Saturday, December 24, 2011

Pop Art
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

When I began this blog, I was committed to penning ca. 50 posts per year. As this is the beginning of the festive season, this will be the last post for 2011. The next post will appear on the 14th of January 2012 (or three weeks from now).

This post is a lengthy dissertation that I wrote sometime ago for a seminar I gave to an art group and it is primarily concerned with an art movement - Pop Art - that refashioned the way we think of art. I am continually foraging for techniques and ideas from any art movement. Pop Art unleashed so many different art avenues. For example, because of it Grafitti and Post Grafitti ArtCloth would emerge many decades later as art forms in their own right.

I hope that you have a very enjoyable festive season and a rewarding new year - whatever your belief system and whenever your new year begins. The festive season is always a time for retrospection, introspection, and prognostication - with or without family and friends. No matter what your situation, have a good one!

Pop Art
By embracing popular culture stimuli, Pop Art broke with "High Art" traditions of the past and impacted on later art movements.

“Collaged, layered, torn, worn graffiti poster creating exciting compositions and juxtapositions of colors and fragments that have the power of carefully crafted collages”. David Robinson, Soho Walls, Beyond Graffiti, Artist Unknown.

The mood throughout the sixties was expansive. The turnover in artistic modes and motifs accelerated. A proliferation of targets in art and processes abounded. Nothing was sacred - from the shape of canvases to splashing, rolling and staining of paints. Within a decade all of these features would be digested and become the “norm”. That these processes were not just randomly accentuated events is evidenced in the appearance, within the 1960s, of such movements as Minimalism, full-blown Color Field painting and Pop Art[1].

What is Pop Art? Richard Hamilton in 1957 listed the qualities of existing mass-media imagery as (to which he was attributed to give the name “Pop”)[2]: popular (designed for mass audience), transient (short-term solution), expendable (easily forgotten), low-cost, mass produced, young (aimed at youth), witty, sexy, gimmicky, glamorous and big business. He was concerned with the nature of style and glamour and the processes of creating and projecting consumer imagery. The phrase - Pop Art - was attributed to Lawrence Alloway, the British art critic, who helped organize a Pop Art exhibition for the Guggenheim Museum in 1963[3].

Richard Hamilton – Study for “Portrait of Hugh Gaitskellas a Famous Monster of Filmland” (1964).

In an interview with Gene Swensen in 1963 one of the founding fathers of Pop Art, Roy Lichtenstein, explained more succinctly its pervasive and subversive nature[4]:
“I don’t know – the use of commercial art as a subject matter I suppose. It was hard to get a painting that was despicable enough so that no one could hang it – everybody was hanging everything. It was almost acceptable to hang a dripping paint rag - everybody was accustomed to this. The one thing everybody hated was commercial art; apparently they didn’t hate that enough either”.

Roy Lichtenstein – Hopeless (1963).

What Lichtenstein succinctly captures is the mood of the sixties and moreover, the intent to subvert the accepted sources of art. It is clear to him that sources drawn from popular culture such as from film, cartoons, magazine strips and commercial images were as valid a source for art as was religion, landscapes and portraits. Pop Art - as he envisions it - is a reaction to modern society in terms of its depiction of the urban technology.

There is a tendency to attribute the poster work of Jules Cheret (1836-1933) and Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) as the fore runners of Pop Art. After all, both designed mass produced posters advertising places and events (see Les Girard (1879)[5] and Reine de Joie (1892)[6]). Cheret and Lautrec designs are not masterpieces of the art of advertising, but rather are significant works of art in themselves. Instead of interpreting events of their day by creating large salon canvases they found a new place for their work – the street. These posters contain elements of caricature, humor and satire - all attributes suited for instant digestion in the street when on the move.

Jules Cheret - Les Girard (1879).

Jules Cheret - Reine de Joie (1892).

Toulose-Lautrec - Divan-Japonais.

They also contained a decorative line and simple flat shapes. All of these elements could be employed in a poster, but could not be expressed so simply and directly within the conventions of a painting. It is these elements, which are often reproduced in the Pop Art of Warhol, Lichtenstein, Dine and Rosenquist. That is, the breaking with High Art traditions in the interpretation of solid form and the illusion of depth as well as a need to connect with the street or the urban society by encapsulating everyday objects (e.g. soup cans etc.) and emotions (such as humor, satire or irony). The depiction of these objects and emotions were not previously evident in High Art traditions.

Since the 19th century, there have been many roots associated with Pop Art (e.g. from the Bauhaus movement to the influence of the Beats and even to the influence of Zen Buddhism). Generally, there has been a tendency to think that Pop Art emerged out of an abrupt break with Abstract Expressionism[7]. The first wave and second wave of Abstract Expressionists considered the reality of the painting as its only subject (see Jackson Pollack’s (1912-1956) Untitled 1950 & 1951[8]). On the other hand, for Pop Artists (e.g. Lichtenstein, Warhol, Dine, Rosenquist and Oldenburg) the environment (i.e. popular culture) is in fact the world outside the picture frame. High Art traditions, as thought by these latter artists, were trying to distance themselves from popular culture by transcending it, thereby becoming exclusive and so laying a veil of mystical pretentiousness between them and the populace[9].

Jackson Pollack’s - Untitled (1950).

Jackson Pollack’s - Untitled (1951).

The real relationship between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art is in fact far more complex. In 1993 the exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles entitled: “Hand-Painted Pop American Art in Transition 1955-62”[10] examined the historical and complex relationships of American Pop Art. At some point in time in the 1950s there was a conviction among several painters that painting was an “act” that existed in time; that is, paintings themselves became viable when their real subject was their own making. The choice of 1955 was made in deference to the year Jasper Johns produced his first flag and target paintings (see Flag 1954-55[11]) and in which Robert Rauschenberg shifted from his nostalgic collage work to his proto-Pop pieces (see Untitled 1955[12]), which fully engaged the material of popular culture. These artists were initially confused as Pop Artists, since they introduced mundane objects into their work (see Johns', Fool’s House 1962[13] and Rauschenberg’s Octave 1960[14]). However, both artists retained the Abstract Expressionist's characteristic concern for surface textures[15].

It is bracketed by 1962 since this was the year in which Pop Art became an internationally recognized and acceptable cultural phenomenon with exhibitions such as - “Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism and Performance” - becoming more commonplace.

Book Cover Of Hand-Painted Pop American Art in Transition (1955-62).

Jasper Johns - Flag (1954-55).

Robert Rauschenberg - Untitled (1955).

Jasper Johns - Fool’s House (1962).

Robert Rauschenberg - Octave (1960).

Blam! The Explosion of Pop, Minimalism and Performance.

By 1962 the phenomenon that was packaged and labeled as Pop Art had emerged. It was largely centered in New York. In Europe, Pop Art lacked the glamour, drama and market impact of the American varieties. For example, the imagery of Pop as practised by Oyvind Fahlstrom in Sweden, Martial Rayesse in France and Richard Hamilton, Eduardo Paolozzi and Peter Phillips in England tended to be more obtuse and oblique [16]. It was no wonder that Lawrence Alloway, the British art critic, who helped organize a Pop Art exhibition for the Guggenheim Museum in 1963, exclusively focused on the American artists [3]. This perhaps recognizes the vast differences in approaches and maturity - see Richard Hamilton’s Epiphany (1964)[17] and compare it with James Rosenquist’s Marilyn Monroe I (1962)[18].

Richard Hamilton - Epiphany (1964).

James Rosenquist - Marilyn Monroe I (1962).

In America Pop Art was dominated by such artists as Lichtenstein, Warhol, Rosenquist, Oldenburg and Dine. The need to invigorate the connection between themselves, their art and the populace required unashamed self-promotion. No other art movement in history so openly and consciously touted themselves and their works in the public eye. Warhol and Oldenburg epitomized the Pop Artist’s creed to demand fame because they were “cool”. It was Warhol who claimed: "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes."

So what does their art expose? The basic materials used by the Pop Artists involved enamel and acrylic paints, plastics and vinyls. These were imparted as two-dimensional images in a glossy smooth form, yielding a perception not too dissimilar to the images from a television screen or on the pages of a glossy magazine. Most Pop Artists labored to smooth away any traces of brush strokes. Commercial techniques permeated all phases of Pop Art. Roy Lichtenstein simulated Benday dots in his paintings (see Girl with Ball (1961) and Drowning Girl (1963)[19]). In commercial printing, tiny dots of primary colors are spaced closely together so that when these are viewed at a distance, the dots merge to form additional hues and shadings. Lichtenstein prepared metal stencils that were perforated with holes in order to clearly highlight these painted, regularly spaced dots of considerable size on his canvas. On the other hand, Warhol tried to achieve the texture of commerciality by turning to such mechanical processes as silk-screening (see Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962)[18]). Here an image is transferred to a silk-screen stencil and then varied colored inks are forced through the screen to yield halftone dots which give an appearance of a visual roughness. Unlike Lichtenstein and Warhol, James Rosenquist utterly abandoned any Abstract Expressionistic ideas. His works completely impart a glossy smoothness in which he has labored to smooth away any traces of brush strokes. He employed his sign painter’s techniques. He painted President Elect (1960-61)[20] on a Masonite board with commercial paint and scaled up small magazine illustrations. This painting is done in flat areas and his images mimic advertising styles. Nevertheless, it is clear from these three diverse approaches that the Pop Art movement intensified a feeling of slickness in order to further move away from High Art traditional concerns with paint and canvas textures (as distinct from the purpose of mimicking commercial processes).

Roy Lichtenstein - Girl with Ball (1961).

Roy Lichtenstein - Drowning Girl (1963).

Andy Warhol - Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962).

James Rosenquist - President Elect (1960-61).

The subject matter was also designed to move away from High Art traditions. Roy Lichtenstein took an image from comics and transformed it into an icon of Pop Art. The tone of the paintings, such as Girl with Ball (1961) and Drowning Girl (1963)[19], engages our sympathy whilst at the same time gives us an underlying expression of irony and even social criticism. Moreover, the subject matter is no longer the property of the publisher, but now becomes the property of Lichtenstein. The cartoon-like images are now his and so becomes part of his signature.

Similarly, Andy Warhol’s Gold Marilyn Monroe (1962)[18] also shows that the reproduction process is an important part of the subject matter. Since his presentation of the image is literal we are purposely being directed to the surface marks, blotchy paint, and imperfect color registration. Our directed gaze is designed to more enliven and artistically assimilate this otherwise banal and disturbing subject matter. Furthermore, Warhol’s objects also became his property. The stacked soup cans (see Four Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962)[21]), which initially belonged to Campbell became “a Warhol”. These products were of negligible value unless they adorned his signature.

Rosenquist also throws back to us billboard/commercial images or product art (see Zone (1960)[22]). Once again without his signature these commercial images are valueless. This is a feature of Pop Art: the highly personalized visions based largely on subject matter was the real signature of the Pop Artists. Hence, it is a movement generally more united by themes than by styles and so even this aspect is a large deviation from High Art traditions.

Andy Warhol - Four Campbell’s Soup Cans (1962).

James Rosenquist - Zone (1960).

Pop Art seeks the references that it needs to project its expression, rather than being restricted in a projected cone of previous art movements. This is clearly shown here by Drowning Girl[19] and Gold Marilyn Monroe[18]. The former is a highly ornamental drawing that recalls Japanese prints, notably Hokusai’s The Great Wave [23], whilst the latter is almost Byzantine in style insofar that Marilyn Monroe is set against an ethereal, other worldly gold background. Thus, despite the extremely mechanistic look of both art pieces, the work of Lichtenstein and Warhol is a sophisticated irony of art and in fact, of art style.

Hokusai’s The Great Wave.

Pop artists also went beyond painting; that is, they strove into performance as a strategy to make their art more immediate. Warhol churned out eight-hour films on stationary subjects such as a sleeping man and the Empire State building between dusk and midnight. Painters like Jim Dine staged elaborate live tableaux: his Car Crash was a stylized slice of life featuring remnants of mangled limousines and crash victims[24]. Claes Oldenburg, the master of soft sculpture, was one of the first practitioners of so called “Happenings”. These were zany mixtures of theatre, dance, kinetic sculpture and vaudeville. For example, in a scene from Stars (an event Oldenburg staged at the Gallery of Modern Art in Washington D.C. in 1963) an awkward waiter carries a huge tray of food (realistically presented but in the form of bits of chopped plastic) which he is about to spill over the unsuspecting audience [25]. In another, Store Days, theatrical events and real sales transactions were mingled[24]. “Happenings”, events staged by artists, became so well established that a decade later one of the principal exponents, Allan Kaprow, was appointed to an academic chair in “Happenings” in California[26].

Jim Dine - Car Crash.

These “Happenings” generated a wave of new ideas in the form of Performance Art, Participatory Art or Action Art[27-28]. Perhaps one of the most famous exponents of these concepts was an American-Japanese artist called Yoko Ono. Yoko Ono’s open-air “be-ins” established the role of the artist's as a catalyst for the purpose of focusing on the creation of art rather than just on the output of art[27]. These “Happenings” and “be-ins” were aimed to challenge the notion that the “best” form of art was produced by individuals in studios. Furthermore, the acceptance of Pop Art greatly accelerated acceptance of the work of Christo, who was instrumental in developing a reflexive, and participatory mode of art[28].

By the mid-1960s Pop Art ran out of steam. Op and Minimal Art had appeared to challenge it. Both swung back again to abstraction and yet both appeared in certain circles as continuations of Pop Art. Like Pop Art, Op and Minimal Art also emphasized a detached anonymity, employed the colors of commercial paints and featured hard edges and surface brightness. An excellent example of Op Art is Victor Vasarely's Feny (1969)[29] and that of Minimal Art is Al Held, Mao (1967)[29].

Victor Vasarely's Feny (1969)

Al Held - Mao (1967).

Did Pop Art feedback into commercial art? It did so by ushering in a new renaissance in the comic strip to the television generation. Notably the work of such artists as R. Crumb came to the fore. His work also reached into the “Pop” musical industry being used to adorn the Cheap Thrills album cover of Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Furthermore, in legitimizing two-dimensional, flat cartoonlike images as fine Art, Pop Art enabled the later development of un-Disney like cartoon television series such as the Simpsons and South Park. Previously, Disney had established that cartoon characters had to be in solid form with an illusion of depth[30].

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Pop Art is the emergence of Graffiti Art as an art form. Here the connection with Pop Art is that it brings art by the youth to the youth without any form of mystical pretentiousness, using the streets as its forum. It relies heavily on themes rather than on styles. It is glamorous in that it seeks fame since it is outside of the law; that is, it is “cool”. Like Cave or Rock Art, which was constantly replenished, Graffiti Art also recognizes its temporal, kinetic and expendable nature. It is low cost, witty, sometimes sexy and gimmicky. It usually attacks the premises of big business. It seeks fame by enlivening a city of concrete and bare flat surfaces. Unlike Rapp music, which replaced a melody with a river of words, some Graffiti Art uses cartoon images and typography as more than just words; that is, it uses them as images in an art form. This art then matches the criteria as defined by Richard Hamilton (see second paragraph of this dissertation); that is, Graffiti Art has the qualities of existing mass-media imagery to which he attributed the name “Pop”.

Relm, New York (2009).

The commitment to painting on canvas as a self-contained activity was over. The idea that art can be made of any material is a recurrent theme in the twentieth-century. Pop Art legitimized that art could now be made by the action of a person using any medium on any surface and exploiting any subject (no matter how despicable). The emphasis shifted to the activity of the making of artwork so that the work itself became a witness and an on-going memory of the energy and thought that was put into it. A further conceptual shift would emphasise the idea rather than the end result. And a still further shift would phase out the artwork (that is the studio work) in favor of the discussion of art in theoretical terms. In conclusion, Pop Art accelerated these processes that enabled each of these stages of conceptual development to be more easily and quickly reached.

[1] Read, H. “A Concise History of Modern Painting”, Thames and Hudson, London,1968, p 293.

[2] ibid. p 299.

[3] The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, “Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955-62”, Publications Inc., New York, 1993, p17.

[4] Barnicoat, John, “A Concise History of Posters”, Thames and Hudson, London, 1972, p203.

[5] ibid. p21.

[6] ibid. p14.

[7] Read, H. “A Concise History of Modern Painting”, Thames and Hudson, London,1968, p286.

[8] Museum of Modern Art New York, “The Museum of Modern Art New York”, Harry N. Abrams, New York,1990, p315.

[9] Gombrich, E.H. “The Story of Art”, Phaidon, New York, 1968, p462.

[10] The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, “Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955-62”, Publications Inc., New York, 1993.

[11] ibid. p120.

[12] ibid. p31.

[13] ibid. p138.

[14] ibid. p39.

[15] Time-Life Books, “Modern American Painting”, Time-Life Books Inc., 1970, p163.

[16] Read, H. “A Concise History of Modern Painting”, Thames and Hudson, London,1968, p302.

[17] Thompson, P. and Davenport, P., “The Dictionary of Visual Language”, Bergstrom and Boyle Books Ltd, London, 1980, p13.

[18] Museum of Modern Art New York, “The Museum of Modern Art New York”, Harry N. Abrams, New York,1990, p235.

[19] ibid. p234.

[20] The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, “Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955-62”, Publications Inc., New York, 1993, p53.

[21] Time-Life Books, “Modern American Painting”, Time-Life Books Inc., 1970, p175.

[22] The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, “Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955-62”, Publications Inc., New York, 1993, p50.

[23] Museum of Modern Art New York, “The Museum of Modern Art New York”, Harry N. Abrams, New York,1990, p234.

[24] Read, Herbert. “A Concise History of Modern Painting”, Thames and Hudson, London,1968, p303.

[25] Time-Life Books, “Modern American Painting”, Time-Life Books Inc., 1970, p166.

[26] Read, Herbert. “A Concise History of Modern Painting”, Thames and Hudson, London,1968, p302.

[27] Carmichael, Rodick. “Actuality and Artifice”, Deakin University, 1984, p103.

[28] Carmichael, Rodick. “The Art Structures Reader”, Deakin University, 1984, p165.

[29] Time-Life Books, “Modern American Painting”, Time-Life Books Inc., 1970, p183.

[30] Carmichael, Rodick. “Actuality and Artifice”, Deakin University, 1984, p206.

Braziller, George. “The Obvious Illusion”, George Braziller Inc, New York, 1980

Carmichael, Rodick. “Actuality and Artifice”, Deakin University, 1984.

Carmichael, Rodick. “The Art Structures Reader”, Deakin University, 1984.

Cooper, M. and Sciorra J. “New York Spray Can Memorials”, Thames and Hudson, London, 1994.

Farrelly, L. and Blackshaw, R. “Scrawl: Dirty Graphics and Strange Characters”,Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1999.

Futura 2000, “Futura”, Booth-Clibborn Editions, 2000.

Gardner, James. “Culture or Trash?: A Provacative View of Contemporary Painting, Sculpture, and other costly commodities”, Carol Publishing Group, Secaucus, N.J. 1993.

Gombrich, E.H. “The Story of Art”, Phaidon, New York, 1968.

Hendrickson, Janis. “Roy Lichtenstein”, Benedikt Taschen, Koln, 1994.

Hoffman, Katherine. “Explorations: The Visual Arts since 1945”, Icon Editions, Harper Collins, New York 1991.

Museum of Modern Art New York, “The Museum of Modern Art New York”, Harry N. Abrams, New York,1990.

Read, Herbert. “A Concise History of Modern Painting”, Thames and Hudson, London,1968.

Rennie, Ellis. “Australian Graffiti Revisited”, Sun Books, Melbourne, 1979.

Robinson, David. “Soho Walls: Beyond Graffiti”, Thames and Hudson, New York, 1990.

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, “Hand-Painted Pop: American Art in Transition, 1955-62”, edited by Russell Ferguson, Rizzoli International Publications Inc., New York, 1993.

Thomas, F. and Johnston, O. “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life”, Walt Disney Productions, California, 1981.

Thompson, P. and Davenport, P. “The Dictionary of Visual Language”, Bergstrom and Boyle Books Ltd, London, 1980.

Time-Life Books, “Modern American Painting”, Time-Life Books Inc., 1970.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Create Unique Fabrics using Discharging Dye Methods
Technique Based Article

Author: Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Deborah Segaert, the editor of one of Australia’s exciting new magazines for fibers, yarns and textiles, "Down Under Textiles" magazine (Creative Living Media) invited me to write a technique based article on discharging dye from fabrics for the November issue of the magazine.

The article, “Create Unique Personalized Fabrics – MultiSperse Discharge Dye Technique”, has been published in the November 2011, No. 6 Issue of “Down Under Textiles”. It is an in depth article that focuses on how to create your own unique personalized fabrics using the discharge process on natural fibers. Methodologies, various chemical formulae, technical information and my own processes are discussed in detail in the article.

Disclaimer: Marie-Therese Wisniowski, Art Quill Studio, and Art Quill & Co have no financial interest in “Down Under Textile” magazine (Creative Living Media) or in any of the products mentioned in the article.

Here is a snapshot of the article in order to whet your appetite.

In surface design "to discharge" means to remove some or most or the entire color from a dyed fabric. The color removal process can be created using a variety of chemicals and various methods such as stamping, stenciling, screen-printing, spraying and hand painting to create highly personalized, unique and complex fabric designs.

Whilst commercial and industrial discharge processes generally produce a white discharge color, artist’s usage has spawned a wider range of possible colors that the discharge process can realize. By careful manipulation, artists can produce multiple, varied colors and mottled, faded colors, which can also imbue imagery with a timeless appearance of being aged, worn or distressed.

To achieve such results, there are two different ways to chemically remove dye color from fabric. One route is by oxidation, which is - in the simplest form - the addition of oxygen to a dye molecule; the other route is via reduction, which is - in its simplest form - the removal of oxygen from a dye molecule. The reduction process is more popular due to occupational health and safety reasons.

Secure clean, dry, dyed fabric to your printing surface.

Keep steam ironing and move the iron to avoid vent marks having an effect until the cloth changes color to the hue you are after or until the fabric will not discharge any further.

The completed discharged piece of silk, which has been dyed, over-dyed, discharged and over-discharged.
Photograph courtesy of “Down Under Textiles” magazine.

Detail view of the completed discharged piece of silk that has been dyed, over-dyed, discharged and over-discharged.
Photograph courtesy of “Down Under Textiles” magazine.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Autumn Splendor
ArtCloth Banner Project

Guest Editor - Teresa Paschke

In 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Teresa Paschke. Teresa was the workshop co-ordinator for the Surface Design Association (SDA) and Textile Centre’s International “Confluence” conference that was held from the 9th to 12th June in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, USA where I tutored my “Melding Experiences: New Landscapes Using Disperse Dyes and Transfer Printing” workshop. Teresa also exhibited an outstanding body of work titled, “New Tools and Ancient Techniques” at The Gage Family Art Gallery, Ausberg College, Minneapolis, which was featured before, during and after the conference. Teresa Paschke is now on the SDA board.

Teresa Paschke is an Associate Professor at the Integrated Studio Arts, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa (USA) where she teaches textile design and follows her research interests in contemporary fiber art, historical embroidery and digital printing on fabric.

To celebrate the 2011 fall season, Teresa and her students worked on a series of large banner projects employing MultiSperse Dye Sublimation (MSDS) processes using disperse dyes on polyester fabrics. This post features some of the visually rich, complex and beautiful works that the students created under Teresa’s supervision.

I know you will enjoy her guest editorship of her university student project: “Autumn Splendor”.

Autumn Splendor
Guest Editor: Associate Professor Teresa Paschke
Textile Design, Iowa State University (Iowa, USA)

Inspired by one of my favorite times of the year, I introduced my textile students to disperse dyes and, using the flora of the season, they printed stunningly beautiful textile compositions. Students were asked to collect a wide variety of leaves to work with and we spent the morning painting designs on paper using yellow, red, blue, and black disperse dyes (we also mixed colors to create purple, green and orange). Using a heat press and 14 inch squares of polyester fabric, students arranged the leaves that served as resists onto the fabric, placed dyed papers on top and pressed the layers in 350 degrees (this made the leaves somewhat brittle). Leaves were added, shifted, and/or removed and the process was repeated until the designs were complete. The printed squares will be stitched together to create striking banners that will hang in our college atrium.

The Students
Note: All photographs below are with courtesy from Associate Professor Teresa Paschke.

Group photo from left to right:
Back Row: Kelsey Gill, Brittney Lynch, Brooke Batterson, Donny Chen, Jennifer Sonner, Christine Prince.
Front Row: Binnie Bae, Kate Derksen, Karen Schmidt, Ananya Arora, Jordan Delzell, Rahele Jomepour.

Kelsey Gill positioning her piece prior to printing using the heat press.

Completed Banner Project And Detailed Views

One of the completed banners featuring each of the students individual pieces which have been stitched together to create the completed piece.

Detail view of Jordan Delzell’s MSDS artwork.

Detail view of Jennifer Sonner’s MSDS artwork.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Traditional Indian Textiles - Part I
Art Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

For your convenience I have listed the other post in this series:
Traditional Indian Textiles - Part II

A great reference book for your ArtCloth library is – Traditional Indian Textiles, John Gillow and Nicholas Barnard, Thams and Hudson, London (1993) ISBN 0-500-27709-5. It contains 160 pages with 195 illustrations, 149 in color and 4 maps of the Subcontinent. Below is just a snapshot of the images it has to offer.

Traditional Indian Textiles - Part I
The application and significance of color was central to the three historically dominating religions on the Indian Subcontinent, namely, Hindu, Buddhism and Islam. Hence, the subcontinent dyers were motivated to create colorful textiles very earlier in their civilisation - since the second millennium BC.

Rabari shepherd families dressed to go to Krishna’s birthday festival (outside of Anjar, Kutch).

Modern Europeans did not discover the Subcontinent dyer’s art until the 17th Century and so for over three thousand years the coloration of European textiles was severely limited (e.g. in the case of woollens they were generally restricted to dun-colors). That is not to say that trade in cloth between the Subcontinent and the Ancient Romans and Greeks and their fellow Mediterraneans did not exist. Rather, the Subcontinent dyeing secrets were not passed on to them when they traded. Moreover, most of the Subcontinent traded textiles were reserved for the elite classes of these Ancient societies, with the poor relegated to cloth with little color.

Turban lengths – tie-and-dyed using the “leheria” method (Jodhpur, Rajasthan).

The Subcontinent dyers used natural dyes that were either substantive (no mordant needed to fix the color) or adjective (required a mordant for any degree of permanency). For example, certain lichens produce substantive dyes etc. An adjective dye such as alizarin (e.g. derived from a dried root of a madder plant) needed to be mixed with alum (a mordant) to produce hues ranging from pink to deep red. By mixing an acidic solution of iron (a mordant) with tannin, a black dye was created. It should be noted that the black and red dyed fabrics have a strong presence on the Subcontinent.

Woman’s wedding shawl (Rabari Shepherd Caste, Badin District, Sind).

The secret of the fast coloring of vegetable fibers lay in the Subcontinent dyers clever use of metal oxides (mordant – derived from Latin “mordere” meaning to “bite”). Mordant bites the fabric in combination with the dyestuff to fix the color. Generally, the problem with iron mordants was that they bite too hard on natural fibers, thereby rotting the black of a woven or embroidered pattern.

Preparing “ajarakh” cloths with yellow dye (Dhamadkha Village, Kutch).

It should be noted that there are considerably fewer hues that can be obtained from substantive dyes when compared with adjective dyes. The masterly use of the latter gave the Subcontinent dyers a significant edge when compared to the Europeans, who had either not mastered nor knew about the use of mordants. Note: In a future blog we shall go into why mordants were needed when using adjective dyes.

Block printed yardage (Bhairongarth, Madhya Pradesh).

With the development of the chemical dye industry in the late 19th and 20th centuries (mainly driven by organic chemists in Germany), a vast array of hues can now be selected from a color chart. These chemicals are not subject to the vagaries of climatic conditions that bedevilled the natural dye industry nor do they lock up land in undeveloped countries with burgeoning populations. They therefore supplanted natural dyes on the Subcontinent. India's chemical dye industry is now booming.

Traditional Indian textiles declined a century after the industrial revolution, because of their misuse of the earliest available chemical dyes such as the aniline dyes. A renaissance of interest in the textiles of India occurred in the middle of the 20th century due to their expert use of the high quality and the fine color of the more recent and modern chrome dyes, thereby yielding contemporary textiles with a more traditional aesthetic.

Contemporary bedcover decorated with pen work and printing (Masulipatnam, Andhra Pradesh).

The Subcontinent dyers used two main methods for regulating patterns on their textiles. The first technique was the tie-and-dye technique, where textiles or yarns were screened or party screened by being tied with threads that were impermeable to the dye. This was known throughout the world as “ikat” tie-and-dyed textiles. Ikat textiles entail binding (resisting) and dyeing the warps and wefts before weaving.

Note: The word “ikat” is a derivative of the Malay word “mengikat”, which means “to tie” or “to bind”. An active textiles trade existed between India and South East Asia for many centuries and so the Subcontinent dyers adopted and re-framed a Malay word.

Section of cotton “bandhani” (tie-and-dyed) shawl (Jamnagar, Saurashtra).

The second technique created patterns either by painting or printing with a substance that would react with a dye to fix the color (mordant resist dyeing), or by applying an impermeable dye and removal of a substance such as mud, gum or wax, that will resist the dye and then may be removed by dissolving, washing and/or heating.

Drawing out a design with a kalam pen (Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh).

Aside from applying pigment directly onto the surface of a prepared cotton fabric, the techniques of fixing color to create patterns and compositions again involved either the use of resists, mordant resists or a combination of the two, applied with a pen, brush, metal or wooden block or through a stencil.

“Kalamkari” (pen work) cloth depicting a scene from the Bhagavad Gita (Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh).

The four main regions of Subcontinent are: The West – states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujuarat, Rajasthan, Thar Parkar and Sind (Pakistan); The North – states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir; The East - states of Orissa, Bihar, West Bengal, Bangladesh, Tripura, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh; The South – states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh.

"Pichhavai" - painted shrine cloth (Nathadwara, Rajasthan).

Each of these regions was noted for their various techniques. For example, the Gujarat region was one of the great textile exporting areas of India, the textile patterns of which were usually applied by block printing. In Gujarat and western Rajasthan, the three main types of hand printed textiles were: Ajarakh worn by Muslims, which was a pattern cloth in predominately red colors; screen-printed and block printed designs of floral sprays and simulated bandhani on a predominately red background; the floral prints with Persian associations.

Block-printed shrine cloth made by members of the Vaghri Caste (Ahmedadad, Gujarat).

Near the central post office (Ahmedabad, Gurarat).