Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Anna Torma's transverbal series

Transverbal 3, 2010, hand embroidery on three layers of silk, silk threads, 143 x 130 cm.

Anna Torma's densely embroidered wall pieces have been inspiring Canadian textile artists since she moved to Canada from Hungary in 1988. The Transverbal series highlighted in this post have recently returned from their showing at the Rijswijk Textile Biennial at the Museum Rijswijk in the Netherlands. Transverbal 4, 2010, hand embroidery on three layers of silk, silk theads, 144 x 132 cm. Detail.

These pieces seem different than the artist's previous embroideries which juxtaposed her own children's wild and wonderful drawings with traditional stitches and tumultuous colours and shapes. Those marvelous and menacing drawings appear in these pieces more like ghosts. Crowded and connected with lines and circles, they seem to be in the process of becoming something other, as if in transformation. Transverbal 2, 2010, hand embroidery on three layers of silk, silk threads, 130 x 132 cm.

Anna Torma's transverbal series uses line. Lines that cross big spaces, outlines of circles that join to each other and linear abstract imagery. It seems as if the artist has made large doodles - (the works all measure about 5 feet square). Dream-like, confident, masterful these pieces are more than ever on the threshold of inner/outer. They are liminal. Perhaps even sublime.

With this work, Anna Torma enters the magic realm of Paul Klee, Cy Twombly, or Jackson Pollock. The specifics of the drawings are not as important as the general feeling of energy we feel from the whole thing. There is a kind of distraction because the eye cannot settle that carries the viewer into their own world of memory and dream. Transverbal 1, 2010, hand embroidery on three layers of silk, silk threads. 142 x 128 cm.

The wonder that impresses the most in these artworks however, is not just that the swirling lines have been so beautifully and intuitively drawn in a transverbal manner, but that they were then stitched. One stitch at a time, in an out with the needle. In and out, like breathing. The artist used her hands and touched these pieces repetitively for hours and hours and hours. This careful and caring touch to commit a line to soft cloth makes these pieces very powerful. It's as if the line that came straight from her inner self was made true and real with slowness and intent. Transverbal 5, 2010, hand embroidery on three layers of silk, silk threads. 142 x 128 cm.

Anna Torma's embroideries are all over the internet. Googling her name will bring up many blogs and galleries that highlight her work. Here and here and here are just three of those. Her own website may be the best place to start.
All of these images are from the Rijswijk Textile Biennial 2011 catalog published by Museum Rijswijk.


  1. Judy, thank you for post about the work of Anna Torma. How wonderfully rich it is...I have to see more (and who doesn't like lots of stitches?)

  2. thank you for introducing me to Anna Torma, I keep on learning so much about different artists on your blog Judy; I really like her work, the doodles and all those stitches....and even though I live in the Netherlands I did not see her work for real, what a shame; I must make an effort to visit more exhibitions.

  3. thnks for sharing this. so much time
    invested, and so memory like, layered.

    after visiting her web page i noticed a copy of a poetry book cover on my desk; color and line akin to Anna's. Looking it up, found it was a Basquiat image in oil stick and graphite. As if childhood memory-hand works its way "up" from within in multiple ways, minds. i liked this connection.

  4. http://www.amazon.com/Lannan-Literary-Selections-Michael-Dickman/dp/1556593775#reader_1556593775


  5. Lovely blog and lovely posts. I enjoyed looking through the wonderful artists here.