Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Prism 2016: Let's get cracking

Nam June Pak, Victrola (detail of installation), 2015, Tate 

Half the joy of having a set theme to work to for the annual Prism textile art exhibition is that it lures your imagination into wandering along paths that you know will ultimately not be taken. Just as I walked through landscapes a year ago looking at vapour trails, ploughed fields, tracks, footsteps in the sand and other “Lines of Communication”, knowing full well that I am not a landscape artist and probably never will be, I am having fun with the concept of “Fracture”.
Fun?, I hear the critics asking. And indeed I have heard several people complain that this is an unnecessarily negative theme. So let’s get this out of the way…

Broken heart light sculpture, Nils Rigbers. Photo: JeLuf/Wikimedia 

Fracture: shattered dreams and broken promises; hearts splintered into a thousand pieces; lives, relationships and families torn apart by domestic, political or armed conflict; fractured bones, broken bodies and disintegrating minds. Some of the most powerful work in this spring’s exhibition looked at the effects of war, illness and old age, and some of them literally moved me to tears. Now take a big breath and see what else can be added to the mix…

Margit Siposne Cseh, 300 Metres,
Modern Movement: Connections, at the Festival of Quilts 2015

Fracture: earthquakes and volcanoes; cliffs and rifts; the Grand Canyon. Fireworks; the top of The Shard; jigsaws; breakfast eggs; splinters of ice; broken mirrors.

Gyongyi Varadi, Icy Moon,
Modern Movement: Connections, at the Festival of Quilts 2015 

Distorted reflections in windows and water; mosaic; sci-fi cracks in the space-time continuum; a break in the weather; a break with the past; breaking the record; light fractured by prisms and into rainbows.

Mosaic by Gaudi

Office block windows, London Bridge 

Greta Fitchett, Telecom Tower Birmingham,
Festival of Quilts 2015 
The Shard

Eroded wooden pier, East Tilbury

So hey, put on your sequinned boob tube, stand underneath a glitter ball with the disco lights strobing and sing along with the Ronettes: “The best part of breaking up, is when you’re making art, whoooo.”

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Festival of Quilts 2015: (toot toot)

 Valerie Huggins, Synapse. Digital printing, commercial fabrics, bonded applique,
 machine stitching, hand embroidery and beading.

Quilts, quilts, quilts as far as the eye can see (997 in the open categories alone), fabrics by the tens of thousands of metres, threads by the mile. Exciting, yes; exhausting, definitely; overwhelming, sometimes; inspiring, yes; depressing, yes that too.

And yet this year's Festival of Quilts at the NEC in Birmingham was for me extra special too, because - toot toot (defying my mother who always said it was unseemly to blow one's own trumpet) this year my piece Synapse was among the 17 selected for the Fine Art Quilt Masters. It was made as my entry for Prism in May (see previous posts), but I held off from putting a picture online until the FoQ. So here it is.

Synapse, at Prism, May 2015

Here are all those on the shortlist. And no, I didn't win, even though I had mentally already spent the £5,000 prize on meaningful textile-related travel. The winning quilt, being a muted monochrome, would never have won my vote, however worthy, but when I saw the entry by Anne Smith I knew that this was what I would unhesitatingly have nominated the winner.

Anne Smith, Sharon & Co.
Hand pieced and appliqued, machine and hand embroidery, hand quilted

I first came across her work at the juried Quilt National in Ohio ten years ago (even though she's British) and have been a fan ever since, but this piece was, for me, outstanding. Over the three days I was at the festival, I kept going back to look at it, appreciating it more and more as I did so.

What else made me happy? This one did, from the SAQA "Food for Thought" gallery. While other pieces in this section  were dispiritingly literal in their interpretation, this was a lip-smacking box-full of intriguing colours and texture.

Ann Sanderson, Sushi Q,
Marbelised, hand-dyed, mono printed and painted fabric, quilted and hand embroidered

And this one, from the Diversity in Europe stand - literally one of the first quilts I saw, but which won me over instantly with its calmness, unfussiness, simplicity but perfection of technique, and for the ice-edged sea breeze that it blew into the stuffy, noisy exhibition hall. The maker was Icelandic, and I apologise for not making a note of her name.

And now let's see what the next year brings....

Saturday, 1 August 2015

"Floral Fabric Frenzy": How could I resist?

Gerberas a foot wide, in five colourways. Delicious

When an email popped into my inbox with the subject line "Floral Fabric Frenzy", although it was a mass mailing from the American retailer eQuilter Fabrics, I took it personally. I wouldn't have summed up my abiding passion in quite such a trite phrase, but the sentiment was spot on*. Floral. Fabric. Frenzy. I wouldn't argue with any of those words. 

Typical fabrics from my stock, waiting to be made into quilts 

Not for me the mimsy sage greens and primrose yellows, the dainty sprigs and fainting violets. I want my flowers bold, in your face, I want them screaming and yelling, I want them orange and shocking pink, turquoise and cerise, scarlet and acid yellow, neon blue and fluorescent purple. I want them BIG and I want them BRIGHT.

Detail of my "Daisy's Quilt"

I think many of the Turkish women I surreptitiously photographed a few months ago in Ayvalik must also follow this design principle.

Their floral baggy trousers gathered at the ankles were worn with floral headscarves edged with hand-made floral crochet and often with floral blouses or cardigans. Nothing was prissily matched or harmonised, and I stood in awe and delight watching these groups of women strolling and stopping at colourful stalls in the brightly colourful market.

Which reminds me of  Mexico: I throw in these photos just for fun. (What do you think it was about Mexico that drew me there in the first place?)

But if you really, really want a Floral Frenzy, may I suggest turning to the art of Marc Quinn? Having discovered his art at Tate Liverpool a decade or so ago, I have been a firm fan. Among his self-portrait heads made out of frozen blood and the golden statues of Kate Moss, he captures the fleeting beauty of (dead) flowers for eternity by freezing them, or painting examples rendered perfect by genetic engineering.The main pieces in his current exhibition, Toxic Sublime, at the  White Cube Gallery Bermondsey are stunning in themselves, resembling huge, rigid "art" quilts, but what caught my attention was a flower print for sale in the bookshop. This led me to search Google images for his other flower works  - and what a treat. Be dazzled.

Love Bomb, Marc Quinn 
© Copyright 
Oliver Dixon and licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence

Here too are some fabrics available at eQuilter - my favourite online store. Like going into a sweetie shop when you're on a diet, I look and my mouth waters but I manage (most of the time) to walk away...

'Garden of Earthly Delights' collection
by Studio KM for Free Spirit
'Pandora' collection by Chong-A Hwang
for Timeless Treasures

'Peony - Indiana'  by Paintbrush Studio
for Fabri-Quilt

'Amara' by De Leon Design Group for
Alexander Henry

'Greenwich'  by the De Leon Design Group for
Alexander Henry Fabrics

 'Pansies' by Philip Jacobs for Rowan Fabrics.

'Mexican Poppy'  by the De Leon Design Group
for Alexander Henry Fabrics

'Fresh Market Flowers 2' by Firetrail Designs
for Andover Fabrics

*eQuilter's subsequent mailing, "Flower Fairy Dreams", just didn't do it for me. Although, that said, one of my works in progress - dare I risk revealing this? - does include a fairy.