Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Barbara W Watler and the Fingerprint Collection

Illustration: Barbara W. Watler. Fingerprint series #50: Unity.

The textile artwork of Barbara W. Watler is intriguing in more ways than one. She gives us blown up images of small, intimate areas of life that we might well recognise as belonging to part of the near micro world. Through her unique imagery of the natural world that she sees around her, the artist allows us to connect to the intimate and the solitary, pinpointing the stand alone elements that make all aspects of the natural world unique. She helps us to understand how utterly unique and diverse this world really is.

Illustration: Barbara W. Watler. Fingerprint Series #46: Vortex.

Watler has a number of differing projects and sets of work, but probably her most well known series is that of her Fingerprint collection. This series of art pieces that now number more than fifty, is continually growing and transforming as it develops. It deals with the all too human twin obsessions of identity and the loss of that identity. Fingerprinting is a near unique aspect of our human world, one that cannot be quantified, packaged, or mass-produced. It has been a unique feature of the thousands of generations before us, the six and a half billion of us today, and of the thousands of generations that will follow us. In some respects these are large abstract maps of our own individuality, showing us that we are more complex than we often appreciate.

Illustration: Barbara W. Watler. Fingerprint Series #46: Vortex (detail).

By concentrating on this aspect of human development she has in fact pinpointed, through compositional means, both a uniqueness that is such an integral part of the ideal of the individual, and through that the uniqueness that can easily be attributed to each of her works in this series. All are unique and all stand alone. This one of a kind perception underlines and matches the same values that can be found in the human species.

Watler takes the simple idea of honing in on a small element of the human body and expanding it to utterly fill a composition. However, although the idea itself may appear to be simple, it is full of meaning and sophistication. By highlighting the seemingly inconsequential aspect of the end of a finger and allowing it to fill a compositional space to the edge, the artist gives the fingerprint the emphasis it has always had in nature, but which is so frequently neglected in our own human world.

Illustration: Barbara W. Watler. Fingerprint Series #16-20: Painter's Prints.

The uniqueness of each and every one of us is often underplayed and trivialised even amongst our own species. We have become, over the last century and a half, standardised consumers. The retail, financial and media empires regularly bracket us within spending and lifestyle parameters. To class us as individuals within our contemporary world is counter productive. It is a world that no longer values our uniqueness, but sees us as part of the mass production machinery.

Watler gently reminds us that although we may well be part of a mass organism of six and a half billion units, each of those units is a specifically unique, never to be repeated individual. For us to forget that fact puts our humanity in jeopardy.

Illustration: Barbara W. Watler. Fingerprint Series #42: Elephant Print.

Barbara Watler work has been seen in various exhibitions across the US. Her unique style, both within the Fingerprint series and beyond, has proved both popular and successful. She has a comprehensive website where much of her work can be seen, a link to which can be found below in the reference links section below.

All images were used with the kind permission of the artist.

Reference links:

Monday, July 12, 2010

Jette Clover and the Graffiti of Life

Illustration: Jette Clover. White Wall 1, 2009.

The work of the textile and mixed media artist Jette Clover deals with the graffiti of life. She has chosen to represent the visual language of the human species through the use of the written, rather than that of the spoken language. This is an important point to make, particularly as the written word becomes evermore increasingly vital to the everyday running of our contemporary world. However, although written language itself is relatively new in comparison to the age of the human species as a whole, representational markers of our presence have long been seen as a necessary part of our lives. Whether writing with recognised lettering, pictograms or other symbols, all are representations of both the individual and the culture they inhabited. It is this recognition of the potential of the individual through mark-making in whatever fashion, which seems to be at the heart of these particular pieces of textile work.

Illustration: Jette Clover. White Wall 2, 2009.

The six pieces of work shown in this article were produced by Clover in 2009. It is relatively easy to recognise the influence and inspiration of the partial layering that can be found on a poster plastered wall in any contemporary town or city. These multi-layered poster walls can easily take on the guise of fragmentary messages that are visible through layers of information. Clover has cleverly drawn analogies between this imagery from our contemporary world, and given it meaning and dimension well beyond its immediate remit.

Illustration: Jette Clover. White Wall 3, 2009.

Clover is interested in not only the scattered and disconnected markers left by generations of the human species, but more importantly to all of us on a much more personal level, the wish to leave a presence of ourselves in some form. Graffiti itself can be seen as a wish fulfilment of the human spirit. I was here is perhaps the crudest but most effective form of at least partial celebrity if not full-blown immortality. To be remembered, if only partially, is all that many of us wish, and future generations may well understand us only on a level that can be recognised through Clover's work, a letter here a number there, all the rest has been obliterated.

Illustration: Jette Clover. White Wall 4, 2009.

It is this obliteration that is interesting within this specific set of work by Clover. It is called the White Series, and although, to some extent it is an exercise in the exploration of the lack of colour contrasts and the simplicity that can be found in shades of white, it is also a representation of much more.

We as individual observers have to peer at the visual vocabulary that has been set out for us. Very little is made clear to us and we can only surmise as to the messages that were originally intended. This gives us a very acute awareness as to how future generations observe and portray the past. All that was our lives has been truncated and randomly edited. This is not who we were, but it is who we will eventually become. To see and interpret the human species, and through that the human condition, through a partially whitewashed wall is an extremely clever and sophisticated analogy, and all admiration has go to the artist fir portraying it as such.

Illustration: Jette Clover. Whitewash, 2009.

The visual vocabulary shown in these pieces of work are of such a permanent and instantly recognisable nature. They so clearly represent the human capacity and longing to project meaning with words. More importantly still is the longing to project life and longevity into those words. What appears at first to be nothing more than the transitory nature of poster art becomes a need for both the continued representation and even hope for the perpetuation of countless successive generations.   

Jette Clover has shown her work extensively in both North America and Europe. She has been featured in a number of publications, also on both sides of the Atlantic. She has a comprehensive website where much more of her work can be seen, along with an extensive list of exhibition highlights where her work can be seen through till Summer 2011.

Illustration: Jette Clover. Whitewash 5, 2009.

All images were used with the kind permission of the artist.

Reference links:
Jette Clover website

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Rayna Gillman and Fragments of Memory

Illustration: Rayna Gillman. Kaddish.

In this particular series of artwork pieces textile and mixed media artist Rayna Gillman appears to deal in fragments of generational memories. These are often physically overlaid in her work and can sometimes resemble a collaged and annotated journey. However, there is always more than one way to tell a story, even a fragmented one and Gillman's work gives us a creative glimpse of the magnitude of what has been lost and the fragile nature of what little has been saved.

All the examples shown here of Gillman's work seem connected to the idea of the transitory nature of human life. They give an indication of how tantalising are the memories of past generations and how, in time, they become little more than so much scattered detritus with very few, if any connections to the contemporary world that they helped to produce and in which we inhabit.

Illustration: Rayna Gillman. Cacophony.

It is the casualness of recent generations, twinned with the relentless built-in obsolescence of the consumer market, which has shaped a world of discard and indifference. This lack of regard and respect for the past, whether it be in the form of a kitchen utensil or the lifespan of an individual, is beginning to have an effect on the contemporary world that we live in. We are faced with mounting piles of disconnected memories that can be clearly seen at any local carboot or garage sale. These sales include not only the fashions and fads of the recent past, but perhaps more troubling still, the discarded family portraits, letters and other personal ephemera of lives no longer seen as relevant or having any merit.

Illustration: Rayna Gillman. Early Frost.

By reusing and reconstituting these vulnerable and precarious fragments from the past Gillman offers us a compositional story that although broken and disjointed, refuses to dissolve and disintegrate altogether. She, in some respects, underlines the fragmentary nature of our world's view of the past. We have glimpses of old photographs, personal correspondence and other items that a human life leaves behind them. It is very little and very transitory, but perhaps that is the point. The imagery from past lives can never amount to anything solid enough to remotely identify itself as a character or a life. It is even unimportant whether or not these fragments are linked to the same person. What is important is that they are memories, small tokens of a life that we will never be able to experience in the round.

It is fascinating to explore the work of Gillman and try to explore these remnants of life and to see how the artist incorporates them within a composition. She reproduces hand written work that quickly becomes a textured background, while photographic portraits become isolated islands within those textured backgrounds.

Illustration: Rayna Gillman. Endpaper: Epilogue.

Text in all its forms has proved to be a rich source of inspiration and resource for this particular group of Gillman's artwork pieces. Text can have a powerful foreground affect such as can be seen in banner headlines, which grab immediate attention. However, text can also have a more soothing, personal and comforting effect, especially in the form of hand-writing. It is in this form that Gillman uses text to good effect. By using it as a background texture, it can be seen as in some ways handing us perhaps more personalised glimpses of lost lives. Even though the words may not be legible, it is more important to recognise the fact that they are generational and part of a heritage and a vast data bank of memories that is fast slipping away. If we are unwilling to change our outlook and attitudes towards the casual discarding of the past, then perhaps it is for artists such as Gillman to recognise and to document that passing, if nothing else.

Illustration: Rayna Gillman. Momento.

This article has featured only a small sample of Gillman's work.  A much larger gallery of work can be seen on her comprehensive website. She also has a regularly updated blog where her working process can be explored. Both of these sites can be found in the Reference links section below as well as an Amazon link to Gillman's book Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth, and a dvd of Quilting Arts Workshop Printing From Your Pantry.

 All artwork was supplied with the kind permission of the artist.

Reference links:
Rayna Gillman's website
Rayna Gillman's blog
Create Your Own Hand-Printed Cloth: Stamp, Screen & Stencil with Everyday Objects
Quilting Arts Workshop Printing From Your Pantry: Gelatin Monoprinting

Friday, July 02, 2010

Creative Dyeing from India Flint

Illustration: India Flint. Original textile work.

The Australian textile and dye artist India Flint has taken elements from her family history and turned it into a creative journey that gives the impression of becoming a lifelong one. Flint has always been intrigued and imbued with her family's make-do-and-mend attitude. An interest that has taken up her family's particular practical interest in textiles and natural dyeing, expanding the experience to produce work that is staggering in its range of complexity. Using a variety of raw materials and experimental processes, she has managed to deliver an ever-widening range of unique colours and textures.

Although this article could well concentrate purely on the textile artwork of Flint, it seems more pressing and relevant to focus on her groundbreaking work concerning the natural dyeing process. It is her belief in achieving a near-zero impact, within a textile dyeing capacity, that has become an inspiration to others not only in Australia, but also across the globe. It is a belief that could will impact on all those involved within textile art and crafts and seems well worth expanding within this article.

Illustration: India Flint. Dyed paper work.

One of the major concerns troubling the modern textile world, whether professional or amateur, mass or hand-production is the impact that textiles and particularly that of the dyeing process, has on the environment. Commercial dyes are both hazardous to the world around them, whether that be the natural world, workers who produce and are employed within the industry, or communities that depend on that industry. Flint herself has taken the stand of only using specifically naturally sourced dyes in her work. However, she has pushed her personal beliefs and judgements concerning natural dyeing much farther than most. She has in fact produced an ongoing dyeing project that aims to project and publicise the natural dyeing qualities to be found in many, if not all vegetable plant life. This is not a case of using onion skins to produce insipid tones of yellow. Flint has produced a startling spectrum of colour and tone variety from forms of plant life that most textile users would never dream of finding useful or relevant.

Illustration: India Flint. Dyed paper work.

The images portrayed in this article were all produced using various hand-dyeing techniques and processes, some on fabric, others on paper. It seemed important to emphasise the staggering range of colour variation that Flint has been able to achieve purely through the natural dying process, and this surely must be an inspiration and guide to us all. Her ongoing experimentation with raw materials for dyeing, using both the mundane and the obscure, must in time be seen as a unique and important record towards the vocabulary of the natural dyeing craft that will be used for generations to come.

It can only be imagined where this rich creative journey will take Flint next. So many of us either take the natural world for granted or use it as an observational tool for compositional or inspirational work only. However, few of us nowadays see the natural world as forming any part of a practical function, and if we do, it is usually extremely limited in scope as to its practical and personal relevance. Flint's seemingly universal inspirational use of raw materials within the dyeing process surely must make us think again about the natural world around us. Our world is much more versatile and useful than we have been led to believe. If Flint can achieve such inspirational colours and tones from personal experimentation and a belief in the ability of the natural world around her, you have to wonder what could really be achieved if all those inspired by the world of textiles were to use the same level of experimentation and unfettered enthusiasm.

Illustration: India Flint. Textile artwork.

Flint's journey of experimentation and exploration should be a revelatory inspiration to all those involved in textiles. It is an art and a craft that by its very nature embraces the inventive, the investigative and the exploratory. To be able to push the boundaries of any aspect of this world should be a natural reaction and any individual artist, craftsperson or designer who does so should be applauded.

Flint has exhibited across Australia and extensively within Europe. Her work can be found in a number of collections on both continents. She has produced stage costumes for contemporary dance, has been involved in a number of publications promoting natural dyeing and runs various workshops. All this information and more can be found on her comprehensive website. Anyone wishing to follow Flint and her creative journey should sign up to follow her regularly updated blog Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost. Links to Flint's website, blog and books that are available on Amazon, can all be found below within the Reference links section.

Illustration: India Flint. Dyed paper work.

All images were provided with the kind permission of the artist.

Reference links:
Eco Colour: Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles
Felt (Handmade Style) (Handmade Style)
Island Life: Inspirational Interiors