Home and Art: creating, performing and researching home.

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At the beginning of May I gave my first ‘public’ conference paper at the Home and art: creating, performing and researching home workshop organised by the School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London at the Geffrye Museum. It was an interesting, if slightly nerve wracking, day with some very interesting and engaging speakers. An overview of the workshop is available here: http://www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/news/2015/items/157607.html.

Back in the darker part of the year I posted an image of my contribution to Vanessa Marr’s ‘Duster Project’. https://catehursthouse.wordpress.com/2015/01/12/women-and-domesticity-whats-your-perspective-domestic-duster-project/.

As both Vanessa and I were speakers at the workshop I finally had a chance to meet her personally and, as she had brought them with her, a chance to see the dusters! This is a really interesting project and it was fascinating to ‘read’ others’ thoughts on housework and beyond. Vanessa’s blog accompanying the project can be found here: https://domesticdusters.wordpress.com/.  Vanessa has also produced an online exhibition guide https://domesticdusters.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/pop-up-duster-exhibition-guide.pdf which enables the dusters to be seen in more detail and also contains the thoughts behind the individual contributions.

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Sheila Hicks: Foray into Chromatic Zones

I heard Sheila Hicks speak at Whitechapel Gallery last autumn and realised that although I was familiar with her name I was unfamiliar with her work, I had seen images of her giant installations and am familiar with the small weavings contained in  the truly beautiful book  ‘Weaving as Metaphor’ but had never actually seen any of her work in the gallery. The Hayward’s exhibition is small, but also a delight. A small collection of weavings, some larger wrapped pieces, two panels of stitched discs that refer to the tapestry made (and re-made) for the Ford Foundation and the sumptuousness of simple, oversized hanks of thread stitched to canvas playing with colour.

Ford Foundation Tapestry

Ford Foundation Tapestry

I particularly liked the wrapped Nomad Treasure Bales for their juxtaposition of solidity and ephemerality. The layering of the binding suggests an alternative arrangement of the woven grid, but one that lacks the integration and strength of weaving, if loosened the structure, so apparently firm and solid, would fall apart.

Nomad Treasure Bales

Nomad Treasure Bales

Another large scale piece, Baôli Chords/Cordes Sauvages Pow Wow reminded me of Eva Hesse’s rope works. I loved the way they snaked, simultaneously animated yet static, across the space, the colour and fibre contorted and constrained by the tight binding.

Baôli Chords/Cordes Sauvages Pow Wow

Baôli Chords/Cordes Sauvages Pow Wow

A small but interesting collection. I would have liked to have seen more.

http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/whatson/sheila-hicks-foray-into-chromatic-zones-1000789

http://www.sheilahicks.com/index.html

 

 

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Women and Domesticity: What’s your perspective? – Domestic Duster Project

I have a number of issues surrounding the perpetuation of the bond between women and textiles, but I can not deny it exists and that it remains pertinent. I received information about this project a while ago and have now submitted my duster in time for a pop up exhibition for International Women’s Day (8th March, 2015).

Cate Hursthouse_Women and domesticity submission

 Further details of the project can be found at:
https://marrvanessa.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/women-domesticity-whats-your-perspective/

and

https://domesticdusters.wordpress.com/

An exhibition of the submitted dusters is planned for 28 February 2015 between 14.00 to 17.00 at Studio 11, The Old Printworks, 20 Wharf Road, Eastbourne, BN21 3UG, Eastbourne, BN21 3UG

 

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Home – Adeline de Monseignat, Ronchini Gallery, London

Images of the work can be found on the gallery’s website:

http://www.ronchinigallery.com/archives/mostre/adeline-de-monseignat-home

De Monseignat’s work is a must see for me.  She overtly references the Uncanny and her practice actively employs textiles, along with other materials, to do this.

This exhibition comprised of an installation, black and white drawings, textile/mixed media collages and a stitched textile. A catalogue is promised with three essays.

The installation comprises of a metal frame, reminiscent of a wendy house, but that has been blown or knocked over onto one of its gable ends. The far left portion of the half-height curtain that surrounds the frame had been turned back to invite the viewer into the installation.  This is quite a different feel from the image which repels rather than invites. The ‘curtaining’ is made from the awnings of her childhood home in Monaco – hence the red and white stripe – and shows obvious signs of weathering and use. Once inside, the installation is quite cramped, the viewer is greeted by a slatted, metal framework. White, fabric covered ‘bricks’ are inserted at intervals completely blocking the view of the central focal point of the installation. Where it is visible, the horizontal slats, echoing the vertical slats of the fabric surround, disrupt the view – like looking through a venetian blind. It reminded me of looking out of the view out of the shutters in the South of France.  Moving round this three sided metal frame 180 degrees to face the opening through which the installation was entered, a bed-like construction is contained by the three sides of the metal work. In this bed, under a blue and white stripped sheet littered with hand hemmed, circular apertures, are a  number of various sized ‘creeptures’, de Monseignat’s signature glass spheres of captured fur. I have been unsure about these ‘creeptures’ before, feeling their overt reference to Freud is too obvious, but in this context of the bed and partially obscured, they are unsettling, pustule-like, hinting at disturbed sleep and the story of the princess and the pea. The unseen spheres visible as undulations under the fabric and with no evidence that they even exist, are equally disturbing.

De Monseignat’s use of drawing is interesting and clearly demonstrate her thinking process.  Interestingly the stripes on the fabric studies are only evident on the photograph. The collages too, studies in combining materials that form her vocabulary for this exhibition, surprise by occasionally flashing the viewer with an image of him/herself – this is not just her home, but catalyst to think of our own.

De Monseignat’s stitched mind map – reminiscent of  Jessica Rankin’s stitched maps clearly demonstrates the investment of thinking time and the idea of the stitch existing simultaneously on both side of the cloth, bursting on to the right side from its hiding place on the wrong side – emphasised by de Monseignat’s use of muslin.

There was much to think about in this exhibition.  Close to my own research but, I don’t think, too close.

 

 

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Kettle’s Yard

I have promised myself a visit Kettle’s Yard for a long time, at the weekend I finally made it. Given I live within an hour’s drive why did it take so long? The visit was one of the pleasantest afternoons I have passed in a long while. The house is beautiful. It has many moods, ranging from the almost claustrophobic, intimate spaces of the cottage conversions to the expansive, galleried, light filled spaces (they don’t feel like rooms) of the extension.

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Then of course there is the collection. The bringing together of  artworks and objects.  The everyday, natural, man-made juxtaposed with an exquisite drawing – that nagging feeling that I ought to be able to recognise who made it, a name on the tip of my tongue but somehow just beyond recollection. There are no labels to dispel the intellectual enquiry (there is a comprehensive guide book), you have to go with your senses and just enjoy the drawing/artwork for what it is. The meticulously placed natural and everyday objects command equal attention, blurring the boundary between what is art and what is ordinary, revealing unexpected beauty and pleasure.

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There is also of course that special something that particularly catches your eye. I loved the ‘unkempt’ house plants roaming across glass-house window bays, which reminded me of living Carl Larson images, the Javanese puppet with its slightly enigmatic smile/sneer,

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and of course I found a textile, whose worn beauty was entrancing.

The staff were knowledgeable and extremely welcoming, encouraging a return visit to literally see the house in another light and experience and enjoy new revelations. I will go back, take the guidebooks and be more systematic about investigating the collection, but it was a delight to  enjoy the experience of just snooping round a fantastic house.

http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk/

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Boro – Somerset House

Boro describes a genre of indigo dyed, hand sewn, Japanese historical textiles. Characteristic of Boro are the signs of wear and repair which emphasise their utilitarian, historical and social origins, a limited colour palette (resulting from political restriction on the use of colour dependent on class), restricted access to materials, and the need to maximise the life of the cloth for practical and economic reasons. In their current incarnation the narratives of these cloths have also been patinated by a further layer of appropriation and designation as ‘works of art’. This latest incarnation is achieved through the visual language of art by mounting on stretcher frames covered with canvas and wall hanging. Visually Boro cloths have been compared to 20th century art’s abstract and assemblage movements.  It is these visual similarities, it seems, which are sufficient to designate these textiles art and this is where I have problems with them. For me they are not art. They are appropriated, fetishised textiles. There is nothing to indicate that the makers intended to articulate or communicate with others through them and the accompanying catalogue does nothing to dispel this belief, recording only the social and anthropological context of their existence. They must remain, for me at least, decoration and in the more formal context of the debates of textile art contribute little.

Boro - Somerset House 17.04.14

Boro – Somerset House

However, having dumped my more rational, academic response to the exhibited textiles, they are nonetheless undoubtedly beautiful and highly desirable. They have an air of calm and contemplation. The worn surface invites conjecture and a projection of (romanticised) narrative. The subtle variety of tones, textures, woven patterning, resist patterning and accompanying hand stitching, sometimes erratically dispersed across the cloth, sometimes more measured ensures these textiles are visually interesting. Despite their age they have a timeless quality attributable, in my opinion to the use of indigo dye and visual similarity to the ubiquitous denim. It is impossible to know if the composition of these cloths was ever considered by the makers or whether the juxtaposition of the pieces was pure chance. For me they indicate something of what I consider to be an innate human characteristic to decorate and to please the eye.  However, in their current incarnation the influence of the collector/curator to select, collect and appropriate is also a considerable influence on their aesthetic quality. Some of the exhibits retained their garment structure which set up a tension with the more western aesthetic used in the majority of the works. I am uncertain as to whether the mounted, wall hung works are cropped and cut from larger pieces to enhance and therefore manage their appeal. Undisputed, in my opinion, is Boro cloths’ ability to make a statement in a certain type of domestic setting. This is reinforced by the display at Somerset House in a number of ‘domestic scaled’ (just) spaces on off white walls against varnished floor boards and provocatively suspended above generously proportioned fire surrounds. There was a huge component of aspirational life-style in this exhibition, it is a selling exhibition after all, which is strangely at odds with a textile born out of hardship and poverty!

https://www.somersethouse.org.uk/visual-arts/boro

 

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Annie Turner

I visited this exhibition at someone else’s suggestion. It is out of my comfort zone and my direct field of interest, yet nevertheless interesting. Turner works with clay and her practice is a response to place – the river Deben in Suffolk.

The work was clean, crisp, understated and, for me, contemplative. The recurrent form of this work was the open gridded, vessel, animated through slight twists and sags. There is a wonderful contrast between the precision of Turner’s construction and the inferred influence of the less predictable, but equally manipulative, hand of the flow of the river. Reminiscent of, yet abstracted from the utilitarian these forms are rendered ambiguous through wear, abandonment and displacement. The works are resonant of the ruin, the patina of rust and on closer inspection a wonderful surface texture that is both the erosion, and accumulation of surface over time. These structures are as much the product of the rapid flow of the flood as they are the calmness and stagnation of the summer’s day. They are old, with stories to tell. The open structures are a vivid contrast to the over-scaled, glazed and incised muscle shells and claw-like objects that also make up this body of work.  Their dual presence echoes the symbiotic existence of man and beast in the landscape, the result, like Turner’s use of materials, of deep understanding.  As a craftswoman I can appreciate Turner’s skill even if I have little comprehension of her techniques. Her subtle handling of both form and materials to create the mood and language of her work appears effortless, a consummate use of craft skills that passes beyond the utilitarian into the expressive.

Images of the work from the exhibition can be found here: http://www.erskinehallcoe.com/exhibitions/turner-jezequel-2014

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