Monday, May 5, 2014

Dorothy Caldwell

Flying Over Salt Lakes,
stitching on cotton with earth ochre, approximately 13" x 16",  2013
Dorothy Caldwell has become an icon for textile artists, exhibiting and teaching around the world.  We Canadians claim her as our own, as she has lived in Ontario since the mid seventies, relocating here from the USA.   The images in this post are of Dorothy Caldwell's latest exhibition, Silent Ice, Deep Patience, installed in the Art Gallery of Peterborough March 21 until June 22, 2014.
Left: Map Without Words
9 feet, 4 inches, x 8 feet, 5 inches, Right: Silent Ice/Deep Patience, 23" x 23". both 2013
Upon entering, the viewer descends a long ramp towards the main exhibition space, welcomed by five small paintings made with hand stitch and earth ochres (see top photo) on the ramp's wall.  Then, through an opening in that wall, the two pieces shown above beckon.  Large scale, empty space, intimate marks.   We are in Caldwell country.
Wandering Time,
approximately 24" x 18", wax and silkscreen resist on cotton with stitching, 2011
In many of her pieces, Caldwell lines up coloured patches along edges.  She draws our eye up to the sky, then over to the west and the east, and then brings it back to the centre.  Line drawings are couched onto the surfaces, like trails.  Archetypal vessel shapes resonate.
wandering time, 2011, detail
Dorothy Caldwell's stitches recall the random repetition of the small marks we are familiar with in nature. Leaves fluttering in the wind, ripples in the water.  Some large, some small, some linear, some a splotch, some widely spaced, others packed together.  Footprints on a beach.
wandering time,  2011, detail

"My work is an ongoing investigation of the meaning of place.  I investigate how  humans mark and shape the land and how those human marks interact with the natural geology."  Dorothy Caldwell
Map Without Words,
wax and silk screen resist on cotton, stitching, applique, 9'4" x 8'5", 2013
We often meet in the centre in Dorothy Caldwell's world.  Four corners, four patch, grids, crosses, grid the large unknown to make sense of it. There is order within chaos here.  Human geography.  

This body of work is the result of the artist's travels to the Australian Outback and the Canadian Arctic. Interested for decades in how humans mark the land, (previous exhibitions Field Notes (1998) and Ground Cover (2000) this current exploration of wilderness landscapes is a continuation for the artist.  
Map without Words, detail
Dorothy Caldwell uses cloth as a vehicle to translate her observations because cloth is like the land. Cloth reacts as land does to human intervention.  Simple actions like wearing, mending, stitching and patching make marks on cloth just as farming, road building, and daily walks mark the earth.
A Red Hill, A Green Hill,
 ink wash, earth ochre on cotton with stitching and applique, 9'4" x 9'8" 2012
In the large scale tactile painting shown above, Caldwell applied ink wash and earth pigments to the cloth as a change from her usual resisted dye or discharge methods.   Thoughtfulness is evident.  The aesthetics of time and touch, evident.
A Red Hill, A Green Hill, detail
Small patches and marks that drift into atmospheric hazes when seen at a distance, are unique and very real human habitations upon close inspection.  The big thread used in the waves of rugged stitching along the lower quarter of this wall piece was rubbed with earth and connects with the viewer on many levels.
A Red Hill, A Green Hill , detail
"I am intrigued by maps and by the organization of land through patterns of settlement and agriculture.  I have come to see the dichotomy between conventional mapping that identifies intimate landmarks and simplifies them into abstract shapes and textures."  Dorothy Caldwell
How Do We Know When It Is Night?
wax and silkscreen resist on cotton, stitch and applique, 10 feet by 9 feet 6 inches, 2010
Little patches along each edge and down the centre,
bowls drawn as if with a giant pencil,
duality, in and out
How Do We Know It' Night?  detail
"Caldwell tells students that what an artist needs to learn more than anything is how to make time for their art"  Ann Jaeger
How Do We Know It's Night?  Detail
Caldwell's large pieces have balance, stillness
They cause us to think beyond the gallery
about the vastness of nature and how nature has its own system.
The larger seasonal cycles, the many small parts within vastness.
That human marks are revealed by time and accumulation,
then erased by wind, eroded by water, hazed over by weather.
Stain of earth, footprint of man, animal tracks through the forest,
like poetry, these things occur one by one and resonate with personal experiences that don't always have anything to do with land, more with relationships.
wax and silkscreen resist on cotton,stitching, applique,  8'9" x 8'0", 2014
The artist's most recent large work returns to her preferred methods of marking large pieces of cloth with resist techniques.  The subtle grid of the ground, a new linear shape, and the painted squares and crescents dotting the interior are atmospheric.

"Maps give a viewpoint of the land filtered through what is important to the mapmaker.  I am mapping unfamiliar territory, identifying my personal landmarks through gathering, touching and recording the contents of the landscape.  In this way I form a sense of place for myself."  Dorothy Caldwell
Signs, detail
This post is about the large scale work but there are also many small pieces exhibited as well as an entire room devoted to the artist's collections of shells, lichens, bones, rusty wires, journal pages, iron nails, and her many books of marks and collected earth pigments.  How the artist works with the land to make these 'maps' deserves its own write up.  The video of Dorothy Caldwell (click here) perhaps fills the gap.

Other internet sources for this artist:
Ann Jaeger's informative review of Caldwell;s life and work on trout and plaid online journal,
Barbara Lee Smith's curated exhibition catalog Traces ,
as well as Caldwell's own website and the CCCA artist profile .

Caldwell's exhibition was shown at the Idea Exchange in winter 2015 and went on to St Mary's University gallery in Halifax for March and April of the same year.  This review by akimbo halifax correspondent Daniel Higham was published april 7 2015.  Good to see some writing about this artist.  Joe Lewis also wrote a review in Fibre quarterly....have to find that for you and shall insert it here when I do. xx

The Dorothy Caldwell quotes in this post are from her statement found in Barbara Lee Smith's essay in the Traces catalog.  All photos are from the exhibition and are by Judy Martin with permission from Dorothy Caldwell.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Chiyoko Tanaka

red stripe #262 1988  24 x 18 cm, hand woven ramie, linen, silk, rubbed with brick
"Many of my pieces, once woven by hand, are laid down outdoors on the ground or on a rock.  I then rub them carefully with a stone or brick.  I want to touch the earth through this process, to trace the texture of the ground".  Chiyoko Tanaka

 upper: six squares, indigo blue, W #306 1994  lower: six squares, indigo blue, RF #305 1994
Chiyoko Tanaka, born 1941 Kyoto Japan, is a weaver who thinks about her work philosophically, comparing it to the human condition.   British curator, Lesley Millar's, essay about Tanaka is included in the Telos portfolio about the artist and informs this post.  The images of Tanaka's work are from that portfolio and from Art Textiles of the World Japan also published by Telos.  
six squares indigo blue W #306 detail
Chiyoko Tanaka uses linen, silk, and ramie threads.  She lays out a long warp which gradually disappears during the weaving process, covered by the weft.

Trace of a Leaf #151 1988

She considers the vertical warp threads to represent time and the horizontal weft threads to represent space.
The crossing points of warp and weft physically disappear from view, but continue to exist as integral to the fabric.  The accumulation of the weft threads represents time passing.  When she weaves, she thinks about the process as one of transformation.
Trace of a Leaf #151 detail

By grinding her newly woven cloth with earth, she exposes that original warp.  She unveils the essence of the fabric. "I feel that my woven work is about time and the human condition."  Chiyoko Tanaka
red stripes on white stripes #646 and #647. both 1985
Sometimes, instead of grinding her finished fabrics, she permeates them with mud or oil.  Tanaka distresses her fabrics, as if they were human beings going through a life time of both happy days and days filled with hard ships.
Trace of White Line #641 above, White Line #642 below, both 1985
"I want to see a spirituality behind a piece of my work."  Chiyoko Tanaka
Black Stains on Deep Green Stripes #52 1990
Tanaka uses bricks of clay from different parts of the world.  The brick is rubbed into the back of the fabric until it changes colour and at the same time, the face of the material takes on the patina of the ground.
It's like a performance. 
Three Squares, Blue Threads, Sienna #281 1997
The structural integrity of the warp and weft is revealed.   We can see time passing with the erosion of materials, but it is all done in the present moment. 
Three Squares, Blue Threads and Gray, #671 1997
Tanaka's work makes us aware of time passing, "neither looking for death, nor denying it, but accepting its place in the cycle of renewal"  Lesley Millar
left: red earthy clay #200 1985, right: permeated black #400 1986
Chiyoko Tanaka has an intimacy with nature.  She lives on the outskirts of Kyoto, close to natural space.  She has an awareness of the tempo of the natural world and this is the basis of her work.
Permeated Black #400  1986
When mud is used as a dye, it is left for a period of time so that it can 'permeate' the cloth.  Time is one of Tanaka's most important materials.
wall:  Blue #100-2 1983,  floor:  White, B #100-1 2983
What are you weaving, Chiyoko?
"I am weaving time"
 white mud cross, red thread #652 1992 19 x 19 cm hand woven ramie
"At the still point of the turning world.
...neither from nor towards.
At the still point, there the dance is."  T S Eliot

Chiyoko Tanaka was profiled in 2003 on Culturebase and again in 2010 by Kate Barber who visited her. 

mud dots on brown stripes #742, hand woven linen, ramie, dyed with mud  2009
She is represented by Brown Grotta  source of the above image.  (the most recent I could find)