Saturday, August 29, 2015

Cold and Windy - But On The Dawn of Renewal
Annual Review

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

Australian aboriginals do not have a daily calendar as such. They have a great awareness of the Southern sky and its incorporation into their spiritual belief systems. Whilst not having a daily calendar they did possess a seasonal calendar more appropriate to their connection to the flora and fauna of the great Southern land.

Australia's climate is diverse: monsoon tropics, desert, savannah, alpine and temperate regions can all be found in various locations. The sheer diversity of ecological zones cannot be meaningfully simplified into a rigid European seasonal calendar for the entire continent. Aboriginal people inhabit regions that are geographically and ecologically distinct. The meteorological view of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is one of great diversity, where the names of the seasons are often dependent on localized events or resources.

The ability to link events in the natural world to a cycle that predicts seasonal changes is a key factor in the successful development of Australian indigenous communities. These natural barometers are not uniform across the land but instead use the reaction of plants and animals to gauge what is happening in the environment. After all, Australia is a continent and as such spans vast areas of differing climate calendars within a given time frame (e.g. winter in Tasmania is not like winter in the Northern Territory). As a result, seasonal cycles as described by the various Aboriginal cultures differ substantially according to location. This produces a far more intricate and subtle overview of Australia's climate than the four-seasons associated with an European climate description namely, of summer, autumn, winter and spring, applied as it is across most areas of the continent.

For example, Miriwoong (Miriwung) is an Australian indigenous language which today has about 20 speakers, most of whom live in or near Kununurra in Western Australia. Their season calendar is thought in terms of wet weather, cold weather and hot weather time.

On the other hand, the Nyoongar footprint is somewhat larger: in the Perth area the main source of food came from the sea, the Swan River and the extensive system of freshwater lakes that once lay between the coast and the Darling escarpment. Further South and East the Nyoongar people lived off the resources of the Karri and Jarrah forests. In the Southern coastal area around Albany the Nyoongar people built fish traps and hunted turtle. To the North and East Nyoongar people lived in the semi arid regions of what is now the Western Australian wheat belt. Their calendar spanned six seasons - from dry and hot to long dry periods.

The D'harawall country and language area extends from the Southern shores of Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour) to the Northern shores of the Shoalhaven river, and from the Eastern shores of the Wollondilly River system to the Eastern seaboard. Their season calendar identified six seasons from warm and wet to cool, getting warmer. For example, the warm and wet season begins with the Great Eel Spirit calling his children to him, and the eels which are ready to mate make their way down the rivers and creeks to the ocean. It is the time of the blooming of the Kai'arrewan (Acacia binervia) which announces the occurrence of fish in the bays and estuaries.

This annual review sits in the D'harawall cold and windy season. The lyrebirds' calls ring out through the bushland as he builds his dancing mounds to attract his potential mates. It is the time of the flowering of the Marrai'uo (Acacia floribunda) which is a sign that the fish are running in the rivers. At the end of this time the Boo'kerrikin (Acacia decurrens) flower, which indicates the end of the cold, windy weather and the beginning of the gentle spring rains. It is the beginning of renewal.

Table 1. A comparison of various Aboriginal seasons from around Australia compared to the traditional European season calendar.
Courtesy of reference [1].

As it is the beginning of the time for renewal we will cast our eye over the year that has gone. I started this blog five 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 two hundred and fifty-first published post. We have had over 400,000 visitors to this blog spot in that time. For your convenience I have listed annual reviews that span the life of this blog spot below:
Where Did The Year Go? (2010/2011)
It's Been An Exciting Year (2011/2012)
Another Cheer - Another Year (2012/2013)
The Year of the Horse (2013/2014)
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)

The number of categories on this blog spot are now as follows: (i) ArtCloth; (ii) Art Essay; (iii) Art Exhibitions/Installations/Talks; (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; (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 (e.g. technical articles). In fact one of my regular posts - Musings of a Textile Tragic - will no longer be a category in the future, since I have decided to resign as co-editor of Textile Fibre Forum magazine due to it being an extremely time-intensive commitment, which severely curtailed my artistic output.

I have never been guided by popularity for if I was so inclined I would not have tackled a lot of art projects that I did in the past. 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 mystery to me. The biggest surprises always resides with my artwork, since I foolishly believe that I know my artwork the best and so I think I know what works and what doesn’t work with the public. Think again!

Aboriginal August: Cold and Windy - But On The Dawn Of Renewal
Winter in Lake Macquarie (NSW) Australia

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. Hence I have collapsed these into one category.

Of these the most popular post is Historical Australian Quilts with the Balinese Langse post coming in second place. Note: Langse is a Balinese oblong painting used as a curtain to screen the bed on which Hindu offerings are placed.

This was viewed mostly by Australians who I imagined wanted to know the history of quilting in this country. For example, it was a surprise for some Australians to realise that “Crazy” patchwork was widely popular in Australia from 1880 until World War I. Rich, heavy fabrics with sheen, such as plush, sateen and brocade, were cut into haphazardly shaped pieces and then joined together in a jigsaw fashion to a background fabric. Surfaces tended to reflect the Victorian love of ornate decorations as the edges were further embellished with embroidery in herringbone or featherstitch. Australian touches can be seen in many small, surface types of embroidery, often worked in chenille thread, which featured items like wattle, emus, wallabies or coat of arms.

Queen Victoria Quilt 1900 – 1903, patchwork and embroidery.

Art Essay
This was by far the largest category in the 2014/2015 seasons. Part of the reason was that as being co-editor of Textile Fibre Forum (a textile art magazine) I was time poor and so on a Friday afternoon it was easier for me to pen an art essay rather than to spend hours to travel to exhibitions and write about what was on display - after all I was doing that for the magazine and so it would have been inappropriate and unethical to publish the same article on this blog spot. Hence I needed to separate the content of this blog spot from the content in the magazine.

There were two contenders: Expressing Australia - Art in Parliament House and Historical Australian D'oyley - with the latter being the most popular.

Designs for d’oyleys proliferated in Australia from the 1890s to 1914. Many of the Australian historical embroidered d’oyleys, termed fancy work by their owners, were made when they were young girls in Australian schools or for their glory boxes in their late teen years.

“Sol” lace. Sun center with medallions. C.W.A. Cabramatta, NSW (Australia) ca. 1930s.

Artist's Profile
This is a new category and yet it does overlap with previous categories. For example, there is an artist's profile on Mucha, who is also an artist who fits in the category of prints on paper. These overlaps will always occur due to the former talks about their life and their work, while the latter specifies the category of their work. Of those that were labelled in this category in the 2014/2015 season, the most popular was Yinka Shonibare, MBE - with Henny Wasser-Smeets coming in second.

Yankee Shonibare's artwork fits in the soft sculpture category but it is oh so more than that! He builds an interesting environment for you to engage and ponder about.

Earth (2010).
Materials: Mannequin, Dutch wax printed cotton textile, leather, wood, metal base and globe.
Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Photograph courtesy of Stephen White.

Art Resource
In this category of posts - The Glossary of Terms and Fabrics and Timelines of Fabrics, Dyes and Other Stuff - still dominated the 2014/2015 season. It seems that readers just love their data content. However of those penned in 2014/2015 season the two posts that were most popular centered on Man-Made fibers, namely, Acrylic and Modacrylic and Polyester - with the latter being ahead in popularity.

I am most pleased about the result since my MultiSperse Dye Sublimation Technique (MSDS) uses synthetic delustered satin as its art medium.

Marie-Therese Wisniowski, Autumn Bolt (disperse dyed polyester artwork).

Guest Artist - Flora Fascinata
I love this category since it brings to this blog spot a completely different tempo and artistic direction. There is no one more exciting than Flora Fascinata. Her millinery artwork appeared on the inside front cover of Textile Fibre Forum magazine (June 2015, Issue 118). She was also a guest artist on this blog spot in the 2014/2015 season and her wit and humour is there for everyone to experience. Her wearable art is beautifully constructed.

Title of headpiece: Thermoplastic Rose Red.
Materials: Vinyl fabric, foam, glue, spray paint, varnish, satin covered band.
Size: 35 cm (high) x 35 cm (wide) x 20 cm (deep).

Musings of a Textile Tragic
There are only four posts in this category since each post is associated with a column that is titled, "Musings of a Textile Tragic" which appears as a regular column in the textile publication - "Textile Fibre Forum" - a magazine in which I was a co-editor (with Janet de Boer being the other co-editor) in the 2014/2015 season. Of the four columns, two were well above the others and they were The ArtWork of Youth and Venusian Men - with the latter being the most popular.

I guess men and textile art are not necessarily synonymous and so the few men who are textile artists become of interest to the much larger cohort of women textile artists.

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.

Opinion Piece
I only wrote one opinion piece in 2014/2015 season - Natural Versus Synthetic Fibers and Dyes - and so it will naturally be the most popular. Nevertheless, it is a controversial piece since it directly addresses which should be the base-load supply for fibres and dyes - should it be natural or man-made. It separates the ethical dilemma (ethical consumerism, where legislative and regulatory frameworks are to blame) from the practicality of which is better for a sustainable future since the world's population is spiralling out of control. If we agree that to feed, house, clothe, provide shelter and energy resources then to use natural fibres as a base-load would be disastrous due to the amount of land usage and water that would be required. Similarly, if natural dyes were the base-load supply the current allotted agriculture land usage would be totally consumed for this one purpose alone. Hence to natural fibres and dyes, whilst appropriate for art/craft ventures are totally inappropriate as base-load suppliers. For more go to the post.

An indigo dyer - using a natural dye - in India. Poor legislative and regulatory oversight creates dyed skin for the untouchable caste dyers in India. Even natural dyes are harmful without the necessary legislative and regulative oversight.

Prints on Paper
I was flattered to see that my haiku prints on paper - Four Seasons - outstrip its nearest rival, Margret Preston. Then again her post was published on the 11th July 2015, whereas mine was published nine months previously - giving a large advantage in time. Preston is a very famous printmaker in Australia, especially for her dramatic prints on paper. She transformed the way society thought about women artists and as it was written, she applied "...her considerable energies and willpower to develop her art and her theories on art". I love her work and only wish I had her vision.

I love the poetic form of haiku. It has two principal requirements: a seasonal word (kireji) and a "cutting word" or exclamation. My "Summer" haiku poem reads:

"Summer sears,
Leaves are sapped.
Life seeks - shade and darkness lapped!"

Summer Haiku.

Resource Review
The two contenders in this category were: Maschen (Mesh) Museum@Tailfingen and Museum Lace Factory@Horst - with the latter being the most viewed of the two.

I visited the Lace Museum at Horst (The Netherlands) since I was asked to open up a group exhibition of textile artists in the museum. I was amazed at the facility and how they had retained and maintained it. The Museum mounts a number of local and international textile exhibitions as well as provides educational activities such as workshops, lectures and courses for the young and the elderly. All of the machines are operational and so they can still produce antique lace using thousands of gossamer threads. The Museum houses a shop in order to sell lace, books and other textile artefacts. It also houses a unique collection of old and contemporary textile art and crafts.

Helmie van der Riet's textile installation at Museum Lace Factory (2009).
Size: 5 x 5 x 4.5 m.

Wearable Art
Wearable art is always a popular subject for a post on this blog spot. We never include any guest artist in this category since they would win hands down. There were three that hotly contested this category: Wearable Art Produced by the TextielLab, Muslim Headscarves and Some Wearable Art@The Powerhouse Museum. Of the three Muslim Headscarves was well ahead.

It is fascinating to read the responses I have received on this post. Most commented on the scarves and the fact that they enhanced the beauty of those who wore them. I fully concur.

Bridal Headware.


1 comment:

Flora Fascinata said...

Dear Art Quill Studio,
It was such a pleasure to read your review. I was absolutely relishing the discussion regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sense of time and season and truly appreciate how you naturally include so much of the world's oldest living culture in your research and posts. Some of us are such fools for ignoring this knowledge and diversity. Imagine how startled I was to see myself pop up while I was scrolling away! Thank you! Never underestimate how much your intellect is appreciated by others. I am sure there are many like myself who work engaging others in textiles and its social 'fabric' and read your posts thinking about what we can takeway to inform our lessons and discussion. You give so much and just tie everything together so well!
Thank you, again!
Flora x