Saturday, August 30, 2014

Musings of a Textile Tragic - Venusian Men
September, 2014 - Issue 115
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 (September, 2014 - Issue 115).

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
Lost in Translation
The ArtWork of Youth
Textile Tasters from My Workshop
Be Brave, The Rest Will Follow

Contents Page of TFF - September 2014 Edition (Issue Number 115)

Musings of a Textile Tragic - Venusian Men
In the early weeks of pregnancy, the default brain for both sexes is the female brain. After twelve weeks of pregnancy, hormones swamp the brain (testosterone for males and oestrogen for females), heralding the beginning of the divergence between wiring of male and female brains and moreover, paving the way for the significant difference in the manner in which women and men think and learn.

Researchers have shown that any three-year old boy locked in a room with his toys feels like he is in Nirvana, whereas a three year-old girl in a similar situation thinks she is being isolated and so punished. The reason for this is complex, although neuroscientists suggest that whilst the male brain is always larger than the female brain, the female part of the brain that is responsible for communication is far more sophisticated than the corresponding male region. Hence, robbing a girl of company is more significant for her than would be the case for a boy. This also explains why women are better at networking and achieving greater verbal skills at a much younger age than men. Women also study the left side of a person’s face to gauge their moods (as dogs do!) Ask your partner how his day was (since his left side looks peeved) and he will normally answer with a primal grunt! How sad - remember, bigger is not always better!

Of course, in times gone by women were the gathers and men were the hunters, and so we gathered the “good” stuff, cooked, washed, made and mended clothes, and taught our daughters our co-operative skills. The boys played until they were “initiated” and then hunted with the men.

Now this brings me to the point of today’s musing about Venusian men; that is, men who come from Venus since they choose an art medium such as thread, yarn and cloth to generate artworks. Generally, most men are not interested in fibre arts since they are too busy hunting (e.g. playing sport, playing with toys etc.) rather than gathering (e.g. learning house making skills etc.) Yes, there are some Venusian men as there are Martian women (i.e. women who come from Mars). However, go to any Fibre Forum and there is a multitude of women and only a sprinkling of men who are interested in learning skills in order to create fibre art and craft. Nevertheless, today’s musing will concentrate on Venusian men - they are the ‘trail blazer’ men who have taken up the challenge to work with textile/fibre media and are as rare as hen’s teeth!

Ken Smith, Fantasy Bark, Lichen and Bracket Fungi, 2013.
Technique: Freehand machine embroidery (including work on dissolving fabric and the artist's own signature stitches) on the artist's own hand-painted silk (including mount); some hand embroidery; commercial stabiliser and batting; silk lining.
Size: 18 cm (length) x 12.5 cm (width) x 8.5 cm (depth, including mount).
Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Troy Emery, Sun King, 2013.
Technique: High density taxidermy foam, polyester pompoms, resin horns and artificial rock.
Size: 112 x 105 x 60 cm.
Photograph courtesy of John Brash.

Nowadays, we are the throw “away” society. We no longer need to darn our socks, make, mend and embellish our clothes. We don’t need to dye cloth, crochet, tat lace, sew, embroider or knit. Countries such as India and China have spared us from needing to teach our sons and daughters any of these skills. In fact, nowadays we are very careful not to stereotype children’s learning patterns based on their sex (e.g. boys learn to knit and girls learn to play soccer!)

My theory why there are so few men in the fibre arts and crafts is simple - most men come from Mars and so follow the money trail, whereas most women come from Venus and so don’t. That is, there are lots of men, past and present, sculpting, oil painting, printmaking, water colouring, drawing, sketching etc. (It has really been only in the last hundred years or so that women have become renowned in these fields.) Of course, men are well represented in Haute couture (e.g. Versace) as well as in costume design (e.g. Leon Bakst) - money making areas - and in the crafts there is no end of men making shoes, wood turning and fabricating saleable items. The one common trait in this modern era is that all arts/crafts, where Martian men clearly dominate, are areas where one can earn a living. Fibre art and craft is not so endowed. Sure you can make a living sewing, knitting and making clothes etc. but few can make a living from the fibre art itself (for example, as oil painters do).

The men who interest me are the Venusian men. Some who readily come to mind are - Brett Alexander (textile installations), Thomas C. Chung (knitted sculptures), Tony Dyer (wax resist master), Troy Emery (soft sculptures), Tim Gresham (tapestry weaver), Lucas Grogan (embroidery), Douglas McManus (soft sculpture installations) John Parkes (found cloth), Jude Skeers (hand knitting), Ken Smith (dying/machine embroidery) and Anton Veenstra (tapestry weaver). Their fibre art is as impressive as any of the Venusian women. However, in general you will not find a gathering of men in a “Men’s Shed” knitting - unlike discovering a group of women knitting in a textile gallery. Sure it will be interesting to see whether the next generation of men - the Y generation (birth years 1980s to 2000s) - will suddenly make a mass appearance at Fibre Forums and the Y generation women - who were not taught textile skills from the mothers but rather soccer - thin out. I doubt it!

Brett Alexander, Business Bear shoes (podophilia version), 2012.
Technique: Spun paper (unbleached), fibre reactive dye, found objects.
Photograph courtesy of the artist.

Thomas C. Chung, "These Are The Colours I See In You......", 2013.
Technique: Plexiglass, yarn & acrylic stuffing, art installation (dimensions variable).
Photograph courtesy of Bo Guo.

Lucas Grogan, THE BOMB, 2013.
Technique: Cross-stitch.
Size: 40 x 40cm.
Private Collection. Photograph courtesy of the artist, Martin Browne Contemporary Sydney, Hugo Mitchell Gallery Adelaide, Gallerysmith Melbourne.

I believe that once Venusian men sell their art for squillions of dollars then all of a sudden it will be a “heads up” for those Martian men to stampede into the fibre art field - a sure sign that fibre art has become mainstream and now is firmly rooted in the consciousness of the public as any other art medium.

Jude Skeers, Autumn Leaves, 2013.
Technique: Hand knitting, tencel and acrylic.
Size: 118 cm diameter.
Photograph courtesy of Michael Ripoll.

Jude Skeers, Autumn Glow, 2013.
Technique: Hand knitting, wool.
Size: 110 cm diameter.
Photograph courtesy of Michael Ripoll.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Year of the Horse
Annual Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

The Chinese - Year of the Horse - began on the 31st of January 2014 and will end on the 18th February 2015.

For those of you not familiar with Chinese Astrology there are twelve animal signs that cycle in the order: Rat (2008), Ox (2009), Tiger (2010), Rabbit (2011), Dragon (2012), Snake (2013), Horse (2014), Goat (2015), Monkey (2016), Rooster (2017), Dog (2018), and Pig (2019) - and this cycle keeps on repeating every twelve years.

Artist And Title: A. Tanzini - Horse.
Medium: Wooden Sculpture.

If you were born in the year of the Horse you are apparently active and energetic and you have got plenty of sex-appeal and dress suavely. Horses love to be in the crowd, maybe that is why they can usually be seen out on venues such as concerts, theaters, meetings, sporting occasions, and of course, parties. Horse people are very quick-witted and can easily anticipate what you are going to say before you say it. On the down side, they really are more cunning than intelligent - and they know that; that is why most of the Horse people lack confidence.

In fact, 2014 is the year of the Wooden Horse. Wooden horses are strong and stable and have a better ability to make decisions. Excellent at interacting with others, they are successful personally and professionally. Needless to say I was not born in the year of the Horse, let alone the year of the Wooden Horse.

Chinese character for a "Horse".

Now the stuff I did not want to read comes up next. Apparently this year will be a fast year full of conflicts, according to some astrologers, who see wood as providing fuel for the energetic horse sign. The later part of the year is “yin fire”, increasing the potential for heated clashes even more. Feng shui practitioner Raymond Lo told Reuters: “The upcoming Horse year is also a 'yang wood' year, when people will stick more to their principles and stand firm. So it is hard to negotiate or compromise as there are more tendencies for people to fight for their ideals.”

Luckily I do not believe in the "Stars" nor in Chinese astrology since the last thing I want is a whole year of conflict. Since becoming Co-Editor of Textile Fibre Forum this year there is always a tension between what is "best" for the magazine as distinct from what is "best" for an individual artist/contributor. I must confess I was pleasantly surprised how many contributors want the "best" for the magazine and so readily accept editorial decisions that may have curtailed their contribution. Thank you! Hence there is one further category that has been added to this blog spot and that is - Musings of a Textile Tragic - which is my regular column for the magazine. The number of categories on this blog spot are now as follows: (i) ArtCloth; (ii) Art Essay; (iii) Art Exhibition/Installation/Talk; (iv) Artist's Profile; (v) Art Resource; (vi) Art Review; (vii) Guest Artist; (viii) Guest Editor; (ix) Musings of a Textile Tragic; (x) My Students Outputs (Workshops and Master Classes); (xi) Opinion Piece on Art; (xii) Resource Reviews; (xiii) Prints On Paper; (xiv) Technical Articles; (xv) Wearable Art. Not all of these categories will be present in a given year. For example, this year disappeared so quickly I did not invite a Guest Editor or Artist to present their art. I hope to avoid that flaw next year!

I started this blog four years ago, on the 26th August 2010 - in part as art therapy and moreover, to inform, aspire and inspire others to get on with their own art. At the outset my commitment was simple: I would blog approximately 50 posts a year, including an annual summary of each year. This is my 200th post and we have had over 270,000 visitors to this blog spot in that time. For your convenience I have listed these annual reviews below:
It's Been An Exciting Year (2010/2011)
Another Cheer - Another Year (2011/2012)
Where Did The Year Go? (2012/2013)
Cold and Windy - But on the Dawn of Renewal (2014/2015)
A Time To Reflect - A Time To Select (2015/2016)
A Time to Remember (2016/2017)
To Be or Not to Be (2017/2018)
The Night Too Quickly Passes (2018/2019)

Gremlins continue to invade some of the posts and I especially want to thank those of you who have got in contact with me to highlight errors of fact. Thanks John Vaughan and Bev Lang for correcting my Australian Flag and Margaret Ann Field posts, respectively. It is greatly appreciated.

I have never been guided by popularity, since if I was so inclined I would not have tackled a lot of art projects that I did. Although I have my favourite posts, I am always shocked by what the democratic process throws up. Naturally the statistics are always worse for those posts that are near in time to the annual review (i.e. number of page views, visitors, length of stay etc.) As for those posts in the various categories, some I would have predicted would be popular, but others are a complete surprise to me. The biggest surprises always resides with my artwork, since we believe that we know our artwork the best and so think we know what works and what doesn’t work with the public. Re-think!

The Year of the Horse
I have opened this category to include all posts that has been labeled as ArtCloth and some in the Art Review category. That is, there are a number of posts in this category this year ranging from aboriginal batik on cloth (ArtCloth) to Hawaiian quilts (Art Review) to fabric lengths etc.

The most popular post with respect to my ArtCloth was My Place...Your Place...Our Place.

Artist: Marie-Therese Wisniowski. Title: My Place...Your Place...Our Place.
Technique and Media: Dyed, discharged, lino block prints, stencilled, silk screened, stamped, mono printed, hand painted and rubbings employing gel, pigment and charcoal on cotton.
Size of Artwork: 1.4 metres wide x 3.5 metres long.

Nevertheless, the most popular in this category by a country mile was Woven Textile Designs in Britain (1750 to 1763). In just one fortnight it attracted over 1200 visitors - most of them from the UK!

Anna Maria Garthwaite, Design for a damask, 1751.
Watercolor on paper.
Repeat: 54.4 x 27 cm.
Inscribed with the name of the weaver, possibly John Phene to whom it was sold.

Art Essay
There were a number of posts this year in this category. My art essay on the Total Art Context was read by people from more countries than any other post in this category. However, the most popular post is not necessarily a post that strikes a chord with the international community. This was really evident in this category since my art essay on Navajo Rugs was viewed by twice as many people as the former - with more than 95% of the visitors originating from North America. Regional interest does generate international traffic.

This table runner is a fringed textile of Germantown yarn in design dominated by a multi-hued, eight pointed star; ca. 1890.
Size: 25 x 39 inches.

Art Exhibitions/Installations/Talks
There were few posts in this category this year. Of those When Rainforest Glowed at Eden Gardens was by far the most viewed. It continued my theme of producing environmental art using my signature technique of MultiSperse Dye Sublimation (MSDS) on delustered satin. A number of the images from the exhibition were posted by various people on pinterest sites. It is always pleasing to know that people from around the world can view your artwork and enjoy it, without having to travel 10,000 miles to see it!

Artist: Marie-Therese Wisniowski. Title: Shadow Play.
MSDS using delustered satin.

Artist's Profile
This year I have added a new category titled - Artist's Profile. I have two entries in this category The Art of Erté and Margaret Ann Field, with the latter viewed by more visitors. Luckily for me, a relative of the latter artist I profiled got in contact with me and has corrected some of my mistakes. I am not perfect and so I welcome any corrections. Thanks to Bev Lang, I was able to correct my post on Margaret Ann Field in order to make it more accurate. It is always satisfying to inform families of the importance of their relatives. We all celebrate their art but if you have a family tie to them, the joy is so much more gratifying.

The young Mrs. Edwin Field (nee Margaret Ann Lang) with baby.

Art Resource
Of course, the Glossary of Terms and Fabrics still attracts a sizeable audience - and this year was no different. However, of those posts eligible, the Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff, which was posted in January 2014, won this category. There is already a large number of back links to this post, which illustrates its educational nature. Large data bases tend to attract large audiences.

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.

Surprisingly this post was not without a challenge. Protein Fibers - Speciality Hair Fibers received a large amount of attention. Perhaps there are a lot of textile artists, who work with these fibers and so want to know more about their physical and chemical properties.

Musings of a Textile Tragic
In any given year, there will be only four contenders for this gong due to the number of issues of Textile Fibre Forum that ArtWear publishes within a given year. Of the four - "Of Fires and Flooding Rains" - was the most viewed. It is difficult to second guess why this would be the case since the demographics of who viewed the Musings category is difficult to unpack in terms of search engine statistics. Perhaps it was the power of the images (e.g. image searches) or the sentiment of the Musings that centered on loss (e.g. geographical location of the visitor) - either way this Musing was by far the best received.

Musing: Of Fires and Flooding Rains, TFF, Issue No. 113 (MARCH, 2014).
Artist: Dianne Firth. Title: Deluge.
Medium and Technique: Machine stitching/quilting, reverse appliqué, viscose felt, cotton. 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: 139cm h x 71cm w.
Photograph Courtesy of Andrew Sikorski.

Opinion Piece on Art
This is another new category. I wanted to separate Art Essays - that usually entailed a more factual base - from an opinion piece on art, the latter of which could be disputable. For example, the boundary between what is mimicked or what is appropriated art could vary depending on a person's worldview. Arguments starting from a different set of axioms can lead to different conclusions. Hence the need for this category.

It is not surprising that the most viewed post in this category was The Art of Blogging. Many of us want to know how we can get people to visit our web site/blogspot, read our tweets, or become our friend on FaceBook. Basically, we want followers, we want to be known and appreciated. In fact, some of us make a living by convincing others we know how to get people to your site (Search Engine Opportunists I call them). Unfortunately if you read this post you will realize there is no magic formula. What makes a site go ballistic can be as simple as - I want to have more followers than Justin Beaver - help me! Its clear that this blogspot is all about my art therapy.

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 organisation.

Prints on Paper
The blogspot mainly concentrates on all things fiber. However, from time-to-time there are posts which focus on prints on paper. I have opened this category to all posts that are concerned with prints on paper. The two posts that were vying for the title of most popular in this category were: Contemporary Aboriginal Prints and Federation On Hold - Call Waiting. The former was published in November 2013 and the latter in August 2013 (one week after the yearly review). Both are quintessential Australian topics, yet both were viewed by visitors from every continent. Federation On Hold succeeded by the thinnest of margins!

Artist: Marie-Therese Wisniowski. Title: Federation on Hold - Call Waiting; Press Four - Refugees.

Resource Review
The two most popular Resource Reviews were: Eden Gardens and 2013 Australian Craft Awards - the former is where I held one of my ArtCloth Exhibitions and the latter concentrated on a competition in which I was a finalist. Clearly I am unashamedly self promoting! Although since the naughties, it has always been - "Look at me! Look at me!" - I promise I will never post a "SELFIE", since my ego needs to be contained! Nevertheless, this ego driven section was dominated by my post about the Australian Craft Awards.

Wearable Art
Wearable Art is such a hard category. There were so many excellent posts in this category this year. The two most viewed should not be a surprise for you: Costumes of the Tsars and Fashions from 1907 to 1967. The latter had 30% more visitors than the former. What is more pleasing is the time visitors spent viewing the post. The average time for the winning post was 5 minutes. Clearly people were reading it rather than just getting there, viewing a few images and then bouncing away.

Left: Mini Dress (1966-1967).
Description: Red-purple wool trimmed with white jersey.
Designer: Mary Quant.
Center: Coat Dress (1965).
Description: White wool twill bound with navy grosgrain.
Designer: Andre Courreges.
Right: Day Dress (1965).
Description: Wool jersey made of geometric segments in white, red and blue, separated by bars of black – a la Mondrian.
Designer: Yves Saint Laurent.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Balinese Paintings – Ider-Ider[1-2]

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

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.

Whatever the historical origins of Balinese traditional paintings, it’s the religious affiliations within the community that are evident at all levels of societal activity: paintings were highly prestigious and sought after decorations for festivals in all kinds of temples. The chosen themes in a painting made to decorate a village temple, often emphasized the triumph of the less powerful.

Theme of the Bali Arts Festival XXXV 2013 - “Taksu: Brings about Creative Power and Identity”.

Today’s post will focus on the ider-ider form but before we do, we need to discuss the techniques used in the forms of Balinese paintings.

Techniques Used in Balinese Paintings
Balinese paintings are now done on machine-made cloth or occasionally on wood panels. Large imports of white cloth appeared to have started at the beginning of 20th Century. Earlier records suggest that Bali was in fact an exporter of coarse plain cloth spun and woven from locally grown cotton, and it is this material in various degrees of fineness that was traditionally used for painting, as well as bark-cloth imported from East Indonesia, mainly Sulawesi. Note: Bark-cloth comes primarily from trees of the Moraceae family. It is made by beating sodden strips of the fibrous inner bark of these trees into sheets, which are then finished into a variety of items.

Bark-cloth-style botanical pattern on skirt-weight cotton fabric.

Bark-cloth needs little preparation for painting, since the wood is prepared with ground made from bone-ash. However, cotton - whether machine made or home spun - needs treatment before the first stage of producing a painting can be entertained. The surface of the cloth must be smoothed, so that pen lines can be drawn fluently, while the cloth must be able to absorb the ink.

The cotton cloth is first boiled in a rice paste, which impregnates it, and after drying it must be polished with a shell, usually a large cowrie under considerable pressure.

Cowrie shells.

The cloth is then laid on a flat board and pressure is applied by a “spring” made from strong pieces of fresh bamboo; one end of the bamboo fits securely into a slot in the roof of the pavilion, while the cowrie is on the other. The bamboo is bent to allow the cowrie to reach the painting and so enable a continuous applied pressure to the cloth, while the cowrie is moved backwards and forwards across the whole surface of the cloth. This process is usually repeated before the final finishing stage or sometimes after the whole picture is finished. Carefully and properly done it produces a highly glazed surface.

Kadek and his wife work together (see above three photographs). They size the cotton cloth with rice starch, draw the image with a pencil, ink over pencil lines, and then fill in the colors with a combination of gouache, watercolor, and hand-ground Chinese paint.

There is a careful balance to be achieved in the amount of rice paste used for preparing a cloth. In the 19th Century the amounts were small and the surface - although it took split bamboo pens well - still was a little rough. Sometime in the 20th Century it became the custom to use more rice paste, producing a thicker ground which could be polished yielding a much shinier and smoother surface. This change may have heralded the introduction of steel nibs, which have the tendency to splutter in the face of any surface roughness. The thicker paste produced paintings that looked more vivid and could take finer detail. The disadvantage lay in the fact that the paint no longer penetrated the polished surface and so could not reach the cloth. Hence repeated folding or water damage that may cause the surface to flake would leave the cloth bare of paint. The better artists then resorted once more for the thinner glaze resulting in the ink reaching the cloth. Moreover, by mixing the colors with glue, the ground was not only penetrated and so the cloth absorbed the paint, but the glue also assisted the colors to adhere to the cloth. More recently artists working for the tourist market have adopted the “antic” style, which uses thin unbleached cloth, often of a rather open weave, which is meant to simulate hand woven old Balinese cloth. A thin rice paste coating is applied and although the colors appear rather dull, the end results does yield an aged or antique appearance.

Temptation of Arjuna, Scenes from the Arjunawiwaha (The Marriage of Arjuna) 
Indonesia, Bali, possibly Kamasan, early 20th Century. 
Watercolour, ink, and charcoal on cloth.

All of the ider-ider presented below are steeped in Hindu tradition. It is impossible to give a background to each story behind each ider-ider since each one would be the length of a post in its own right. Thus for greater detail on each of the stories associated with the artwork you should procure reference[1] for your library or visit the Sydney Museum web site[2].

Traditional Balinese Painting: Ider – Ider
These very long hangings are tied under the eaves of pavilions in the temples or palaces, just under the end of the hatch. They should circumscribe the outside of the building. The story is told in a series of scenes, usually reading from left to right in the manner of strip cartoons. To follow the story, the viewer walks around the building in an anti-clockwise direction. Some ider-ider read from right to left, so that the story goes in a clockwise direction around the building. Such reversals are common in the rituals associated with death and so these ider-ider are used in death temples.

Ider-ider: Malat (?) - Two Court Scenes (a detail only of a part of first scene).
Size: 33 x 300 cm.
Courtesy of reference[1].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work, mid 19th Century; artists unknown. Sadang work but very fine and precise drawing and coloring. It retains a very high polish. Medium cloth with many insect holes.

This ider-ider had only two scenes, both of which are court interactions. The painting is extremely hierarchical with its static array of nobles and small grotesque Sudras (members of the lowest caste). The hairstyles are those of the “post-mythological” type and the dress, ornaments and the carrying kris (i.e. Indonesian and Malay ceremonial dagger), are based on actual court practice. The subject is possibly from a Malat story, but there is so little narrative it is impossible to identify exactly the subject of the story.

In the first scene (see above) a Sudra man is telling a story to a raja (i.e. King), behind whom is a modest princess. Presenting the Sudra is a patih (i.e. title of a high ranking King's advisor) – a senior minister – supported by two noble courtiers of whom the paler skinned one might be Panji, the protagonist of the Malat cycle. At each extremity of this scene are grotesque servants with sirih boxes (i.e. boxes holding betel chewing gum) of gilded wood.

Ider-ider: Gods (Commissioned – detail of only one part of cloth – first scene). Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 30 x 467 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, Manku Mura, 1972. Halus (fine and delicate) work on European cloth but not using the most expensive finish.

This ider-ider was commissioned by A. Forge[2] from Manku Mura in order to show the full variety of eye and other facial features, headdresses and so on, used in Balinese paintings. The artist complained that he could not do that in just one story and so he completed the commission using parts of several stories. The first scene (from the left) features the gods: Yama (not shown), Bruna (shown), Daniswara (shown), Wraspati (shown) and Indra (shown) and so on. There are in fact a total of four scenes in this ider-ider.

Ider-ider: Rangda – Barong, and Bharatayuddha (Krisna greets Kunti).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 29 x 364 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: From Djasi, Karangasem; presumably local work; artist unknown; possibly 1920s. Halus work (i.e. finest workmanship); two pieces of thick Balinese cloth sewn together before painting. Styles of the two halves are very different.

The right hand portion has two scenes showing the visit of Krisna to the Korawas, to try and prevent the start of the long battle that constitutes Bharatayuddha. In the first scene (above) the leaders of the Korawas receive Krisna (from left to right): Karna (not shown), with Delem kneeling in from of him (not shown), Sakuni (shown), Duryodana (shown) and the blind father of the Korawas (shown).

Ider-ider: Ramayana – Battle.
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 23 x 575 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan; artist is probably Kaiyun; ca. 1900 (?); halus work on thick Balinese cloth, but uses no kincu. In excellent condition.

In the last section of the battle scene (above) Angada is shown driving Indrajit, Rawana’s son, from his chariot, and killing the charioteer (shown full face with a skin like a tiger).

Ider-ider: Arjuna Wiwaha – Arjuna and Siwa (detail of scene four).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 23 x 392 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; artist possibly Kumpi Karta; second half of the 19th Century; halus work on Balinese cloth, some holes in the fabric.

In scene four (depicted above) Siwa returns to his godly shape and receives exaggerated forms of sembahs from Arjuna, Twalen and Morda. In one of his two right hands, Siwa holds an arrow, presumably the magical Pasupati, which he is going to present to Arjuna.

Ider-ider: Hanoman and Bima.
Size: 30 x 524 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, Pak Remi; ca. 1910; kasar (crude or rough) work on thin Balinese cloth with a good polish.

This kasar features one hero from the Ramayana – Hanoman – the monkey general; and one hero from Mahabharata – Birma – the unrefined Pandawa brother.

The above image depicts a symmetrical scene in which Hanoman and Bima kick each other over, because of the jealousy between the two rescuers for the princess affections.

Ider-ider: Bima Swarga – Bima’s Visit to Hell.
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 22 x 442 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, mid 19th Century; sedang work on Balinese cloth, somewhat torn and faded in places. Two pieces of a longer painting, which were previously sewn together with a false join. There is also a piece missing from the end.

The story of Bima’s journey to hell, and confrontation with Yama, the god of the underworld is a favorite with the Balinese.

The above scene depicts Bima (shown) with Dharmawangsa (shown), Nakula (shown) and Sadewa behind him, takes leave of his mother Kunti (shown), who is accompanied by Arjuna (not shown).

Ider-ider: Bharatayuddha (Cantos 8-12) – Death of Wirata’s Sons.
Size: 29 x 1075 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; artist possibly Sambug; late 19th Century; Halus work on thin Balinese cloth; in excellent condition.

This painting portrays the first day of fighting between the Korawas and the Pandawas. The first scene (depicted above) is the conference held at the Pandawa camp, before they set off to do battle. To the left of the tree is Krisna, with other allies of Pandawas standing behind him: Drupada (shown), Sikandi (shown), Drastadyumna (shown) and Satyaki (shown). Krisna is reporting the failure of his peace mission to the Pandawa brothers, who stand to the right of the tree behind their kneeling servant, Twalen. From left to right they are: Dharmawangsa, Arjuna, Bima, and the twins, Nakula and Sadewa. The other servant, Morda, completes the array.

Ider-ider Bharatayuddha – Death of Salia (read right to left).
Size: 29 x 450 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; probably Kak Lui, 1910-1920. Kasar work; an inexpensive piece for sale to poor temples or families; probably for a Pura Dalem (temple Dalem) as it reads right to left and is concerned with death.

The last scene, which is depicted above, shows a Rudra’s heaven reception in which Salia and their attendants offer his two wives ambrosia. The immediate transfer to heaven is a reward for the fulfillment of the Ksatria duty to die in battle – or in the case of the women - to kill themselves on the death of their husband.

Ider-ider Folktale – Calonarang Episode.
Size: 28 x 785 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work; artist probably Nyoman Dogol; early 20th Century. Obtained from the Pura Dalem Bugbugan in Gelgel. Sedang style, but good work. Thin cloth with many splits, locally repaired. Last scene missing. Paint in good condition.

The fifth scene is depicted above. It shows a large group of common people begging Mpu Barada for help. All make sebah (praise) and the women at the back have their hair covered with a cloth (a sign of widowhood). The setting is the cemetery in which he lives. The usual setting surrounds the tree. An arm and a leg – each with their own head to show their independent existence – float in the air. Mpu Barada’s servant wears the servant’s version of the ketu (skullcap) and carries a lontar box, indicating the scholarly attributes of his master. Mpu Barada himself radiates sakti - supernatural power. He wears a long coat (an attribute of the most learned men). It is of the pattern of red cloth with gold trimming, but its carefully displayed lining is black and white checked cloth – poleng. Mpu Barada’s face also shows force, with round eyes and luxuriant hair. The hairstyle with raised knobs is typical of that of some raksasa (giants), showing that Mpu Barada was adept of black as well as white magic – the power of good alone, no matter how strong, being sufficient to defeat the evil Rangda.

Ider-ider: Tantri – Prabu Gadjadruma or “The Four Ministers” (reads left to right - detailed).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 29 x 988 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan, artist probably Sambug; ca. 1900. A halus work on thin Balinese cloth, in excellent condition.

The story centers on four ministers (mantra) who reside at the north, south, east and west of the kingdom. Their wise conduct has preserved the kingdom in peace and prosperity. However, on succession of a new King, Prabu Gadjadruma, his favourite followers (seeking their own advancement) tell the King that the mantra are being disloyal by building an alternative source of power. They convince him that the mantra should be recalled to Court. The first scene depicted above shows prabu suitably attended, announcing his decision to recall the mantra.

Ider-ider Tantri – Pedanda and Bull.
Size: 26 x 577 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: The first scene of this ider-ider leaves us in no doubt that the story to be presented is from the Tantri cycle; Tantri herself, presumably about to begin to tell her story, is shown sitting on the raja’s bed. Tantri holds his leg – a gesture both submissive and affectionate. On the foot of the bed is the old female servant. Tantri’s nurse, who appears to be prompting Tantri, as she is depicted as speaking.

The basic story centers of Siwa presenting itself as a blue bull, a gift to Tantri due to his pray. The bull - after escaping a murderous attempt - is attacked by dogs, that he is able to ward off. The dogs report the arrival of a new and powerful animal to the king of the forest.

Ider-ider Tantri – Prabu Lembu nd Prabu Singga. Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 61 x 520 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Detail of ider ider painting depicting the Tantri story of King Lion and King Bull in conflict (detail). Gianyar area, possibly Batuan, early 20th Century, probably from a palace in Gianyar. Barely finished work of great vigor on thick European cloth.

The ider-ider continues the story above. The bull having reached the forest meets the Lion King and eventually converts him to vegetarianism, as a superior way to power. The dogs try to eat grass but are always ill because of it. They therefore feast on carcasses – having revolted against a contradictory but established authority, thereby enjoying a republican form of government ever after.

Folktale – Pan Briyut (detail).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 23 x 380 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: Kamasan work, artist possibly Kumpi Mesira, ca. 19000; halus work, some wear at the top, some flaking of the paint surface.

“Pan Briyut” is a very popular folk story. Mem Briyut – his wife – has eighteen children. Her husband has to do all the domestic duties. The children constantly quarrel and make their parents lives a misery. The parents are very poor, but when the children grow up, their sheer number and their hard labor, make the family very rich. They can even form their own troupe to perform the Rangda-Barong drama, complete with their own family orchestra.

Ider-ider: Folktale – Wedding of Pan Briyut’s Son (detail - reads right to left).
Note: This is a contact photograph and so the colors do not match the original colors.
Size: 33 x 865 cm.
Courtesy of references[1-2].

Comment[1]: This ider-ider tells the story of Ketut Subaya, one of Pan Briyut’s eighteen children. Although he was ugly, he had great prowess as a lover. The final scene (depicted above) shows the consummation of his marriage, with the giggling attendant being a standard extra in the scene.

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

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Designer Patterns - Part I
Opinion Piece on Art

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

I am well aware that there is a diverse range of people who have read various posts on this blogspot. Many have emailed me directly with encouraging comments, helpful advice and tips on what future subjects I should direct my attention to. In particular, the Art Resource series has received a lot of attention with the Glossary of Terms and Fabrics being by far the most viewed post on this blogspot.

A novice wanted to know how to kick off a lifelong passion to do Art, using cloth as the medium. There are the standard entry points such as:
(a) Workshops in ArtCloth and associated skilled courses (e.g. dyeing, screen-printing, stencilling, designing, coloring etc.)
(b) Tertiary courses in Art and fiber art.
(c) Professional groups (e.g. Surface Design Association, European Textile Network and in Australia, Australian Textile Arts & Surface Design Association).
(d) Small effective working groups that have a similar focus towards their Art medium.
(e) Numerous internet lists (such as complex cloth, dyeing, printing groups etc.) where active conversations and enquiries are often addressed about various aspects of fiber art.
(f) Social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. seeking out those with a similar art passion.
(g) Visiting local galleries where ArtCloth, Art Quilts and fiber art are being exhibited.
(h) Visiting blogs and internet sites that host images and topics on fiber art.
(i) Developing a large bank of resource information (ranging from a collection of books, magazines and digital CDs with “how to” information about fiber art).
(j) Actually doing ArtCloth or fiber art on a regular basis and seeking advice from mentors about the completed artwork.
(k) Entering your ArtCloth in group and/or solo exhibitions.

Steps (a)-(k) happen simultaneously, serendipitously or simply by osmosis but very rarely in a planned and orderly fashion. The deeper one’s commitment becomes, the more nodes are created and the more links are forged between the nodes of one’s artistic web.

I often see students becoming impatient with their perceived lack of progress. They forget that when you come to a completely new endeavour some educational psychologists believe you need to go through the four stages of Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. These stages can be roughly summarized as follows.

(a) The first stage is the reflexive stage. Here the emphasis is on doing, reacting and aping. Mimicking is very important learning tool at this stage. In the 1950s it was not usual for artists to sit in galleries, mimicking an artwork that hung on the wall before them. There is an ego centricity driving this stage in order for the artist to reach a point of conceptual development of a skill set that will be needed for the next stage of development.

(b) The second stage is the pre-operational stage. Here artistic thought is no longer restricted to immediate perceptual events; that is, you need a representation in your immediate reach in order to ape it. Artistic thought is now representational (symbolic) and artistic behaviour can be played out in one’s mind rather than only in a real physical event (i.e. only via your hands as you mimic a work). This stage is still restricted in that reverse engineering is a difficult chore for the person to do. For example, they see a finished ArtCloth work by another artist but they are still unable to perceive what techniques, materials and implements were used to create the work.

(c) The third stage is the concrete operational stage. Here the artist has evolved logical operations, but these operations are only useful to the artist in solving artistic problems involving (real, observable) objects and events. Therefore if the artist is presented with clear instructions - without demonstrations and constant problem solving by their tutor - their progress would be severely curtailed.

(d) The last stage is the formal stage. Here the artist is able to construct an intention, commandeer the skill set necessary to implement the intention, evaluate objectively the progress of the work and whether it conforms to the original intention and if not - modify either the original intention or the skill set and outcomes in order to create a unique and interesting body of work.

I have often seen students in stage (a) attempting to be in stage (d) with little success. It is okay to be in any stage of cognitive development with respect to an endeavour since eventually, if we are passionate about what we do, we all will end in stage four. (Caveat: I don’t play chess and I know that I will never be in stage four in that endeavor due to my lack of passion for the game!)

It is important not to be too precious about learning from others - my students have taught me heaps about ArtCloth! It is therefore important when you are beginning to see what others are doing and perhaps to appropriate their endeavours in order to create a new and exciting piece of ArtCloth. Note: Appropriation is not mimicking, rather it is a transforming process in which the starting point is vastly different from the end point of an artistic journey - see my post Is It Appropriation or Mimicry?

Books of patterns are a valuable resource for any ArtCloth artist. Drusilla Cole, "Patterns" (Laurence King, Publishing Ltd., London, 2007) is such a resource. The images below are procured from a section of her book she terms - “Conversational” - where she has selected patterns that are novel, containing images of objects or situations. You should add this book to your library.

Conversational Designs
The patterns below have been generated using a number of different techniques which include drawing, painting, collage, embroidery, applique, hand dyeing and screen printing. Many of the designs have been digitally manipulated.

Designer: Emily Anderson.
Comment: Super-enlarged sewing needles are laid out in staggered rows. Screen printed textile.

Designer: Aj Dimarucot.
Comment: Mask-like faces, birds and a plethora of stylized motifs are combined in a rainbow color design. Digital design for fashion fabric.

Designer: Hanna Cottrell.
Comment: The design is part of a series exploring the complexities of traditional Japanese origami, looking at the nature of the delicate folds that form paper structures, alongside investigating birds and the natural beauty of their wings. Digital design.

Designer: Gina Pipet.
Comment: “Swan Lake”. Arabesques of blue and red, interspersed with ribbons and ballet shoes. Digital design.

Designer: Daniele de Batte.
Comment: Bubbles of aqua and cream against a brown background turned into the pattern of a dove. Design for a ceramic tile.

Designer: Alex Russell.
Comment: Multiple scanned drawings of stars and scribbles. A design for fashion fabric?

Designer: Cecillia Heffer.
Comment: Heavy mix of floral and abstract patterns hand-printed onto Shantung silk. This is a detail of a scarf commissioned by the Fashion and Textiles Department of the University of Technology, Sydney as a gift to designer Zandra Rhodes.

Designer: Dominic Crinson.
Comment: Household objects and kitchen equipment appear in this loosely sketched and brightly colored design which was produced for ceramic titles.

Designer: Jessie Whipple.
Comment: Bold outlines of flowers, which turn out to contain booted legs. Print.

Designer: Marie Hanson.
Comment: Pegasus-style flying horses feature in this pattern. The horse is a symbol of power and strength, and the wings add a magical dimension to the design.