Reviews/Visual Art

Telling stories by hand

7 February 2020

The works of the Holmes à Court Gallery’s ‘Fibre’ exhibition each carry traces of their makers, discovers Craig McKeough.

Review: Various artists, “Fibre” ·
Holmes à Court Gallery @no.10, West Perth ·
Review by Craig McKeough ·

The diverse collection of works on show in “Fibre” make a great leap over that imaginary gap between craft and art.

There should never have been any question that practices of weaving, felting, dyeing, stitching and the like could be regarded as forms of artistic expression. But there has been a tendency for some to consider it “women’s work” – more of a handicraft created with a practical purpose in mind rather than “higher art”.

In “Fibre” we see a disparate group of makers casting aside any such limitations. While overwhelmingly the artists are women, for the most part their purview is not the domestic, nor is their intent to produce something functional.

Each piece tells a story, whether personal reflection, family history, social commentary, political statement or a call to action.

Environmental concerns are most prominent in this commentary, with pieces by Angela Ferrola, Sujora Conrad and Anisa Hirte each making strong statements about ecological decline and the clash between humans and the natural world.

Carmela Corvaia, ‘Stepping Stones’, 2018

Holly Story delivers a stunning celebration of nature in Red Canopy – a massive stitched-together circle of blanket pieces with steam-printed karri leaf and seed impressions – but at the same time she seems to be reminding us how fragile it is.

In Horizon, Carmela Corvaia uses olive tree sticks wrapped in coloured felted wool to depict a sort of above-and-below landscape, a visually arresting piece that makes the viewer ponder the deep connections between elements of the natural world.

Others simply honour the beauty of nature in our backyard, such as Lesley Parker’s intricately rendered Hills Garden with its array of dyed and stitched felt pieces offering a burst of colour and life.

Similarly, the monumental batik-on-silk banners by Lindsay Mpetyane Bird and Emily Kame Kngwarreye that greet you as you enter the gallery make a bold, colourful statement about the joy of nature and our place within it.

Olga Cironis hits hard with her installation Naked Whisper, a collection of stools with decoratively woven seats piled high with utilitarian grey blankets sourced from Rottnest Island, with hints of their previous use in situations of displacement and unrest. And she makes a personal declaration of self in I Am What I Am, a blanket stitched with found materials spelling out the title in no uncertain terms.

Mark Dustin tells a thoughtful family story of his grandfather’s life and war service in a pair of imposing yet delicately rendered screenprints on large pieces of felt.

The fibre used in this exhibition covers a spectrum, ranging across blankets, clothing, cotton thread, paper, plant matter and even human hair.

It is an enlightening and rewarding experience to see how each artist has strived to repurpose and rework familiar materials to tell new stories.

And the artworks are all the more powerful for the traces they carry of the maker’s hands – literally stitched, bound or wrapped into the finished piece – revealing their desire to communicate something important about life, culture and identity.

“Fibre” runs until 14 March 2020

Pictured top is one part of the “Fibre” exhibition. Olga Cironis’s ‘Naked Whisper’ and ‘I Am What I Am’ are featured in this photograph.

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Author —
Craig McKeough

Craig McKeough is a writer and visual artist, with a lifetime’s experience in journalism, covering everything from the arts to horse racing, politics and agriculture. Craig has always been drawn to the swing; an egalitarian, grounding piece of equipment where you can go as high and wild as you want, but you’ll always return to where you started.

Past Articles

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