Saturday, December 12, 2009

Joyce Wieland

O Canada Animation (1970)
The 71 mouths forming the words to the national anthem are embroidered in red lips and white teeth on cotton.

In 1987 Joyce Wieland, one of Canada's most beloved artists, was given a retrospective at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the first for a living woman artist. The images in this post are taken from the catalogue for that exhibition.

Lucy Lippard's catalogue essay states: "Joyce Wieland is a wild card that saves the contemporary art world from its straight and narrow conformity to institutionalized ‘wildness’. She moves back and forth between mediums and as well, she has a breadth of content. Her art has been criticized for being awkward, sentimental and na├»ve. She has always had a centre. Her work unifies a personal, sexual, domestic landscape that has grown to be a transcontinental landscape."
Reason Over Passion, cotton construction, (1968)
Joyce Wielend made this quilt for the prime minister of Canada, Pierre Elliot Trudeau.
Collection of the National Gallery of Canada

Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s confident assertion of the need for government to place reason above passion juxtaposed with the softness of a bed covering (with its connection to the passion of birth, death and love making) makes a thought provoking yet sensual piece of art.

In 1960 she said about the Dada artists. “It’s not just painting, not just art – they’re artistic in a general way. They see things whole. Their jokes are about life." She wanted that same wholeness in her work.

I Love Canada - J'aime Canada, cotton construction (1970)

In 1971 she had a retrospective called True Patriot Love at the National Gallery of Canada. She was 40. Joyce Wieland was a born again Canadian and part of the feminist wave. “I think of Canada as female” she said having recently travelled from Toronto to Vancouver and saw a land that 'amazed' her. It was a nationalistic time in a Canada still euphoric from the 1967 centennial.

For "True Patriot Love” Wieland received Canada Council funding to produce new pieces with help from expert craftswomen in knitting, embroidery, rug hooking, and sewing. She wanted to emphasize the collaborative aspect of art and the value of traditional domestic arts. 10 out of 36 pieces in the show were from cloth. “I wanted to elevate and honour craft, I wanted to join women together and make them proud of what they have done”. It was also symbolic of a way that the country might work together. (p.s. Judy Chicago's Dinner Party did not happen until 1979).

Squid- jigging hole (1971)
The words to this east coast song are shown with embroidered lips on cotton

Harold Rosenberg once said that if art went backwards it would become handicraft and if it went forward, it would become media. "She was like Eva Hesse who responded to minimalism in her unique way. Wieland is not a primitive but she is an outsider. She thrives on tension. " writes Lucy Lippard. Joyce Wieland worked with both craft and with new media, she revelled in her femaleness, she was able to combine opposites like earth and spirit, fact and feeling, pain and pleasure.

Her work is intimate because it offers places for the viewer to enter with her/his own associations. She uses words to ‘illustrate’ the visual instead of the other way around. Her speaking mouths are a good example.

The Water Quilt (1970-71)
Embroidery of arctic wild flowers and sewn plastic construction
Text from James Laxer's book The Energy Poker Game, about the alleged plot by the Americans to take over Canada's water resources.

She said that irony was too frivolous. “We have to get to the very essential thing now, the land, and how we feel about it. It’s important to feel the beauty of everything, to be as positive as possible.’ Joyce Wieland made art for thirty years, and she was always considered eccentric.

Her sister helped her make her quilts. “I cut things out, basted the quilt and my sister completed it.” Wieland wanted to make art that was accessible to everyone, and at the same time invest it with many levels of meaning.”

“I thought that the quilts should be used for special occasions or have a celebratory use – first day of spring and such like. Getting into the making of quilts as woman’s work was a conscious move on my part" Wieland and her husband Michael Snow lived in New York for a period of time. "It was a highly competitive scene with men artists in New York and it polarized my view of life, made me go right into the whole feminist thing.” the water quilt DETAIL

Wieland used quilts because we know and trust them. Quilts mean hearth and home, they keep us warm.

Joyce Wielend was born in 1931 and died in 1998. Several websites promote Joyce Wielend. This one calls her Canada's greatest female artist of the 20th century. There is an excellent biography of the artist on this Canadian government site. In 1983 she was awarded Canada's highest honour, The Order of Canada.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Karla Black

Wish List, 2008 sugar paper, chalk, ribbon, hair gel, nail polish, plaster, paint, petroleum jelly, polyethylene and rubber gloves

I read Michael Archer's review of Karla Black's Tate Britain exhibition in the March 2008 issue of Art Forum magazine and was intrigued by her absurd materials and new wave feminist viewpoint. The artist says that she does not want her work to be perceived as a formal object because she doesn't want the viewer to objectify the piece. Instead she wants the viewer to encounter the work as they walk past it or as they glance at it. Psychological weight and layers of meaning are not her prime intent.

"Wish List is constructed of sheets of sugar paper held together with hair glue, superglue, and nail polish and then creased, folded, crumpled and twisted into an opulent swag that is suspended from the ceiling hammock like, by two strips or ribbon. Rubbed with chalk dust and plaster, its largely pink surface supports a glop of petroleum jelly coloured with yellow acrylic, and the shredded remains of two household rubber gloves, one pink and the other yellow."
Expressions are hurting, move outside 2008. cellophane, sellotape, petroleum jelly, paint, plaster powder, glass, polyethylene bags, concealer stick, lip gloss, hair conditioner, bath cream, tracing paper, hair spray, and lipstick.

Her pieces might cover large pieces of the floor or hang from the ceiling and in this way they remind us of a range of modernist art such as the dripped paintings of Jackson Pollock, the unusual and fragile materials of Eva Hesse's sculptures and the multi part works of process art.

The nail polish, hair spray, eye shadow and other substances allude not to an obsession with the female body's beauty but appeal more broadly to art's affective power. The decorative qualities, "the illusion and the lies."
Expressions are hurting, move outside, 2008 detail
"While there are ideas about psychological and emotional developmental processes held within the sculptures I make, the things themselves are actual physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating. They are parts of an ongoing learning, or search for understanding, through a material experience that has been prioritised over language" Karla Black
Division Isn't, 2008 paper, paint, chalk, polyethylene, sellotape
Division Isn't is a large sheet of brown paper painted with white acrylic and then stained pink with chalk dust. It developed out of a set of five works titled Opportunities for Girls.
Michael Archer says: "Part of what makes Black's work so compelling is the deft manner in which she accepts the achievements of 1970s feminism while at the same time taunting us, playing to the very stereotypes of male and female activity that feminism so ably deconstructed."

Karla Black lives in Glasgow. There is more about her work and a complete artist statement at Open Frequency
She was recently awarded 15,000 pounds from the Scottish Arts Council.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gabriella D'Italia

Black Finery
Cotton sateen, cotton batting, machine pieced, appliqued, embroidered, hand quilted. 64 x 64 inches square.

This piece is included in Quilt National 2009 and I photographed it from the catalogue (page 54). I've returned to it many times because I have found it to be very inspiring in regard to my own work in white damask. I love the way that this artist uses a single fabric cut into tiny regular pieces which are then pieced back together again. She makes a minimalist statement about cloth itself as well as referencing larger ideas such as individualism and community. I love this idea. It reminds me to look at cloth in a fresh way. What kind of cloth is it? Is it silk, cotton, linen and what are the characteristics of those fibres? How is it woven? What is its usual purpose?
Here is her statement from the quilt national09 catalogue.
Quilts embody ideas and have functional purpose in a domestic context. Through manipulations of fabric and stitching, I explore the intimacy between manufactured objects and daily living. The idea of finery emphasizes both the created nature and elevated status of this quilt. Its homogeneous, incremental piecing refers to elemental concerns, both material and philosophical, or relationships, boundaries, and scale, all framed in the context of home.
Interested in finding more out about this artist, I googled her name and found out about her gold quilts. Here is some of what she has to say from this website.
I work compelled by a reciprocal exigency exerted in alternation between materials and mind. I find expression of the simultaneously created and creative capacities of everyday objects through incremental change and elaborate specificity so I work in tiny pieces, as in my "Finery" series, and with repetition and similarity. Upon closer examination of "Gold Quilts", seemingly identical quilts reveal vast material discrepancies. I don't want to move past objects, or transcend, but to move further into them.

There are more images of her work on the Maine Craft Guild website.
Gabriella D'Italia lives in Newburgh, Maine USA.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Yoshiko Jinzenji

Star Connection, nylon, natural dyes, 68 x 83 inches

Yoshiko Jinzenji lives and works in Japan and in Bali. Her quilts are simple and to the point. They are spiritual, covered with hand work and attention to detail. They are like prayers. Baby quilts, bamboo dyed silk, hand stitch

She began quilting after she came upon quilts made by Canada's Mennonite people in the 70's and was moved by their resonant, sacred quality. When she attended the Mennonite Relief Sale she realized that the Waterloo area Quiltmakers played a role of global significance. "Women's handwork was making a huge contribution to the welfare of humanity, and that helped inspire my eventual decision to devote my own life to quilting." Ten Thousand piece quilt, Natural dye, cotton, 72 inches square

The energy in the repeated texture of the many seams and the understated colour make Ten Thousand Piece Quilt a minimalist masterpiece. All images in this post are from Quilt Artistry: Inspired Designs from the East, a book published in 2002 about Yoshiko Jinzenji's work. Versification II

Yoshiko calls the method used for the above quilt 'spiral block', a technique similar to the traditional log cabin technique in that the fabrics are stitched around a central square. What's different is the use of innovative materials such as titanic coated nylon and rubber in combination with silk, wool and cotton and the artist's use of piping cord to strengthen and enhance the wide variety of textures.
Dew II, silk, cotton, wool, linen, natural dyes including bamboo, 75 x 77 inches

"What I am striving for is to bring out and add to the essential textures of the cloth" she says. "to create shadows and light, to find a balance between minimalism and a sense of richness."

white repose
hand stitched bamboo dyed silk quilt 85 x 102 inches

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

John Mawurndjul

John Mawurndjul is from Maningrida, in North Australia. He was born in 1952 and has been intensely prolific for thirty years.

Mardayin at Mankarrard 2004 Ochres on bark 204 x 74 cm
Mardayin Ceremony 1999 ochres on bark 153 x 88 cm

I've gathered these images and information from a book just published in 2008 about the collection of Colin and Elizabeth Laverty, Beyond Sacred, Recent Painting from Australia's remote Aboriginal communities. The specific text about John Mawurndjul is by Apolline Kohen. Mardayin at Makkamukka 1998ochres on bark 158 x 78 cm

In 1989, his work was included in the landmark exhibition "Les magiciens de la terre" at the Centre Georgess Pompidou in Paris, France. During the 90's his work became abstract images about the rarely performed Mardayin ceremony. This is a ceremony about clan identity and about mortuary rites.
His paintings are on bark. I only have seen them in reproduction, but I imagine them to be wonderfuly textural and earthy in reality. Mardayin at Kakodbebuldi 1998 orchres on bark 154 x 64 cm

His work since 2000 are abstract representations of places in his clan estate. I am inspired by the way John Mawurndjul balances circles within intense backgrounds. His use of the cross hatching infil (called rarrk) in the backgrounds is innovative and has been a huge influence on other Kuninku artists. Mardayin at Milmilngkan 2003 etching on paper 60 x 35 cm

In 2005, the artist was given a retrospective of his work at the Musee Jean Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland that then travelled to Germany.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sue Hammond West

Wisdom Nerve paint, wool, silk, thread, objects on felt 72" x 72" 2006-2007 In 2007, I took a four day workshop with Sue Hammond West at the Surface Design Association conference in Kansas City. The class was called "Art as Quiet" and I loved it. Each session began with meditation. We painted with acrylic on scraps of upholstry material and stitched into them afterwards. We did not make small talk while creating and this encouraged each of us to work with inner passion. Abundance Magnent paint, silk yarn stitching, gold leaf on industrial felt , 72" x 72" 2006 Sue Hammond West also had an exhibition in Kansas City at that time and I was very impressed with seeing her work. It is very large and simple with barely tangible circles and organic shapes surrounded by large quanities of space. I found myself emotionally gripped by her work. numina paint, paper, mica, stitching on cloth 49" x 50" 1999 - 2004 She currently teaches at Naropa, the Bhuddist University in Boulder, Colorado. Tacit Longing paint, paper, rocks, flower petals on industrial upholstry cloth 59" x 60" 2003-2004 These images of her work are from her 2007 self published catalog of mixed media textile paintings as well as from an article about her work by Ginger Knowlton that I read in the spring 2007 Surface Design Journal. Nectarian Moonlight paint and stitch on industrial upholstery, 79" x 38.5", 2006 

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Ase Ljones

Thread Suns, 1999

Ase Ljones is from Norway. She uses hand stitching to make very contemplative surfaces relating to nature. I read about her work in Embroidery magazine Sept-Oct 2008 in an article by Jessica Hemmings.

Wandering Towards the South, 1999, 288 x 255 cm, cut rubber

The things she makes have a material beauty that she is able to combine with an ethical stance. She often uses recycled materials such as old inner tube rubber. Her work shows an extraordinary committment of time that is directly related to labour.
Intention is prioritised over speed.

modernist aesthetic

Memory of Wikwemikong detail 2008

I have started this new blog to give myself a place to keep images of art made by others that I am moved by. The more I look at art, the more I realise that I appreciate the beautiful simplicity of the modernist aesthetic.

I have made a list of over 150 artists and plan to post about each of them in the future, one at a time. While some of these artists already have huge web presences, many do not. This blog will gather them together for me - it's as if I am a collector or a curator. I hope that others will enjoy this collection as well.

From now on, the work on this blog is the work of artists I admire and not my own work. Although the image above is my own work, future posts will profile other artists who work with a similar aesthetic.