One thing that particularly struck me was, with the exception of Yoriko Yoneyama’s work, the apparent clash between the UK and the Japanese work in the room. This clash seemed to be triggered by a number of things: the physical segregation of the British and Japanese work, the treatment of colour by these two groups of artists and the treatment of the concept of memory. As mentioned in my previous post, it was the UK work, largely in tones of grey, to which I responded immediately. They captured something of the wistful, autumnal mists I view across the valley from my study window at this time of year. Over romanticised I know, but the grey haze always reminds me that the year is growing to a close and to reflect on what has been achieved. This is also based, I think, on a career in teaching where the year always starts in September and not in January. However, grey or grey/green is the colour that I associate with memory. This, in itself, is not an insignificant conclusion.
In contrast, the Japanese works with their completely different and varied colour palette left me disorientated. They appeared to address memories that were far more personal than the historical/architectural narrative of some of the UK work, although they had links to the natural elements required for the mill’s cloth production. Their personal and cultural specificity seemed loud and attention grabbing balanced against the grey which transported me back to the cultural history of the satanic mills and school history. I had no shorthand with which to engage with this work. The idea that memory should somehow be so vibrant, a celebration relived as opposed to replayed as a projection was almost anathema to me. Interestingly, as a result, I took few images of the Japanese work, a response I now regret.
There was one exception: the work of Koji Takaki’s. A few days prior to my visit I had attended the ‘Textile Art Practice Now: Talk with Machiko Agano and Koji Takaki’ at The Japan Foundation in London, part of the wider educational situating of this exhibition. During the evening it was mentioned that Takaki’s work on display at Saltaire had been partially made during his period as artist in Residence at the Textural Space exhibition at the Whitworth in Manchester in 2001. I had been fortunate enough to see this exhibition and remember watching Takaki at work. It was a pivotal point at a very early stage of what was to become my textile studies. Here the exploration of the concept of memory became intermingled with the personal again and somehow more meaningful. But was this memory or nostalgia? Takaki uses a white/neutral colour scheme that virtually disappears in the traditional white cube, but contrasted with the colours of the spinning room. This again emphasised the relationship between and influence of the exhibition space and the varying effects this can produce.
In terms of my research project these works affirmed that the relationship of textiles and memory is intrinsic to many cultures, although its expression may be different. If the aim of my work is to stimulate memory I need to consider that any objects I use need to be recognisable to as broad an audience as possible. My reaction to the colour used to represent memorial was also significant, influenced probably by both culture and experience. The very neutral palette that I have used so far could take some further experimentation with the introduction of colour. The past may not always be sepia or veiled in a mist of nostalgia and romanticism!