Repeat ². Various artists. Megalo Print Gallery, 21 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston. Until August 20.
There is something special about handprinted textiles – the human touch.
Artists and designers in the 19th century set out to counter the "dark Satanic mills" of the Industrial Revolution with handcrafted products and the great William Morris handprinted his textile designs, employing the risky indigo discharge print method largely using natural dyes. Various forms of batik and screen-printing became widely employed in fabric printing in the 20th century, with the Russian Constructivists making some of the most breathtaking and memorable fabrics early in the century.
Megalo in Canberra has developed a well-equipped fabric screen-printing studio with a fabric printing table that can accommodate up to eight-metre lengths of fabric and full photo-transfer facilities with a large exposure table. Great art facilities generally attract good artists and the situation is no different in the area of screen-printed fabrics.
Repeat ² is an exhibition that brings together two well-known artists, Annie Trevillian and Julie Ryder, plus four younger emerging artists, Estelle Briedis, Chris Burton, Megan Jackson and Jemima Parker.
Trevillian is a Megalo veteran, who has used its facilities since its earliest days at the Ainslie Village and has taught fabric printing at the CIT and the Canberra School of Art. Her piece in this exhibition, Trees, a screen-print on hemp, belongs to her ongoing series of treescapes, where repetitive tree shapes, in different colours, create a strong and effective design of considerable subtlety. She has a wonderful grasp of space, so that the designs breathe and allow the delicate colours to establish their presence. They are atmospheric expanses of fabric that draw the eye into closer inspection.
Ryder is an unusual textile artist, who has moved from a professional practice in science to a professional engagement with the visual arts over the past 25 years that she has spent in Canberra. She combines a conceptual underpinning for her art with a strong sense of design. Her swatches in this exhibition consist of relatively small-scale screen-prints on various fabrics that are inventive, experimental and visually challenging.
Of the emerging fabric artists, Briedis is one of the more interesting with her series of screen-prints on cotton. She has been the recipient of the Megalo Emerging Artist Support Scheme and has spent time at Megalo as an artist-in-residence. She works from details of objects observed around her, plants or architecture, which she then abstracts and out of these designs creates a densely interwoven pattern. The patterns are effective, bold and stand out in space.
As more and more people seek a sense of authenticity within an interior decor, handprinted fabric art is experiencing a resurgence in popularity. Megalo is positioning itself as a leader in this field.