South West Community Centre. It was great to exhibit the work of Adelaide based artists; Mekeda Duong, nonna reckless, Brooke Haba and Robyn Finlay. The exhibition opened on June 13th 2013 and it was a very happy moment to see people come out and support the exhibition.

I really wanted to do it because after writing my thesis by research, there was still this desire in me to show contemporary craft work. As part of the publicity for the exhibition I was interviewed by a local radio arts show, in which the focus of the interview was on how the work is made and isn't craft 'old-fashioned'. I kind of expected the second question, however I still always get surprised by the first. There is so much interest in the how of making and therein lies the contention with this second question. These handicraft skills would not have been so difficult to imagine being made a generation ago. As the general skills of knitting, crochet, embroidery are no longer in the skill-set of most there comes an amazement that people have actually made these objects.

Below is the exhibition statement:

Craft and work fit hand in glove. Time spent learning how to knit or crochet, time spent making  for the self, or somebody else. The labour of (hand) crafts is usually a labour of love. A jumper knitted to keep someone warm or the sharing between generations of skills and technique.

The feminist history of craft as told in the seminal book ‘The Subversive Stitch’ by Rozsika Parker, traced the thread of women’s making. From making out of necessity to subversion within the stitches. Contemporary craft; guerrilla knitting and ‘craftivism’ carries the continuation of this history. Weaved into the thread are the political and personal stories and messages of the artist as record of the times.

Mekeda Duong’s work in this exhibition ‘Textiles has got the chop!’ is a sharp comment on the closure of university textiles departments and points to the continual low-status of handicrafts. The pink acrylic yarn and inherent softness and warmth of the yarn belies the dangerous intent of the axe falling down on the teaching of textiles. Her embroidered cushion, with it’s popular cultural saying ‘Bitch Please’, uses the technique of knitting as a twist on the stereotypical stitched sampler messages like ‘Home Sweet Home’. The phrase is often used as a marker of increduality in another’s words.

nonna reckless works in the form of street art and guerilla knitting. Her work is made to be part of the streetscape and ephemeral like graffiti. However, in this context the yarn provides a stability to the graffiti inspired work and has the opportunity to become lasting. The large knitted and crocheted cloak which was made to keep the statute of Queen Victoria warm, was part ‘Trojan Horse’ with it’s coded messages weaved into the design. The work ‘Homage to Peter Drew’ takes  the widely recognizable smiling pixel face and re-interprets in yarn. Crocheting has given extra warmth to the spraypaint. The piece in the street is hard to touch, however this piece is tactile and seems made for touching. By knitting and crocheting the names of Adelaide graffiti artists and pieces, the history of this ephemeral practice can be recorded via the stitch and memorialise the anonymous street artists.

Brooke Haba has used hammer, nails and string to weave the words ‘Ashes/Dust’. Unlike the softer, knitted work in the exhibition, this piece is pointed. The words as reminder of our mortal selves. ‘Bees’ is an example of exemplary technique used to crochet anthropomorphic insects. The soft shapes in pastel colours make these  bees more like a childhood toy of comfort, rather than a buzzing swarm with the potential to sting.

Robyn Finlay uses familiar domestic materials in unconventional contexts. Just the thought of human hair off the head has the ability to cause revulsion. However this work is delicate and tiny, associations with an object of tenderness. In other work the humble tea bag has been given an upcylce. From something which would be used once and thrown away, to an object with permanence, and yet an ethereal ghost-like quality.

As our lives become increasingly dependent on the new technologie and the lure of the glass screen; textiles and crafting offer ways for a reconnection with a tactile experience. Crafting does not mean a negation of technology or speed, as blogging and social media have presented new modes for collaboration and sharing of skills. The history of textiles as a means of making for others, recording memories, making political statements and the labour of time, love and technqiue is continual in the work of these artists in this exhibition.

Melissa Connor, June 2013
The Messenger also wrote about the exhibition here

No comments:

Post a Comment