Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Art of Blogging
Opinion Piece on Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

A “blog” is a shortening of the phrase “web log”, which basically consists of a series of entries called posts - the latter appearing in a reverse chronological order (i.e. the most recent posts appear first etc.)

Charlton Heston, as Moses, came down from Mt. Sinai with “The 10 Commandments” - claimed by many bloggers as the first blog post.

There are many companies that host blogs, with companies such as Google (after acquiring “Blogger”) having the - Uniform Resource Locator (URL). Another company, Word Press also host blogs. Both companies try to make it easy for beginners by providing a - “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) text composer for people who do not understand text mark-up languages such as HTML (Hypertext Mark-Up Language) etc. Be warned - no matter how good the WYSIWYG text composers are, without a little knowledge of HTML or without a friend who possesses such knowledge, you will find that on occasions these text composers have a mindset of their own! Frustration will set in and you can spend hours trying to understand why the formatting of your text or images is just not working.

Google Blogger logo.

My Blog Spot
My blog spot began in August of 2010 (Art Quill Studio) and so far has attracted over ~220,000 visitors, even though I have only 115 “Followers” (at the time of writing this post). To be a “Follower” you need to belong to the “Blogger” family, which many visitors will refuse to do. Moreover, it is now easier just to bookmark a blog spot that you like and visit it occasionally, leisurely viewing those posts that take your fancy. Additionally, my blog spot - Art Quill Studio - is a Company blog spot as it is a division of Art Quill & Co. Pty. Ltd. Hence there are additional constraints: the company cannot follow other companies or individuals since the posts these sites may publish could compromise the integrity of the company itself. For example, comments that may appear on "followed" blogs may compromise the goodwill of the public towards Art Quill & Co. After all, public goodwill is a major asset of any company. This will necessarily restrict the number of "Followers" of Art Quill Studio, because of the unwritten rule in the blogosphere: "If I follow you, it is polite for you to follow me". Nevertheless, within these constraints, I have full editorial control of all the content that appears on the Art Quill Studio blog spot.

My black and white quill design is the logo for Art Quill & Co. Pty. Ltd.

General Observations
There are lots of sites on the internet informing you how to write great blog posts and how to attract an audience to your blog site. I find all this advice interesting, and in some cases confusing and irrelevant. My advice is to view your blogging as art therapy! You have ideas you want to express, examples of your work you want to display (i.e. now that you possess your own 24x7 art gallery) and friends you want to impress. That should be motivation enough to start your blog spot. If you get followers or visitors to your site, all the better. However, like most adventures in life, its the journey that rewards you rather than the buzz of instant popularity. Sure we like our opinions, ideas and artworks to be appreciated by the public at large, but that is not what art therapy is about - its about satisfying our artistic urges holistically in order to achieve for ourselves a happier disposition.

My art therapy - the logo I designed for "ATASDA" (Australian Textile Arts & Surface Design Association) when I was Vice-President of this not-for-profit organization.

Be careful, there are many charlatans out there who will try to convince you that they possess a magic wand, using simple tricks, to get visitors to your site. They claim they are experts in what is termed - Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. They claim that by describing your blog spot using clever "meta" tags, robotic search engines that patrol the world-wide-web (www), will view your posts more favourable, and so raise your priority in the search engine look-up tables (i.e. keyword searches using search engines such as Google or Yahoo will go to your site first). Don't part with your money! Google and other search engine companies are well aware of their tricks and have warned internet users that if they play these silly games, they may be rendered at the end of the queue (i.e. a keyword search may put your blog post on the twentieth page - a page that most busy people would not bother to view). My strong advice is to stay away from these so called SEO experts!

My blog spot is formal in construction, demeanour and style. It is heavily edited, and hopefully, displays as little grammatical, spelling, and errors of fact as possible. It is tightly focussed - prints on cloth and paper only - with distinct categories of content (e.g. Art Reviews, ArtCloth, Fine Art Prints, Art Essays, Art Resources etc.) - just to name a few! It rarely gives tips on creating ArtCloth or fine art prints on paper, since my workshops and my articles in magazines serve that purpose. My posts are regularly updated (once a week yielding ca. 50 blogs a year). The Glossary of Terms and Fabrics and Timelines posts have been a huge success. Creating such posts was time intensive but as with the other "Art Resource" posts, they aim to give a solid grounding in creating a knowledge base that a fiber artist needs in order to create ArtCloth. My blog spot does not contain advertisements (except for my association with the parent company and the fact that I am a co-editor of Textile Fiber Forum). Hence, it is not your typical blog spot - nor should it be!

Ancient goat-like sheep.
Timelines Entry. 9000 BC - 3000 BC: The domestication of sheep, goats and dogs dates from 9,000 BC in the uplands of Zam Chem Shanidar and from 7,000 BC at Jarmo in the Zagros Mountains of north west Iran. In Israel and south Turkey it occurred from the 7,000 to 6,000 BC. Sheep rearing became major industry in Sumeria between 3,500 to 3,000 BC, by which time both hairy and wooly sheep were known.

Most blogs are created by individuals, without resources backing them (e.g. IT experts at their disposal etc.) They are informal, chatty, and create a wonderful to and fro dialogue with their audience. These blog posts appear on an irregular basis - whenever inspiration hits the individual. They mainly feature the world of the blogger - ranging from family events, to art events, to the making of their art, to giving tips on how to create works of art etc. Minimal images appear per post, because uploading images may be a traumatic event for some. Such blog spots usually host apps (i.e. application program packages) that perform a single function such as displaying the total number of visitors who viewed the site and their country of origin etc. There is a host of wonderful blogs in that category. My favourites are many, but of those I will only mention a few. Australian - Linda Stokes - gives a great personal touch to her artwork and generates a happy chatty and professional feel to her site. Canadian/New Zealander - Lesley Turner - delivers her artwork in a creative and passionate manner. American - Jennifer Libby Fay - unfurls her artwork in a decisive but fascinating format. All understand that artwork is a personal, passionate and insightful experience.

Linda Stokes' Quilt: "Roses are Red".

Lesley Turner: "Section, Township, Range".
She cut and joined each panel to add survey lines - that roads generally follow.

Jennifer Libby Fay: "Seed Pod".
Image printed with adhesive and foil applied.

On the other hand, organizational web sites are far more structured, but not as structured as my own. For example, in this category is the American - Surface Design Association - and European Textile Network. These sites are nicely put together and contain an array of information that is pertinent to their audience. These sites also have links to their other social media outlets such as blog spots, Face Book and Twitter etc.

Surface Design Association - Changing Hands.

ETN's European Textile Routes.

There is now a yearly competition for the "best" Australian blog posts. It is operated by the "Australian Writers' Centre", which provides a number of writing courses. The Award has been running since 2011 and gives prizes to the overall winner as well as to the category winners.

Disclaimer: Art Quill & Co. Pty. Ltd. and Art Quill Studio have no financial interests or commercial dealings with the Australian Writers' Centre nor with any of its current sponsors (at the time this post was published). Nevertheless, this blog spot has been nominated for its 2014 "best" Australian blogs competition - see side bar.

If you doubt yourself - don't - get involved. If you feel you must have a large number of followers in order to reward your effort in maintaining your blog spot - don't - your blog spot will organize your art as well as make you reflect on it and so although having followers is fun, nevertheless it not the linch pin of your art therapy. If you feel that no one cares - don't - you care!

Life is far too short to vacillate and worry about what others may think. Free yourself and tell whoever visits your blog spot - who you are, what art you do, and how, where, when and why you did it. Don't be afraid to engage your audience by asking advice (e.g. Do you think this worked? Perhaps it could have been more effective in blue?)

What I love about the blogosphere is that most of the information out there is free to access, and more importantly, it is the only truly democratic communication and learning medium we have, where your artworks, and your ideas are as good as anyone else's. Just do it!

In 2012 Marie-Therese was invited to join a 2013 SDA Conference panel on professional practice with respect to the topic of ‘Blogging within My Professional Practice’ by Susan Taber Avila, Board Member of the Surface Design Association (SDA) and member of the 2013 SDA International Conference Steering Committee. Unfortunately due to other commitments she was unable to attend.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Australian Tapestry Workshop (1976 – 1985)
Art Essay

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

There are a number of posts on the Australian Tapestry Workshop (previously known as the Victorian Tapestry Workshop) on this blogspot. For your convenience I have listed these posts below:
The Australian Tapestry Workshop
The Australian Tapestry Workshop (1986 - 1995)
The Australian Tapestry Workshop (1996 - 2004)

The Australian Tapestry Workshop, which was formerly known as the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, had its beginning in 1976. It quickly established itself as a world leading tapestry workshop, and in its first year of inception produced such iconic works as Guy Stuart’s Lattice.

Artist and Title: Guy Stuart – Lattice (1976). Weavers: Merrill Dumbrell, Sara Lindsay.
Size: 1.64 x 0.75 meters.
Collection: National Gallery of Australia.

The work was commissioned by the artists’ aunt, Lurline Stewart, in a gesture of support for the artists’ and ATW. It was the first commissioned tapestry by the ATW. The workshop own palette of yarn (in a wool finer that previously available) made it possible for the weavers to mix colors on the bobbin for the first time.

Since then the ATW has steadily increased in reputation worldwide (see previous post - ATW). They now can assert that:
Using the same techniques employed in Europe since the 15th century, the ATW's skilled weavers work with artists from Australia and overseas to produce tapestries that are known for their vibrancy, technical accomplishment and inventive interpretation.

Since its inception, the Workshop's philosophy has been to employ weavers trained as artists to enable close collaboration with the artists whose work they are interpreting. Many notable Australian and international artists have collaborated with the Workshop's weavers over the years including Arthur Boyd, Jon Cattapan, John Olsen, Jorn Utzon, David Noonan and Sally Smart.

To date, the Workshop has created more than 400 tapestries ranging from palm-size to monumental. They are woven using the finest Australian wool, which is dyed onsite forming a unique palette of 370 colors these works hang in significant public and private collections around the world. The ATW is one of Australia's largest producers of public art, and every year, millions of people see an ATW tapestry!

Weavers, from left to right: Chris Cochius, Sue Batten, Milena Paplinska and Cheryl Thornton at work. Weaver Milly Formby in background.

They have an artist in residency program, tours of the premises, an on-line shop and a circle of support ranging from “The Tapestry Foundation” (its landlord as well as a strong advocate and marketing force) to “The Circle of Friends” (with an active committee and a lively group of volunteers known as the Busy Bees) to “Voluntary Guides” (that showcase and explain the workshop to visitors). ATW has open days and annual lectures etc.

Artist in Residence Paul Yore (2013).
Photograph Courtesy of Jeremy Weihrauch.

There is a wonderful book by Sue Walker – Artists’ Tapestries from Australia (1976 – 2005), The Beagle Press, Sydney (2007) – a must buy for your library. Most of the images below have been procured from this book.

Artists’ Tapestries from ATW – 1976 to 1985
The tapestry Try Tapes was a Richard Larter artwork that was difficult to translate into a tapestry due to the tiny dots used in the original painting. Larter agreed to paint a design specifically for the medium of tapestry, substituting the fine painted lines for the dots he originally used to give the composition its form and structure.

The tapestry was hung on public view in the ATW foyer - prior to becoming the first tapestry to be acquired by a public collection (Art Gallery of Western Australia).

Artist and Title: Richard Larter – Try Tapes (1976).
Weavers: Marie Cook, Cresside Collette, Merrill Dumbrell, Sara Lindsay, Liz Nettleton, Cheryl Thorton.
Size: 3 x 1.6 meters.
Collection: Collection of the Art Gallery of Western Australia.

Canadian artist Alan Weinstein had won a prestigious public art award. He was searching worldwide for workshops or master weavers capable of weaving a suite of four large tapestries to hang on a vast red carpet wall in Regina’s multi-million dollar arts center. Eight weavers took part, working a total of 550 weaving days and using 50 kg of wool. The work was completed within seven months.

Artist and Title: Alan Weinstein – The Musicians (one of the a suite of four tapestries) (1977).
Weavers: Merrill Dumbrill, Sara Lindsay, Irja West, Liz Nettleton.
Size: 1.68 x 1.68 meters.
Collection: Saskatchewan, Center of Arts, Canada.

By 1978 the weavers at the ATW were confident they could weave more complex and monumental forms. Hence they embarked on interpreting and weaving an existing Roger Kemp artwork. The painting finished abruptly at the top edge of the painted work, resulting in an ultimate moment of trust that occurred between the painter and the interpreter/weaver Merrill Dumbrell, when Merrill was required to invent the final section of the tapestry, which she did in a manner that delighted the artist.

Artist and Title: Roger Kemp – Images (1978).
Weavers: Merrill Dumbrill, Iain Young, Sue Hick.
Size: 2.35 x 3.08 meters.
Collection: National Gallery of Victoria.

John Coburn’s acclaimed curtains for the Sydney Opera House were important in drawing the public’s attention to the art of tapestry. His reputation as a tapestry designer for French workshops was well known prior to his collaboration with the ATW. The Performers was a good introduction to Coburn’s work to the ATW, which led to many future collaborations over the next twenty-five years or so. It was purchased by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs for the Australian High Commission in Wellington, New Zealand, where it became the first ATW tapestry to hang in a Federal Government building. Coburn’s distinct imagery is loosely based on natural forms and heraldic in appearance.

Artist and Title: John Coburn – The Performers (1978).
Weavers: Sue Hick.
Size: 1.46 x 2.13 meters.
Collection: Australian High Commission, Wellington, New Zealand.

In 1979 for his first commission Jan Senbergs decided to prepare a single state print that would include passages of grid like markings and patterns that typified his work at that time. Several solutions needed to be found in order to reproduce the printed marks and tonal gradations in a tapestry. Nevertheless, difficulties were overcome and so when the tapestry West Melbourne was birthed it was remarkable in that it oozed monumental power.

Artist and Title: Jan Senbergs – West Melbourne (1979).
Art Advisor: Georges Mora.
Weavers: Merrill Dumbrill.
Size: 1.67 x 2.43 meters.
Collection: National Australia Bank.

The National Bank of Australia commissioned the ATW to produce a number of tapestries from various artists in the late 1970s (see above) and early 1980s. In 1980, the fourth in the Bank’s series was Mirka Mora’s Curlews in the Garden. Mirka’s rich and detailed embroideries gave her an excellent introduction to the wealth of possibilities in tapestry, although the intricacies obtained with a needle were found harder to achieve in weaving.

Artist and Title: Mirka Mora’s– Curlews in the Garden (1980).
Art Advisor: Georges Mora.
Weavers: Sara Lindsay, Irja West, Cheryl Thorton, Ilona Fornalski.
Size: 1.77 x 2.44 meters.
Collection: National Australia Bank.

Dale Hickey was selected as the fifth artist in the Bank’s series. Since he was not familiar with the production of tapestries and so unsure of which work would be suitable for the medium, he brought a portfolio of his work for further investigation of suitability etc. The finished tapestry - Cottlesbridge Landscape - attracted much attention since it had a stained glass like appearance.

Artist and Title: Dale Hickey – Cottlesbridge Landscape (1981).
Art Advisor: Georges Mora.
Weavers: Sue Batten, Pam Koyce.
Size: 2.13 x 1.77 meters.
Collection: National Australia Bank.

Several important tapestries were woven in 1982, but one of the most lively in terms of artist-weaver interactions was when Roy Churcher spent nine weeks in the workshop as the first of three artists-in-residence funded by the Australian Council. His extensive knowledge of color theory together with his energetic painting style added a dimension of excitement during his residency. Churcher’s tapestry - A Moment in the Great Game (based on Australian Rules Football) - was one of several from nine ATW tapestries that went to overseas collections within a short time span. It was enthusiastically acquired for private collection some years later, during the visit of a group of museum associates from the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Artist and Title: Roy Churcher – A Moment in the Great Game (1982).
Weavers: Merrill Dumbrell, Merrin Eirth, Alan Holland.
Size: 1.85 x 2.73 meters.
Collection: Private Collection USA.

By 1983 almost every tapestry project at the ATW was massive. Michael John’s vast Untitled was created for the entry into Harry Seidler’s new Waverly City Council building (Melbourne, Australia). This piece attracted enormous controversy in the local community when it was first proposed by Georges Mora to be commissioned by Council.

Artist and Title: Michael Johnson – Untitled (1983).
Art Advisor: Georges Mora.
Weavers: Andrea May, Sue Carstairs, Irja West.
Size: 4 x 2.8 meters.
Collection: Waverley City Council, Melbourne.

The Great Hall of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) differed from the rest of this gallery in being a more formal public space, with a strong architectural presence. Roger Kemp was eventually commissioned to design three tapestries. Kemp had strong views about the relationship between French’s stained glass ceiling and his tapestries; that is, he thought that his tapestries should belong to the wall and not compete with the ceiling. All three tapestries were based on Kemp’s paintings: Evolving Forms, Piano Movement and Organic Form.

Roger Kemp’s tapestries and the stained glass ceiling based on French’s artwork.

Artist and Title: Roger Kemp – Evolving Forms (1984).
Art Advisor: Georges Mora.
Weavers: Leonie Bessant, Pam Joyce, Irja West, Iain Young.
Size: 5 x 5.5 meters.
Collection: National Gallery of Victoria.

In 1985 the State Bank of NSW (Australia) commissioned two tapestries Mountains and The Sea as part of a refurbishment of a stylish interior fit-out for its executive floor. Both works were presented to the weavers as drawings on paper. Interpreting the subtle texture of Colin Lanceley's drawings and the rainbow-like strips and curves across the surface of the works was a challenge for the weavers who succeeded in bringing it to life in a tapestry medium.

Artist and Title: Colin Laceley – And the sea (1985).
Weavers: Joan Baxter, Chris Cochius.
Size: 2.69 x 1.86 meters.
Collection: State Bank of NSW (now Wales).

This now concludes a snapshot of the first decade in the Australian Tapestry Workshop (formerly known as the Victorian Tapestry Workshop).

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Balinese Paintings – Flags and Banners[1-2]

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Bali lies between 8 and 9 degrees south of the equator and is a state within Indonesia. Its total area is approximately 5,363 square meters, with the island measuring 153km by 112km. There are eight regencies in Bali, namely: Badung, Gianyar, Tabanan, Klungkung, Karangasem, Buleleng, Jembrana and Bangli. The capital of Bali is Denpasur, which is near the southern coast. Holiday destinations include Kuta, Ubud and Sanur.

The official flag of Bali - Coat of Arms of Bali on top of a saffron background.

The “wet season” in Bali is from November to March, whereas the “dry season” is from April to October. The average temperature in the costal regions is approximately 28ºC during May, June, July and approximately 30ºC in March and October. The humidity is high - from a minimum of 70% to a maximum of 95%.

Map of Bali.

The population of Bali in 2010 was 3,891,000. The majority of Balinese practice the Hindu religion, which they call Agama Hindu Dharma - the “Religion of the Hindu Doctrine”. The Hindu-Bali philosophy encourages a peaceful balance between human beings, the environment and the spiritual world.

Ancient Hindu temple in Bali.

There are three spoken languages on Bali: Balinese and its dialects, Indonesian and a kind of old Javanese called Kawi. English is widely spoken in the tourism areas as well as for business.

Dances, dramatic performances and art form an important part of every ritual on Bali. They are an integral part of Balinese religion and culture and are employed as an expression of the people’s devotion to the gods.

Bali's art festival is a celebration of Balinese food and culture. Held annually, the festival attracts tourists from all over the world and features a range of art, dance, food, theatre, architecture and beautiful traditional Balinese tribal dress.

Bali is known as the “last paradise on earth” and is the most popular tourist destination in the world; 2.57 million people visited Bali last year.

A Short History of Bali
Bali was forced out of isolation by the Islamic conquest in Java that occurred 500 years ago. Balinese culture has digested influences from Islamic, Chinese and various European cultures and regurgitated these influences in Balinese terms. It is a distinctive culture that has emerged and in fact maintains a balance between the hierarchical dogmas of an Indian-derived caste system and a basic egalitarian system, the latter of which dominates life for the vast majority of Balinese.

The rajas (i.e. Kings) and the high priest of the Brahmana caste derive their pre-eminence from the last East Javanese kingdom of Majapahit (ca. 14th Century). These Javanese kingdoms had instigated a political and religious system based on the Hindu scriptures of three aristocratic “races”, namely the Triwangsa (consisting of Brahmana), Ksatria and Wesia. These three high castes regarded themselves as destined to dominate the rest of the Balinese, whom they classified as Sudra. However, due to food cultivation requiring a co-operative labor force and decentralized village organizations, a less rigid and more egalitarian society developed.

The Raja of Buleleng killing himself with 400 followers, in an 1849 up-rising against the Dutch.

The creative tension between these principles of hierarchy and equality gave Balinese society a resilience, which enabled it to withstand the initial onslaught at first of Islam and then later the Christianity of the Dutch. When the Dutch did finally conquer the independent Balinese states, the power of the rajas was curbed and although the collection of taxes was changed, little else of Balinese life was altered. To be Balinese means to be a member of at least three temple communities and to participate in the festivals of these temples, which are held once within a Balinese year (210 days).

Traditional Balinese Painting - Kober (Flags) and Lontek (Banners)[1]
The history of Balinese painting, with its complicated cultural and social framework, is far from clear cut. Early accounts of Bali by Europeans mentioned Balinese paintings as part of the decorations of the rajas courts, particular when rituals involving the rajas’ family were performed (e.g. weddings). Paintings were also deemed appropriate as gifts between rajas and were also loaned, even in times of great rivalry or hostility between rajas. Outside the courts, the use of paintings was limited to the decorations of non-court festivals and occasionally within households, as an extension of what was originally considered a royal prerogative. Hence traditional paintings of Bali became Sudra (i.e. members of the lowest caste in Bali) art, expressing Sudra values and perceptions. Hence it is important to realize that a key to understanding the Balinese painting tradition is to understand the Balinese mindset – although servants to the aristocracy, they were also mockers of the royal courts refined posturing’s. Such a stance is well known in an Australian context – the “tall poppy” syndrome – where Australian's try to mock, deride and so “equalize” people with over bloated egos.

Balinese paintings fall into five categories: flags and banners; (ii) ceiling paintings; (iii) ider-ider (cloth painting in a horizontal strip format); (iv) langse (form of a cloth painting used as a curtain) and, (v) tabing (kind of cloth painting in a rectangular format hung on walls) – Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV. Today’s post will deal with flags and banners.

18th Century Royal Banner, Jakarta Textile Museum (Indonesia).
Comment: Handspun cotton, silk, natural dyes, batik, mordant printing.
Size: 322 cm (width) x 172 cm (length).

No Balinese ceremony or procession is complete without flags and banners. A lot of these were created in Kamasan village complex, and so are clearly identical in style with narrative paintings.

Flags are painted on both sides so that the “show-through” matches perfectly; that is, one side is thus a mirror image of the other. Flags come in pairs. For example, the two below show a similar but opposed characters from a mythological viewpoint.

One of a pair of Lontek – Red and Black Nagas (detailed view).
Size: Each pair is 345 x 65 cm at base.
Note: Naga is a type of aquatic serpentine semi-divine creature mentioned in Buddhist and Hindu literature.
Courtesy reference[1].

Second of the pair (detailed view).
Comments[1]: Kamasan work (1930s). Best quality work on thick, possibly Balinese cloth and painted on both sides. They were normally mounted on a single bamboo pole, which thinned out so rapidly that the top drooped over. “Nagas” seem to be the only subject for painted lotek (i.e. pennant), and of course their form fitted the shape of the flag very well. The two colors represent a version of Balinese creative duality: the red is male and the black is female and together they form two aspects of the primal naga Basuki. Only the male and female pair make up the entity of that name.
Courtesy of reference[1].

On the other hand, the two below show a complementary male and female pair. The male and female represent a perfect duality. They are, or can be defined as, totally opposed in every characteristic, and yet they are absolutely interdependent – a high point of complementary opposition. This aspect is very clearly expressed in Balinese religious life.

One of the Pair of Kober (Flags) – Raksasa (i.e. demon) and Hanoman.
Comments[1]: Kamasan, best quality work on both sides of Balinese heavy cloth, ca. 1900.
Size: Each pair is 53 x 49 cm.
Note: The white patches on both pieces are insect holes.
Courtesy reference[1].

Second of the pair - Raksasa and Hanoman.
Comments[1]: This pair of flags shows an opposed pair of raksasa (probably a named demon) and Hanoman. Hanoman holds a lontar palm (i.e. dried palm leaf used for writing and drawing) as his weapon, and the raksasa holds a club. This pair exemplifies the ideal matching images in flags and banners – two characters of identical grade and power but one on the left and the other on the right. The poses are the same and the pair is an expression of a balanced confrontation between symmetrical opposites that is so valued and so important in Balinese cosmology.
Courtesy reference[1].

One of the Pair of Kober (Flags) – Sugriwa (monkey king) and Subali (monkey king).
Comments[1]: Kamasan village complex; early 20th Century from Pura Puseh Tabanan. Best quality work on both sides of Balinese cloth.
Size: Each pair is 78 x 67 cm.
Courtesy reference[1].

Second of the pair – Sugriwa and Subali.
Comments[1]: This is a perfect pair of Balinese flags; they are identical and so there is no way of identifying one as Sugriwa and the other as his brother – Subali. However, because they are a pair we know that both are represented here. These two monkey kings are important characters from the Ramayane; Subali was the elder and thus rightfully King, but he stole his brother’s wife and expelled him when his brother protested. Sugriwa, whilst in exile persuaded Rama to shoot Subali from cover, while Subali was fighting with Sugriwa. When the two monkeys first fought Rama could not distinguish who was who and so in the second encounter Sugriwa tied some leaves around his neck to differentiate himself from his brother, whereby Rama was able to shoot Subali. Their identity - yet opposition - perfectly expresses the inherent and creative duality of the world and of human life as conceived by the Balinese.
Courtesy reference[1].

Kober (Flag) – Beiyu.
Comments[1]: Kamasan work painted on both sides, late 19th Century. Best quality work, riddled with holes.

Beiyu is the god of the wind and the father of Bima and Hanoman. Beiyu’s divinity is indicated by the nimbus (i.e. the “god spot” on the forehead) and the lotus on which he stands. This flag contains an extremely elaborate decoration: the very detailed border on the outer edge, and the floral decoration on the slot for the pole. Beiyu’s red and white check poleng trousers are also unusual. Due to Beiyu divinity, it is difficult to imagine what character was opposed to Beiyu on the other pair of this flag (which has not surfaced as yet).
Size: Each pair is 79 x 67 cm.

Comparatively little flag painting is now done in Kamasan Village complex. Moreover, flags by their very nature are exposed to the elements (animals that eat cloth, wind, rain and UV light) and so deteriorate very quickly. Old flags and banners, in tolerable condition, are rare. Although flag and banner painting is probably the most widely practiced traditional form of painting in Bali, it is more than likely that painted banners and flags will disappear from the Balinese scene. Nowadays more and more, plain cloth ones are used, particularly for the lontek.

Pair of Kober (Flags) – Bima (left) and Arjuna (right).
Comments[1]: Unknown origin, perhaps from a temple on Nusa Penida (?).
Mid to late 19th Century. Painted on both sides of coarse Balinese cloth.

The characters on this pair of flags represent a different dimension of paired opposition from thus so far considered. Bima and Arjuna are brothers, allies and both on the good or right side. The Balinese however conceive of these two as being “opposed” since they are manifestations of different sorts of power: Bima is loud, strong and rough, while Arjuna is the epitome of Ksatria (noble) refinement, restraint and elegance.
Size: Each pair is 48 x 83 cm.

Kober (Flag) - Garuda.
Comments[1]: Kamasan work; probably beginning of 20th Century. The paintings are on both sides of a thin European cloth. This is Garuda, the eagle who occurs in the Adiparwa. Though an eagle, he is conceived by the Balinese as having an essentially human body. He is a being of immense power that is allied to the good side. He becomes a vehicle of Vishnu. He is a successful defier of gods. In this depiction, there are few wind and cloud motifs, which is unusual for a painting the subject of which is Garuda.

All the above flags are in The Forge Collection of "The Australian Museum" Sydney, NSW.

[1] A. Forge, Balinese Traditional Paintings, The Australian Museum, Sydney (1978).
[2] The Australian Museum, Sydney, NSW.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Musings of a Textile Tragic - Of Fires and Flooding Rains
March, 2014 - Issue 113
Art Essay (TFF Column)

Co-Editor: Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The largest selling textile magazine in Australasia is Textile Fibre Forum (TFF). I am the co-editor of the magazine (its founder - Janet de Boer - being the other co-editor). Hence I have created a column within the magazine titled – Musings of a Textile Tragic. This column will appear on this blogspot together with a link and contents page of each new issue of the quarterly magazine once it is available from magazine outlets and on the ArtWear website.

For your convenience, I have listed links to other Musing articles:
Musings of a Textile Tragic
Co-Editor of TFF
Lost in Translation
Venusian Men
The ArtWork of Youth
Textile Tasters from My Workshop
Be Brave, The Rest Will Follow

Content Page of TFF - March 2014 Edition (Issue Number 113)
The following contents are in the March 2014 issue of TFF Magazine.

Inside Front Cover Musings of a Textile Tragic - of fires and flooding rains
10 WAXING LYRICAL by Mo Godbeer
22 ABOUBAKAR FOFANA – Indigo Master by Marion Gorr
25 FELTPORTATION by Anita Larkin
28 WEST TIMOR – TEXTILES by Meredith Hinchliffe
34 DONNA TOUSSAINT – ASIAN GREENS Interview by Marjorie Cross
38 5000 POPPIES : A Tribute of Respect and Remembrance
42 PROGRESSIONS – Art Exhibition, Toowoomba Qld
50 TEXTILE CONNECTIONS – An Exhibition of Contemporary Textiles
58 ART QUILT AUSTRALIA – People, Place and Nation
64 A ‘MODERN LOVE’ STORY by Inga Walton

Regular Columnists
4 MARIE-THERESE WISNIOWSKI When Rainforests Glowed: The Prehistory of Mankind exhibition
5 JANET DE BOER In Glass Houses
6 LUCY POLAND Unreliable Memories
8 MARIE-THERESE WISNIOWSKI Musings of a Textile Tragic - of fires and flooding rains
12 IAN PENROSE From Across the Ditch: Ann Bell – a woman of fibre
46 MARY ELIZABETH BARRON Fabric of Community
53 MARIS HERR Take two aspirin … and call me in the morning
60 BOOKS & PERIODICALS Janet De Boer Page Editor

FRONT COVER: Section view of "Days in Nepal" by Mo Godbeer (2011).
Size: 45 x 30 cm.
Technique: Encaustic medium on dyed watercolour paper.
Photograph Courtesy of Mo Godbeer.

Musing of a Textile Tragic - Of Fires and Flooding Rains
What we should not forget is that Australia is the 6th largest country in the world, occupying an entire continent of some 7.7 million square kilometres. It has the world's 3rd largest ocean territory, spanning three oceans (Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans), covering around 12 million square kilometres. Australia is the most urbanized community in the world. It is also the driest continent on Earth, a fact that is barely appreciated.

As we are entering an era of anthropogenic influence on the climate, extreme weather events will become more commonplace. In Australia, extreme weather events have been with us for some time. For example, Henry Lawson in his poem “The Never - Never Land” wrote,

It lies beyond the farming belt,
Wide wastes of scrub and plain,
A blazing desert in the drought,
A lake-land after rain.

It is just that with nine billion people projected to be on the Earth within the next decade and a half, the frequency of such extreme weather events will be on the increase.

This now brings me to those textile groups who live in rural Australia and are at the brunt of these extreme weather conditions. Just recently this was sheeted home to me when Newcastle and its surrounds (e.g. Lake Munmorah) and the Blue Mountains were ablaze in October 2013. In previous years all States have been ablaze and of course, floods have recently devastated different parts of the country. Who could forget the recent floods of Toowoomba and its surrounds as well as Brisbane etc. So many lives lost and so many homes in ruins.

Barbara Wyles, Firemen.
Medium and Technique: Wool tapestry weaving with wool embroidery.
Size: 29cm h x 20cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Barbara Wyles.

Barbara Wyles, Flames Across the Lake.
Medium and Technique: Wool tapestry weaving with wool embroidery.
Size: 29cm h x 20cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Barbara Wyles.

Barbara Wyles, Flames 2.
Medium and Technique: Wool tapestry weaving with wool embroidery.
Size: 29cm h x 20cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Barbara Wyles.

I have always been cognizant of these extreme weather events and so I created an ArtCloth diptych with that in mind - “Flames Unfurling, Life Returning”. It is only now that the fire season is coming to an end that I feel free to present these images here without causing undue distress. Australians are a generous lot and so in the immediacy of an extreme weather event we give. However, it is the long term that becomes problematic for those who have lost everything. We are resilient and stoic but we should not forget our textile companions when the fires have been doused and the floodwaters have abated. I hope my images may re-kindle your memory of some of these events.

The “Flames Unfurling, Life Returning”. diptych, describes a metaphor to encapsulate the following: in the wake of adversity (e.g. such as the bush fires and floods that devastate Australia periodically) life forms adapt to re-emerge - whenever and where ever possible.

Marie-Therese Wisniowski, Flames Unfurling - Detailed View (one of a diptych).
Medium and Technique: MultiSperse Dye Sublimation (MSDS) which employs disperse dyes, multiple resists and native flora on satin.
Size: 120cm h x 60cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Marie-Therese Wisniowski.
I have given workshops in capital cities throughout Australia but I want to concentrate on those I have given in regions that have recently been affected by fire and flood. For example I have given workshops in Ballarat (Vic), Geelong (Vic), Redcliffe (Qld), Crows Nest (Qld), Rockhampton (Qld), Woodbridge (Tas), Orange (NSW), Newcastle (NSW), Ourimbah (NSW), Tuross Heads (NSW) and Canberra (ACT) – to name a few! Of course, some of my participants came from major capital cities and travelled to these regional workshops but surprisingly, most came from the surrounding districts. This indicates that regional Australia has a thirst to further their knowledge in textile art, craft and design.

Sally Picker, Remnant 4 (Note: a fire remnant).
Medium and Technique: Limited edition etch on paper.
Size: 27cm h x 18cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Sally Picker.

In time of distress due to inclement weather, it is not unusual for rural regions to respond in a rustic humorous fashion. Kerryn Taylor writes: “On the weekend of the 1998 floods in Katherine I had been contracted to run a workshop on Machine Embroidery on Water Soluble fabric - the comment at the time was that it was just meant to be on a small piece of fabric not the whole town! After the floods a group worked on a panel called - ‘I learnt more than I lost’ - a community embroidered banner that incorporated images of experiences and memories saved from the floods. It was overprinted with images of hundreds of flies that swarmed in in the aftermath”. This typifies how such climatic events are dealt with and digested in regional Australia.

Helen Gray and Emma Rees, A Hard Bed To Lie In.
Medium and Technique: 500 houses from plant dyed paper and silk, folded, stitched and displayed on a bed (representing houses lost to fire).
Photograph Courtesy of Helen Gray and Emma Rees.

Detail view of - A Hard Bed to Lie In.
Photograph Courtesy of Helen Gray and Emma Rees.

What I had known for sometime is that the Country Women’s Association (CWA) have spawned so many textile groups in regional Australia. The CWA plays a major role in regional Australia in bringing women together to create their own environments of endeavors. For example, one of the most important CWA festivals is the Alice Springs Beanie Festival, which is in its 18th year in 2014. The aim of the festival is to allow people from many different communities in the Northern Territory to come together for four days in order to “…promote local Indigenous textiles and crafts, the development of skills and the development of textiles micro-industry that will provide employment opportunities in the region”. The CWA is a transforming association in regional Australia.

Tessa Wright, Heart Felt Bushfires.
Medium and Technique: Felted fibres, constructed vest and slippers, cotton, silk, wool, lame, tulle, fibres and threads. Vest lined with black wool. Padded heart applied, acrylic fibres as ‘flames’, red jewel hearts, wrapped beads, found brooch, painted rattan cane, hand painted canvas.
Size: 60cm h x 60cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Neville Wright.

To all of those Australians affected by extreme weather conditions we are thinking of you and moreover, our commitment to your textile work in this magazine will continue, no matter what trauma you have survived.

Sue Dennis, Queensland Floods January 2011.
Medium and Technique: Mono printing, machine pieced and appliquéd, machine quilted, cotton fabric, paint, batting, and threads.
Size: 100cm h x 40.5cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Bob Dennis.

Dianne Firth, Deluge.
Medium and Technique: Machine stitching/quilting, reverse appliqué, viscose felt, cotton.
Size: 139cm h x 71cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Andrew Sikorski.

Rasa Mauragis, Firestorm: Will it Come my Way? A moment frozen in time.
Medium and Technique: appliquéd raw edge piecing and machine quilted, hand dyed, commercial and discharged cotton fabrics.
Size: 100.5cm h x 100cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Rasa Mauragis.

Gillian Wolff - Black and Beautiful Candle.
Artist Statement: I made a series of candles for the Canberra Centenary Year 2013. I have vidid memories of the fire storm coming along Kambah Pool Road and burning houses and bushland in its path. I was fortunate I was safe, where others were not, on that fateful day. I helped our elderly neighbours (90 plus) and put spot fires out on fences and roof.

Gillian Wolff: Leaf - New Life To Come.
Kanzashi Flower Design Brooch.
Japanese material. Kanzashi brooch with beads.

As I was born in Ararat, Victoria, a rustic vein is embedded in my psyche and so, as I have started with a Henry Lawson poem, let me end with a stanza from his poem - “From The Bush” - which I believe encapsulates our rustic and brazen attitude towards the surmounting hardships of the Australian bush.

From a hundred years of hardship
Tis ours to tell the cost
From a thousand miles of silence
Where London would be lost;
From where the glorious sunset
On sweeps of mulga glows -
Ah! We know more than England,
And more than Europe knows!