Monday, 22 November 2010
However, I was glad I made it. Never having been before, I was overwhelmed at the amount of yarn, stitch, crafts, beads and all sorts of other curiosities and wonderments associated with knitting ans stitching in one huge centre.
The textile gallery was of the most interest to me, and I particularly enjoyed the exhibition of my fellow students and staff at Manchester metropolitan University. It was to accompany the recently published Machine stitch perspectives by Alice Kettle and Jane McKeating. Both the book and the exhibition celebrate the beauty of the sewing machine and the vast amount of results it can produce.
The two are now working an an accompanying book, Hand Stitch Perspectives. Jane's chapters will include some of the communities in India, particularly Gujarat, working in hand embroidery, and some of the projects that are working alongside the artisans to help create sustainable markets for them.
Alice and Jane's work also featured in the MMU project Pairings which was exhibited in the university library from July to November this year. I was intrigued at the outcomes of the collaborative of artists from different disciplines and how two contrasting mediums worked alongside together.
The above work must have been influence by the envelope dowry bags distinctive to embroidering communities in India. Below is the back of one of these bags made by the Dhebaria Rabari community of Kachchh.
Friday, 19 November 2010
Celebrating with the locals, Holi 2008 in Hampi.
Wednesday, 3 November 2010
I've just come across lots of pictures from past exhibitions that I've visited. I meant to write about them earlier but have never got round to it.
'Men of Cloth' was at the Waterside Arts Centre in Sale, Greater Manchester from 3rd July to 4th Sep 2010. I can't seem to find out whether it is touring.
It was really refreshing to see a collection of beautiful art work in the textile medium produced by males when it has so often been an art associated with women. I though it was a really nice idea to collate this work into one exhibition, as it is a way of changing and challenging that perception of the textile arts.
This was especially after I had seen so much enthusiasm, passion and skill of the block-printing artisans whilst working with them in India, which is traditionally a male activity.
I have added some pictures of the work I particularly liked.
Michael Brennand-Wood I have always admired the forms his sculptural textiles take.
Matthew Harris explores the 'Symbiotic relationship between textiles and music'
James Hunting reminds me a little of Alice kettle. I love the soft painterly textures with striking details of delicate embroidery stitches in bold colours.
Kazuhito Takadoi This picture doesn't give justice to Takadoi's work, the delicate simplicity and sensitive homage to nature. I just found them so pleasing to look at.
Colin Jenkins - I was attracted to the way he brings what, to me seem like quite boring furnishing fabric swatches to life with quirky embroidered illustrations
Thursday, 30 September 2010
Above: The same star pattern seen in 4 different contexts. This was something that kept re-occuring.
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
I thought the patterns on this important looking man's coat showed similarities to Indian Ajrakh block printing and in colour also. Looking back at my notes, I can only make out that it is dated 2600 BC. Although I'm now not trusting my roughly scribbled translations from french, as it doesn't look this old. I will always take a proper notepad to galleries in future, and create a clear coding system for the photos
Geese seem to appear constantly in ancient artifacts, and seem to hold important symbolic meaning for the ancient civilisations that created images of them. They are also seen in the patterns on the oldest textiles in evidence found in Egypt, thought to have come from India.
Many other geometric patterns painted onto pots used similar patterns and in the similar natural colours in use today.
By the side of the vast Louvre is Le musee des arts decoratifs. A beautiful old building, it exhibited fashion, art deco and nouveau interiors, jewellery and other styles of decorative art, including a temporary exhibition of design using animal imagery - collection of very garish objects. For me the exhibitions inside were not as impressive as the building, although I did enjoy the exhibits of fashion by some of Paris' famous designers.
In complete contrast to ancient art were the eccentric, eerie sculptures on the pond overlooked by the dominating Pompidou centre. I loved just sitting and viewing these crazy objects, but if sat at night with few people around, I imagine listening to their creaking movements would have created a really eerie atmosphere.
There was something good to come out of missing our train due to the strikes. We had an extra day in Paris and hadn't yet had chance to see the Institut du monde arabe, which I had wanted to visit. We picked up one of the public velos and took our own tour along the seine. Paris architecture does amaze at almost every corner. And this was yet another fascinating building because of its uniqueness and contemporary design. I loved the continuous symmetry in the building's surface pattern that is such a big part of Arabic culture and Islam.
I loved the way geometrical and symmetrical patterns that are so often used in traditional Islamic art and architecture, were here applied to a contemporary context to create quite a striking effect.
Unfortunately you weren't allowed to take photos inside. The building inside wasn't quite as striking as it appears on the outside, although they have an extensive collection of Arabic artifacts and art. Pieces of contemporary paintings were exhibited alongside Typically we were there when they were renovating a whole gallery as well, so usually there would be a lot more to see.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Two storks nest, thought to bring good luck and success according to Moroccan suspicion, atop of a tower at some 13th century ruins.
Having a spare night between hotels booked in Fes and Marrakesh, we though we'd stop over halfway in the hills. However after a windy bus journey sat next to a boy being sick, arriving in Beni Melal to find it was much bigger, busier and stressful than the small mountain town we were expecting, not finding any guides to accompany us to the mountains and exhausted by the heat, we jumped in a grand taxi all the way to Marrakesh. We were frustrated to find the road was completely straight all the way after we had wasted money on booking a bus ticket for the next day, and a hotel checking in.
The djeema al fna was what made Marrakesh stand out from the other cities because I had never experienced anything like it. A vast open square, that is dead in the daytime but gradually comes to life at night, with water sellers, entertainers of all sorts, a mass outdoor restaurant, and stall upon stall of orange juice, cake sellers, dried fruit and henna painters. I was fascinated. As soon as you step into the depths of the musicians and magicians and the crowds watching in the depths of the dark un-lit square, it's like you are carried away into another world.
At the same time the mass, dark open space opens opportunity for hashish dealers, sleazy men seeking to relieve their sexual needs through hassling the hoards of western female tourists, and of course the opportunity for pick pockets is endless. I clutched onto my bag, warned off any dodgy looking men, and was ready with an aggressive Arabic phrase should any of them try anything, and immersed myself into the repetitive sound of drums and singing.
The whole time I was searching for storytellers after reading Tahir Shah's In Arabian Nights and becoming fascinated with the Moroccan and Arabic tradition of symbolic stories that have been passed down through the centuries. I thought there must be few if no story tellers left after only coming across musicians and conjurers, (the musicians might also have been telling stories but it was too difficult to grasp what they were singing about). However we finally discovered a large group surrounding one man who seemed to be part telling, part acting out a tale. Having an Arabic speaking companion was useful for this, (as it was during many other occasions on the trip). Although we couldn't stay long enough to catch the full story, as we were right at the back of a lot of people, strangely all who were men, which gave me more reason not to hang around!
Friday, 30 July 2010
What I love about Manchester is its' rich diversity and mix of so many different cultures and people. In one city lies so many hidden stories and pathways to completely different worlds, though the people that live here.
I also went along to some of the Manchester Jazz festival performances, which included a huge range of styles and fusions of music from all over the world. I loved the Serge Tebu project because of the surprising mix of sounds, particularly in the two women's voices which resonated beautifully with the violin, flute (which I'm always drawn to, having previously played jazz flute), and the fundamental jazz instruments of bass, keys and drums.
I have been searching for the origins of some of the patterns that are used today in ajrakh printing. As it originated in Sindh, this means looking to within this province for the meanings and stories behind these, and why they are so symbolic of both a Sindhi and Kachchhi person's identity.
This is one of the Ajrak cloths from Sindh, Pakistan, not dated but probably mid 20th century.
The patterns of Ajrakh are made up of symmetrically geometric forms typical of Islamic art. Ismail Mohammed says the patterns come from God, and it is said that the perfect symmetrical patterns reflect the perfection of God's creation.
The trefoil found on a stone king priest at Mohenjo daro can also be linked with patterns still used today. It is thought by some to have strong religious links to the trinity, the unity of powerful gods of the sun, water and earth.
The ajrakh artisans think their kakkar (cloud) pattern derived from this trefoil pattern
Having never visited Sindh, I have little knowledge on the province. I do hope to visit there and learn more about its fascinating history, and find out whether old traditions are still in practice, such as the use of these historic patterns in the printed and embroidered cloths. I do hope that, like Kachchh the crafts can continue and provide the world with a positive and hopeful view of the country and its people through beautiful products with important history and fascinating stories.
A wonderfully written book Empires of the Indus, by Alice Albinia, provides a compelling insight into the world of the Indus valley civilisation. While touring the length of the river, she speaks to communities now living along the river banks, as well as giving a historic narrative of who once lived in the same spots.
Friday, 9 July 2010
I was just in time to see the Quilts exhibition at the V&A although it probably wasn't the best time. It being the last week meant hoards of people were rushing to catch it before it ended. This included big quilting guilds and WI groups, tourists, families, school groups and all sorts. It meant we had to book a time to view it to reduce the amount going in at the same time. There obviously weren't limited places though, as by the time it came to my allotted time the gallery was heaving. I don't think I've ever seen so much people in one exhibition at once. It was nice to see so many people are interested, but I could hardly see each piece and it was a case of queueing up and waiting your turn to see each piece!
Not being a quilter myself, I don't think I have enough understanding to fully appreciate the skills that goes into the making of them. However I have always found them fascinating examples of an object that is both functional, aesthetic, stimulates memories of warmth, comfort and security and as works of art that hold a wealth of memories and history.
Quilting is finding a new lease of life through the new desire for hand-made that is increasing since the realisation in a decline in so many traditional crafts. The above quilt 'Punctuation' by Sara Impey was created while reflecting on letters she found written to her by a friend hinting at a past relationship. Like so many of the historical quilts, this one has also been made to document important events in the makers' lives and to be used as objects for remembrance and reflection.
I love this one by Pauline Burbridge 'Applecross quilt'. Rather than summon up memories and histories, this piece seems to convey the artists' love and passion for the countryside and rural landscapes. Quilting is a medium that allows the embroiderer to play with texture and stitch and in this piece these techniques have created effects of appealing landscape textures.
The high level of skill and artistic quality in the maps is amazing considering the limited technology available at the time they were produced.
It is interesting to compare the uses and meanings of these historical maps with the way maps are used today. Google's Street view tool is one example of new technology opening up a world of possibilities, for the use (or misuse) of maps.