Melissa went out to see some shows; now she reports back.
Friday I went to the opening of this;
which features the work of jewellery artist Deirdre Hoban. This collection is an extension of her handmade porcelain square pyramid forms, which have shifted up in scale and mirrored to become full eight-sided beads. They are strung on predominantly 1mm diameter rope-style cord, and are really beautifully resolved, right down to the silver fixings.
She’s part of a show that includes mostly painted and drawn works on paper, but owing to material and colour choices, all of the works exhibited show shared interests and aesthetics.
I also saw a Phooey Architects retrospective – printed on recycled carpet tiles and installed in the Wunderlich Gallery at Melbourne Uni. Having worked in a design office in which we used recycled carpet tiles to ‘repave’ our space, I was impressed to see them printed on and used as an installation medium. I was also interested to learn that Phooey are no strangers to innovation with carpet, as they are responsible for the carpet seat in the entrance to 343 Little Collins Street, this building also being home to Seivers Jewellery Supplies.
I spent a lot of time in the space watching the slide show that was part of the install, seeing some great works with sea containers and learning their aesthetic. For a more detailed explanation I’ll pass you on to Butterpaper. (Oh, and he’s right about the smell, adhesive off-gassing in an enclosed room is not pleasant.)
Finally, I made the trek out to see Home is where the craft is which I mentioned last week. The installation took up the back yard – utilising the clothes line, the stakes in the garden, the garden furniture as well as the inside of most of the house – not including the study or bedroom from what I could make out.
One entered via the garden, which also doubled as the gift shop. The rear of the house – laundry and bathroom came first – had works within including a shower curtain out of squares of recycled tarpaulin and those large tartan-style-pattern zip up bags. This was the first piece to grab me, in a room which also showcased a bath mat on the adjacent wall. It was an ordinary looking recycled fabric bath mat, but in a less than ordinary position. In the laundry there was use of picture-tea towels as wall hangings and in the kitchen (as far I could tell) curtains. The kitchen/lounge transition wall hosted several framed cross stitch works, my favourites being needle point of Bettie Page and a Varga Girl by Louise Francis.
A more political piece (also in cross stitch by an artist whose name I forgot to record, sorry) on the home being whatever you wanted it to be (the statement elucidated that it was a comment on gay marriage rights) was above these pictures, but the sickly pink frame containing a mostly pink image left me feeling cold. It was reminiscent of the stereotypical “Home is where the heart is” cross-stitched and framed works, so it does strike me as funny that having subverted my expectation of what constitutes a political work I still somehow found it less effective. Maybe it’s because I know I could not stomach the frame in my personal space.
Through the kitchen was the lounge/living area, which was (as was the rest of the house) still fully habitable, but with a few extra additions on the walls, ‘on show’ cushions on the couch, the coffee table replaced with a central display and some side tables sporting foam heads with hats by Clem Bastow (I assume it the Clem Bastow, but I didn’t ask). Memorable from this room was the warning signs in cross stitch by Mae Finlayson and Jess Kelly’s hand stitched ‘Eucalyptus’ pendants on silver chain.
Finlayson’s signs were bold and related to the kinds of extreme events that are now threatening the home; fire, flood and the like. While I liked the geometry, I felt that leaving the rest of the needlepoint canvas bare made the work seem a little insubstantial. (If anyone saw the show and can correct me on this being cross stitch rather than needlepoint, I’d welcome the lesson.)
Jess Kelly’s works were of incredibly fine stitching, layered up to make leaves with varying hues across their surface. They looked as if hours and hours of contemplative travel time went into their construction as they were quite thickly built up (she mentioned they were made on her commute to work) and the POA label attached to them spoke of this, and their meaning to her as objects.
When I spoke to the woman sitting the show, she mentioned that amongst their reasons for installing at home was that these were personal works that related to the domestic environment. So yes, it made sense to see them there, as traditionally such works were conceived for the home, and in many cases (especially in your more frugally minded craft-persons hands) in materials sourced from the home.
Obviously the gallery has evolved to remove this context, and in this show you could see why. It was hard at first to detach myself from the idea that this was a personal space, especially since you were reminded everywhere – from the papers on the fridge to the low light from small windows and the aging paint on the walls. This made it seem to me almost in poor taste to judge the works, since I apply a different set of rules to works I see lovingly hand fashioned by my grandmother – for example – than to those created by a professional artist or craftsperson.
Conversely this proved also to be the strength of this show. Prompted by the viewing, which elevated the home to the gallery, and the knitter/sewer/cross-stitch-er of need to the realm of the artisan, I spent the next while in a reverie remembering all the gifts I had been given that were hand-made, specifically for me. I remembered the practical brown slippers knitted by my nan (and it dawned on me that she had known that they would get dirty fast, so brown was the colour they should be) and a phone call from a friend’s mum when I was about ten or eleven, in which, seemingly from out of the blue, she asked my three favourite colours. My next birthday gift featured white with some pink and a touch of blue.
In reminding me of all the simple acts of craftly kindness I have received my life – slippers and cardigans and tissue box covers and such, I thought first as I did when I received them as gifts – that they were acts of love, intended only for me. Having now seen similar pieces mounted and priced with artist statements attached, I realise that the gifts I received were also a statement of the creative identity of their authors.
In joyful acceptance of these gifts I was accepting the giver in their identity to me as a precious loved one, and unknowingly to me, my acceptance was also of them as a maker.