Various artists: Tension(s): 2020 Tamworth Textile Triennial and Jeremy Brown: Home Grown. Craft ACT. Until May 14. craftact.org.au.
The 2020 Tamworth Textile Triennial travelling exhibition at Craft ACT has over 21 artists and includes the Tjanpi Desert Weavers and Yinarr Maramali. They have responded thoughtfully to the cultural premise of the exhibition, a theme of tension - state of being that aptly reflects the current zeitgeist of unease and apprehension. The artists have drawn on their observations of the world with an awareness sharpened by 2020 COVID restrictions. Their work is informed by wider ecological concerns as well as their own personal experiences. The exhibition has an additional layer of viewer involvement through technology (custom AR applications) to access an immersion in each artist's work practice.
The initial mood of the exhibition seems bleak indeed as the majority of artists are deeply affected by the destruction caused by natural disasters and environmental degradation, the #MeToo movement and the relocation and alienation faced by refugees and migrants. All this seems as relevant today as it did in 2020. However if the exhibition seems daunting initially, closer involvement with the works brings deeper understanding and engagement.
Julie Briggs and Kelly Leonard's collaborative work Curation of Shadows is a burnt cloth with only the remnants of stitched words remaining. A video records the textile being burnt in a "landscape shadow" (a term the artists explain is used to describe the exploitation of a landscape to remove minerals et cetera). The remains of the textile are poignant symbol of this land exploitation.
Another form of degradation is the residue left over from our modern dependence on plastic. Linda Erceg's work Biomorph is a constructed tangled sculpture made from the waste plastic floating in our oceans and making up landfill. Erceg questions the way living organisms can co-exist safely alongside this ever growing mass of manufactured detritus.
Canberra artist Dianne Firth's Blown by the Wind - a beautiful, restrained, subtle work - also has a deeper message that highlights the destruction to the topsoil and vegetation of the land caused by climate change.
Soraya Abidin's Malay Shamanic Headdress and Sai-Wai Foo's work Children of the Sun use apparel to explore the effect of cultural interplay and tension. Abidin's head dress, dazzling in appearance, is made using cultural traditions and construction techniques from the artist's Malay and Scottish families. Sai-Wai Foo uses his beautifully constructed garments to investigate the stereotypical images of the Chinese that are perpetuated in popular culture that can form our Western preconceptions of Chinese migrants.
Gillian Bencke's A case is a chilling indictment of sexual abuse. Small "beasts" like rag dolls dangle in the air. They are calculated, as the artist writes, "to unsettle, to stir up", their multifaceted decorated appearance suggesting the wider nature of the experiences suffered by so many people. Like the #MeToo movement the artist wants to "stir the air" and create a sense of unease that will cause more questioning and more action. And that in a sense is also what the artists in this exhibition have striven to achieve.
Home Grown is an exhibition by local artist Jeremy Brown and is his tribute to the trees in the streets of Canberra. Brown's elegant stools are made from felled Canberra street trees. Each stool is accompanied by delicate botanical drawings of leaves that indicate the wood used for each stool. Among the trees depicted are the claret ash, the English elm, London plane, pin oak, river oak and silky oak. This concept of uniting the furniture to its wood source is a fruitful one with many more possibilities to explore. I hope Brown will take the concept further in developing his practice.
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