Saturday, June 14, 2014

Musings of a Textile Tragic - Lost in Translation
June, 2014 - Issue 114
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 Publications website.

Front Cover of Textile Fibre Forum (June, 2014 - Issue 114).

For your convenience, I have listed links to other Musings articles:
Musings of a Textile Tragic
Co-Editor of TFF
Of Fires and Flooding Rain
Venusian Men
The ArtWork of Youth
Textile Tasters from My Workshop
Be Brave, The Rest Will Follow

Content Page of TFF - June 2014 Edition (Issue Number 114)

Musing of a Textile Tragic - Lost in Translation
Sometimes our fibre art just gets - “Lost in Translation”. Els van Baarle, who hails from The Netherlands, tells this wonderful story of entering one of her batik ArtCloth works in an exhibition that bracketed local works - from oil paintings to sculpture to prints on paper and supposedly fibre art. At the opening her husband arrived before her and entered the foyer for welcoming drinks only to notice that Els’ ArtCloth work was draped majestically on a table that was used to serve the drinks. He approached the curator and indicated Els would not be pleased with that arrangement. Within minutes before her arrival Els’ ArtCloth work was featured on a wall with the other artworks. Clearly a case of - “Lost in Translation”.

Els van Baarle - Batik, silkscreen, discharge on velvet cloth.
Size: 90 cm (w) x 300 cm (h).
Photograph Courtesy of Els van Baarle.

I will never forget that my first ArtCloth installation, which I created was my primitive art exhibition - “Codes”. I was fortunate that it was well attended and naturally my ego made me venture to the comments pages of the visitor’s book. I was intrigued to read someone was notably impressed with my artwork since they wrote - “What a lovely set of curtains”. Another case of - “Lost in Translation”.

Sometimes having your work - “Lost in Translation” - is a very handy and cost effective experience. For example, bringing and returning artworks across national borders can be a very expensive business, especially if government taxes get involved in the transfer. Needless to say, bringing ArtCloth through customs never bothers these regulations, since inspectors rarely envisage that cloth is an art medium. A $5,000 ArtCloth work is rendered as - “A very pretty fabric length. No bugs huh - move on!

There can be times when things get a little weird and disturbing, especially if your ArtCloth is exhibited in a fibre exhibition, where you would expect the visitors to be knowledgeable in fibre art. It therefore surprised me that at one of my openings - in which my pieces were generally 3 metres in length and 1 metre in width - I was approached and a request was made: “I don’t want to buy the whole piece (authors’ note: price tag of $5,000). How much would the bottom six inches cost?” Needless to say my answer was simple – alas too simple to repeat here!

When I mentioned this to Els she laughed and told me how polite Australians are! I looked at her confused. She then explained that in one of her exhibitions the artwork was returned to her with the bottom six inches missing - without payment. Apparently the Dutch are a little more aggressive!

Els van Baarle - 3 pieces of thick papers sewn together with copper wire, fabric background - wax and silkscreen.
Size: 80 cm (w) x 270 cm (h).
Photograph Courtesy of Joop van Houdt.

Detail of the above artwork. The artwork was returned to Els with the bottom 1/3rd of the piece (90 cms) missing as it had been cut off whilst being exhibited.

There was one fibre artist I met in Newcastle who was exhibiting with a group of us in that city. After we packed up the exhibition we started to chat about the lack of sales etc. “Oh”, she said, ”If I can’t sell my work I cut it up and use it for other projects”. She saw the horror in my face to which she responded: ”Not all of us are a Da Vinci”. Of course, there is only one Leonardo but for the likes of me I could not cut up my work. It is not me, even though I accept it could be me if I detested my work and then trust me, I would not exhibit it.

I have often stated that there are three necessary conditions that all artworks possess: (a) they must be “engaged”; (b) they are non-functional; (c) they are aesthetic. To make the "necessary" conditions clearer: (a) engagement - unknown buried art objects are not art since there cannot be an act of engagement; (b) functionality - wearable art is “art” when placed in an art context, but when placed in an non art context (e.g. when it is worn) its functionality obscures the act of engagement; (c) aesthetic - if we were blind, water color paintings or ArtCloth (where the hand of the cloth is unaltered) could not be conceived by our restricted senses and so would preclude an act of engagement. Hence the latter art forms - in a world without sight - would not be deemed as art.

Now this brings me to my final point with respect to the theme of this musing - “Lost in Translation”. The viewer of your artwork brings with them their experiences, knowledge and education/training. I always give my ArtCloth works a title and a summary of the rationale that underwrote the work. Nevertheless, I am continually amazed what the viewer reads into some of my ArtCloth work. Sometimes, yes sometimes, I wished I would have thought of the idea and claimed it was the cause (rationale) that generated the effect (my ArtCloth work). Oh why did I not see what this person saw! I guess this has been the motivating force behind naming artworks “Untitled”. It gives a clean slate to the rationale that underpins the artwork. Unfortunately, not naming my artwork does not work for me. So thank you to the viewer who thought that my ArtCloth piece - Global Warming: Surviving Remnants - was a metaphor for “…the life force that wills itself to overcome adversity in its quest to survive”.

Marie-Therese Wsiniowski's ArtCloth Work: Global Warming - Surviving Remnants.
Technique: MultiSperse Dye Sublimation technique on satin.
Size: 20.5 cm (h) x 20.5 cm (w).


Flora Fascinata said...

I must get myself into your magazine. And, I haven't forgotten about the profile!!! The workers have had me very much engaged at present. Holidays very soon, will get cracking! Thank you, Marie. :D

Jane Dunnewold said...

Realize how much I miss our conversations because they always give me - as did this article - SO much to think about.
I'm grateful you have this forum to share your musings...

Art Quill Studio said...

Flora, I'm looking forward to having your profile/work up on the site !

Art Quill Studio said...

Great to hear from you Jane - thanks for your kind comments. I miss our conversations too . . . always an exciting banter of ideas and thoughts ! Hope to catch up one day soon.