Saturday, October 21, 2017

Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger

Marie-Therese Wisniowski

When I curated the exhibition - "ArtCloth: Engaging New Visions" - I was mindful of the fact that fabrics and textiles as an art medium were still under a cloud with respect to art cognoscenti. Tapestries and Art Quilts have long been recognized as an art form - see my posts on the Australian Tapestry Workshop and on Art Quilts. However, surface designs and surface effects on fabric and textiles, that formed the basis of ArtCloth, are still considered "craft-orientated".

Some art critics were confused about attempts in trying to sub-divide the fabric and textile art field. Their simplistic notions - just call it "Textile Art" - indicated that they did not understand the differences and nuances this new continent of art demanded. Hence I wrote a post on: Why ArtCloth?

When I curated the first international ArtCloth Exhibition in Australia, there was not one Norwegian or Scandinavian invited to contribute their work to the exhibition. It was not because Scandinavia does not have a proud tradition in the textile art field. Rather it was because the exhibition focussed on "ArtCloth" and not on woven artworks.

It was therefore of great surprise to me when I visited the Soft Galleri in Oslo that I saw an ArtCloth installation by Elin Island titled: "Weights and Free Flock of Birds".

Artist: Elin Island; Title of Artwork: "Weights and Free Flock of Birds." Photograph courtesy of Øystein Thorvaldsen.

The person who was attending the gallery was most helpful. After an interesting conversation I bought a book that showcased artworks from the Norwegian Textile Artists (NTA) group titled: “Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger”. Unfortunately it was written in Norwegian and as I am illiterate in that language I cannot add much to the intellectual rigour that many of the technical articles in this book deserved.

Alas, I have translated the "Foreword" of the book and so I hope the editors will not be aggrieved with my clumsy attempt to translate their prose into English. However, with all such tomes engaging the images yields so much more to the viewer. I hope you will enjoy this small snapshot of a wonderful book which should sit proudly somewhere in your library. Let's hope they decide to print an English version of the book in the not-too-distant future so that many of the articles contained in the book will become accessible to the English speaking world.

“Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger”

The Norwegian Textile Artists (NTA) 4th anniversary has given us a golden opportunity to stop and look at parts of the organization's history and focus on textiles as an art medium in its own right.

Textile art spans a lot of visual and artistic practices, ranging from soft sculpture to installation and relational art projects, to purely formal and ornamental works. Textile material touches something deeply existential and encloses us through the course of life. According to Greek mythology, “Klotho” is one of the three fate goddesses. Klotho spun the thread of life, Lakesis determined its length and Atropos cut the thread - together they counselled the plunder and life of all mortals. "Klotho" is the origin of the English word "cloth" and can be translated into a cloth or piece of cloth in Norwegian. For us, a piece of cloth represents everything from the most beautiful silk mask to the greyest scarf.

“Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger” discusses what influence textiles, that encompasses method, material and tradition, have had on the art scene today, and at the same time it also draws lines from today into textiles of the past ten decades. Our intention has not been to make a chronological presentation of NTA's history. On the other hand, we have chosen to invite many voices to tell about and so delve into aspects of the textile field.

The publication is subsequently divided into four parts: the anniversary exhibition and the NTA story; the professional development; textile art in public spaces and; theoretical perspectives.

Kirsti Willemse shares her own reflections from the work of the curator group. Anne Karin Jortveit gives a point in the organization's history, based on NTA's pre-digital archive. Gunvor Nervold Antonsen's detachable cover is a tribute to NTA and all its members throughout the ages. The poem is part of her performance shown during the opening of the exhibition, and has given the title to the exhibition and to this publication.

In the same way as the anniversary exhibition, where links are made between different years of work, we aim in this publication to give voice to different generations of artists. Four artists are interviewed about their practice. Unn Sønju was with the NTA's first board. Tove (Tuppen) Pedersen was active in NTA's early years. Hans Hamid Rasmussen is currently a Professor at the Oslo Academy of Fine Arts, and Line Solberg Dolmen is a graduate artist.

When textile artists were incorporated into the organisation, textile was recognised as art in line with, for example, painting, graphics and sculpture. This caused major ripple effects for single artists, in the form of paid assignments etc. We have therefore devoted an article to art in public spaces, and interviewed Marianne Magnus, Edith Lundebrekke and May Bente Aronsen about their experiences in producing public art.

How should you understand the textile concept today? Does it make sense to talk about textile art, and if so how? Two articles delve into these questions. Marte Danielsen Jølbo covers three works of art, all from 2016, in order to draw art-historical lines between the works and to discuss issues and theoretical issues rooted in, among other things, new materialism. Inger Bergström writes about the textile concept's space in contemporary art, and discusses the way in which the term circulates in today's art discourse.

In addition, we have invited literature writer Toril Moi to write a short essay from a feminist perspective, and author Erling Kittelsen to explore various textile art concepts.

This publication contains a comprehensive number of textile images. It includes works by the artists in the exhibition, and works that are featured in the texts.

The many voices in this publication emphasize diversity and breadth in scoping the textile art profession. Whilst working on the book, we discovered that each contribution could have been further detailed and further elaborated upon.

Our dream is that the “Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger” will give inspiration to many new book releases. Good reading!

Ingvill Henmo, Lise Linnert and Sidsel Palmstrøm (editorial group).

“Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger”
Some of the Featured ArtWorks in the Book

Artist: Else Marie Jakobsen; Title: The Rust Tears (1994).
Photograph Courtesy of K. Bjelland.

Artist: Aurora Passero; Title: Victorian in Attitude (2012).
Photograph Courtesy of Passero.

Artist: Gro Jessen; Title: Spell Particles 2 (2001).
Photograph Courtesy of T. Agnalt.

Artist: Sissel Blystad; Title: 10 (2013).
Photograph Courtesy of Blystad.

Artist Gitte Magnus working with "I had my own box to sit on".
Photograph Courtesy of Magnus.

Artist: Camilla Steinum; Title: It Shaves Behind the Windows (2015).
Photograph Courtesy of Thorvaldsen.

Artist: Gunvor Nervold Antonsen; This thread is this material under production in the studio (2016).
Photograph Courtesy of Antonsen.

Artist: Ann Cathrin November Høibo og Tori Wrånes; Title: Not Yet Titled (2012).
Includes woven materials from Else Marie Jakobsen.
Photograph Courtesy of E. Lande.

Artist: Else Marie Jakobsen; Title: The Moth Corrodes (1994).
Photograph Courtesy of K. Bjelland.

Artist: Ann Cathrin November Høibo; Title: Untitled (2016).
Photograph Courtesy of V. Kleven.

[1] Editors Ingvill Henmo, Lise Linnert and Sidsel Palmstrøm, Ode for a Washcloth - The Hymn of a Tiger, Norske Tekstilkunstnere (2017).

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