Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Abstract Finesse of Textile Artist Marion Coleman

Illustration: Marion Coleman. Untitled, 2007.

These four abstract textile art pieces by Marion Coleman, are all linked through a series of commonalities, colour, texture, and pattern. However, probably the most obvious and noticeable link is that of her use of patterned textiles. In these particular pieces, she uses a mixture of locally American sourced textiles and perhaps more importantly, a generous supply of African sourced textiles. It is the use of the decorative and mark-making capabilities of these specific African cotton fabrics that allow the abstract compositions to be so successful.

The power of decoration within an abstract setting could be classed as counter to the ideas of abstraction itself, but in reality, these repeated decorative patterns become all the more powerful because of their relationship with, and their dependence on each other. The sense of balance between the differing qualities of the fabrics, whether that be through size, texture, colour, or tone, are all placed within the composition to both balance and complement.

Illustration: Marion Coleman. When Leaves Do Fall, 2007.

Coleman is an expert in this field and her compositions appear effortless, which is to deny the difficult and often complex task of the distribution of fabrics, many of which can often fight and clash with each other. Abstract quilting can, in many respects, be one of the hardest forms of quilting in which to achieve a satisfactory result. There are few rules or frameworks to work within and compositions are largely left to the skill of the artist.

The more you study these abstract Coleman pieces, the more you can understand about the balances, compromises and relationships that she has forged with both fabric, colour and decoration. The result she has achieved appears effortless, which is as it should be. However, the result cannot disguise the intrinsic creativity and inbuilt compositional quality of the artist.

 Illustration: Marion Coleman. Serengeti 2, 2005.

Coleman's work forges a link between textiles and fine art painting. It is often hard for textile artists to achieve any standing outside their immediate medium. However, through these pieces and particularly that of her more immediate and relevant textile work concerning the profound social and cultural changes within her own African American community, she has been able to tap into an element of relevance and significance that sometimes only fine art can achieve. That she has been able to achieve this through textiles is an achievement in itself.

Marion Coleman has exhibited her work extensively across the US and into Europe. Her work has also been featured in a number of publications and she has a number of awards to her name. She has a comprehensive website which can be found here, where much more of her work can be seen other than the abstract pieces I have featured. Also of interest is the fact that she has a regularly updated blog By a Thread, which can be viewed here.

Illustration: Marion Coleman. Crimson In The Mist, 2005.

All images are shown with the kind permission of the artist.

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pansypoo said...

i like serengeti, but i just love the colors

Gerrie said...

Beautiful work.

Sharon A. Keyser-Jackson said...


John Hopper said...

Thanks for all your comments. The next textile artist to be featured will be Helene Davis.

frazzledsugarplummum said...

Thanks for sharing. Marvellous pieces. Have been following Marion for a while.

John Hopper said...

Thanks very much for your comment. This article is going back a few years now, but it is sometimes nice to raise something out of the archives and give it another look :)