Textile Exhibitions Montevideo, 4

November 14th, 2017

For the WTA VII Biennial here in Montevideo, Spain was the specially invited coutry, and several prominent Spanish textile artists participated in an exhibition at the Centro Cultural de España an exhibition – Doble ancho,tejiendo con arte/Double width, weaving with art, curated by Maria Ortega and Carmen Pellares.  Several artists showed more than one work, and it was nice to get a sense of a body of work from those.  All the works were interesting, with the emphasis very clearly on techniques combining fabric, thread and stitch, with only some using paint or dye surface design techniques before using stitch.   So technically speaking, most of the works were far closer to traditional needleworking techniques than many works in the other WTA Biennial VII exhibitions I’ve written about. Far from being a negative, this brought me back to the basics of stitch on fabric, where the process is one of holding the fabric, pushing the needle in, pulling the needle out, making some space for mental wandering, and if taking enough time to stitch an exploration of the idea in your mind, a resulting needle worked piece of art is produced.


This particularly applied to several works by Amparo de la Sota, and I think she may be an unwitting aficionado of the slow stitch movement – it’s a real thing over the past 3-4 years – google that term for many references to taking one’s time to enjoy the process, the meditative potential of repetitive hand work – and this appeals to stitchers across the spectrum of hand embroidery and hand quilting styles.


Amparo de la Sota, Spain,  Carta / Letter  approx  1.5m sq.
detail below

This piece I really loved, because of course, it is hand embroidery.  I could sense that calm she might have felt as she was stitching in black cotton on sandy-gold linen.  However when I read her statement it it meant much more.  To Amparo this work expresses her great interest in letters of the alphabet not only for their shapes and written and printed meanings, but the shapes and patterns of sections of text within those hand written letters from bygone days.  Then paper was an expensive luxury so that writers covered both sides of the page with lines of text going in several different directions superimposed to get the most onto that single piece of paper. It was an era when letters travelled slowly and a reply from around the world could take many months. Today we live at a different pace – I’ m not unusual in that I have hand written only two letters in the past year, but when I was young, we wrote several every week.

This second work, too, I particularly liked, though I could not find any particular reason why she chose the gingko biloba leaf as her motif, except it is a popular motif of an unusual plant that, until it’s discovery growing in a chinese monastery garden in C19, was known only through the fossil record.  As with a lot of Amparo’s work apparently (see link above and more) she likes to crochet lines of fine texture and sew these onto the fabric – a technique and look ideal for this particular plant.  I’d love to watch her actually working.

Amparo de la Sota


Raquel de Prada showed two works, both on delightfully mundane everyday subjects – first a group of bottles on a shelf, second a group of people.  Stuffed or some might say ‘quilted’, both pieces also featured irregular shaped cut-out edges, and as an artist who works in quilted textiles, I was thrilled to see the edge treatment of these works.  With all art but especially textile art I love to see people working outside the default rectangular box – though of course my readers know how much I like to work in grids, too, but I have done my share of irregular shaped works.  The use of fabric dyes to paint the fabric of the top/front layer is very light handed and impressionistic, like watercolours.

Raquel de Prada, Spain, Las botellas de Frankfort / Frankfurt bottles  approx. 180m W x 90cm H
Raquel de Prada, Spain,  Abuela diminuta con sus nietos / Little grandmother with her grandchildren  Approx 190cm W x 100cm H


Brezo Alcoceba, Spain,  Sumiko Noname  approx. 140cmW x  60cmH

The small photo I included in this collage of shots of this next work confirmed what I felt but wasn’t sure as I approached this dramatic work – that it is indeed a wearable work of art.  I lifted the photo from the catalogue – which had no accreditation 🙁  of either photographer or the artist who made the piece, so I hope no one minds.  The artist is Heather Brezo Alcoceba  of Madrid.  From reading about her work, it’s an architectural concept as clothing, made of wool felt.  I love it – and you could see it as some kind of vibrant pink chrysalis, which I’d love to wear as a glamorous show stopper, though perhaps it would add a bit much volume to my silhouette, but what the heck.  However she made it, it’s fabulous.


Maria Muñoz Torregrosa, Spain  Las lineas de mi mano/My hand’s lines each pair of hands c. 25cm x 25cm x10cm approx

The final favourite from this show is this work by Maria Muñoz Torregrosa expressing her acute sadness about a much loved son she is worried about or feels she has lost in some way.  The group of 10 soft sculptured pairs of hands have banners or chains of words (stiched over wire) strung between them, and within these lines the artist feels are answers or solutions to their relationship.  Did she consult a palm reader about this painful situation, perhaps? According to her statement, in her search for understanding, these short messages offer guidance and possibly comfort about the situation, as in ‘your absence fills everything’.  Thought provoking and profound.


Something Spherical, Continued

November 7th, 2017

On October 10th last, I wrote in this  blog about a new work, and showed the left part of the photo below:

Untitled work in progress:  machine piecing (left)  machine quilting (right)


Progress has been intermittent, but apparently like a phone app, my mind has been quietly working on in the background looking for a good title for this.  My custom is to start a list of words and phrases that could become titles, and add to it as I go along.  The list for this piece already includes Moonlight Sonata and Dark Side of The Moon (both really famous musical works already, so not hot contenders for this) but there’s Lunar Eclipse, Night Light, Lunar Grids… and about 20 more.  As I got into the shower this morning, the phrase “…Tears of the Moon” popped into my head, and I knew it followed something about the sun, but couldn’t remember the other part of the metaphor.  So I had to look it up – and where else but Wikipedia, that excellent starting point or, in this case, aide memoire ?   I quickly found what I’d forgotten – that the Incas referred to gold as Sweat of the Sun and silver as Tears of The Moon, and remembered that was the title of an outstanding tv doco series I saw years ago (before I ever came to South America) and I will look for it now to watch again.  As you can see by this extract from the Wiki page, this section of text alone could take me off on a full day at the computer, following interesting links and having a fascinating time learning new things, but I really want to finish the quilting on this piece while I consider a possible companion piece, plus, I’m listening to a fascinating audio book “Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, A 500-year History” by Kurt Andersen.

“Mama Killa (Quechua mama mother, killa moon, “Mother Moon”,[1] hispanicized spelling Mama Quilla), in Inca mythology and religion, was the third power and goddess of the moon. She was the sister and wife of Inti, daughter of Viracocha and mother of Manco Cápac and Mama Uqllu (Mama Ocllo), mythical founders of the Inca empire and culture. She was the goddess of marriage and the menstrual cycle, and considered a defender of women. She was also important for the Inca calendar.

Myths surrounding Mama Killa include that she cried tears of silver and that lunar eclipses were caused when she was being attacked by an animal. She was envisaged in the form of a beautiful woman and her temples were served by dedicated priestesses.”

It won’t be Tears of the Moon – that’s been done, but something good will come from this I know … Silver Eclipse ?…Silver Moon ?… and the app churns on.




Textile Exhibitions Montevideo, 4

November 3rd, 2017

On the top floor (no lift)  of the recently restored original Cabildo building Museo Historico Cabildo on the Plaza Matriz is a lovely small exhibition I’m glad I went to this morning.  Entitled From Within – Outside and Beyondthis invitational exhibition was curated by Beatriz Schaaf of Uruguay and Germany, hence the inspired, evocative, title.  I must confess it, I know little of felt making.  I have seen wonderful felt here (Siv Goransson) and in my home town Perth Western Australia, (Nancy Ballesteros) for example; I own a couple of fabulous scarves, and sometimes buy something made in UY to take overseas as gifts.  But I’ve never watched anyone making felt. I believe wool felts best of all because of its fibre characteristics, and I believe water plus your hands and arms are greatly involved.  Prominent felters in Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands and Uruguay were given Uruguayan wool to work with, to which most then added other wools from their own regions, plus in many cases incorporated other fibres, papers, cloths, natural materials and metals to produce their creations for this show, a lovely idea.  Here I present some of my favourites.


Margarete Warth, Germany, Vessels (Recipientes) variable sizes, max length approx. 20cm

To me these looked ceramic, but of course they are felt, and beautifully as-if-casually-arranged on an elegant marble mantle-piece in the grey-walled gallery.


Esther Weber, Switzerland/Italy, Revelation full (perhaps 90cm x 75cm) plus detail

I love the textures on this one, Revelation by Esther Weber, suggesting something growing and hatching or emerging from beneath the top layer… something organic and a bit disturbing perhaps, so I’m not going further down that path! (see post 3 in this series for my comments on statements and titles)  This is a perfect example of a brief title giving freedom for the viewer to mentally explore responses with minimal direction from the artist.


Gudrun  Bertenberger-Geyer, Austria  Hidos humanos / Human nests – silver (front) and gold (rear)  height perhaps 1.5m each

I managed to photograph these so that they hid the security fellow sitting behind them 🙂   They look so solid, like rocks or cement, but knowing they’re not, I really felt I’d like to climb in and see how nesty these feel.  As I say, I know little of felting technique, and it surprised me that someone could make such large forms -feeling sure that this comment proves my ignorance.  So I googled ‘3D felt shapes – how large can they go?’ and, well, I’d need to know how to crawl before walking this one, but clearly there’s a lot of interesting potential.


Claudia Fischer, Germany, collection of bowls, individually approx. 20cm diam, 15cmH

Each a bit different, with textural variations on the inside and outside, plus different edge textures (rims), these bowl forms were placed low down so you could easily see inside many of them, too.

Christine Rummel, Germany,  selected textural pieces.

Christine Rummel of Germany provided a large installation of panels of textures and a table to which were attached several little pieces people could touch and fiddle with, always a wonderful experience for viewers of all ages.  Textiles and fabrics are such an important part of our lives from our arrival in the world to our departure, and we expect to be able to touch them, but so often cannot.  (refer to the right hand panel of the top photo)  I just loved the grey and cream texture in the upper right of the panel, with little lips or protuberances of 0.25-0.4cm filled with something darker grey.  In the lower panel, very, very fine forms suggest something almost papery, like wasps’ nests or something very organic, and quite fascinating.  No, I didn’t touch them, but was very tempted.

As I write this, I realise this exhibition in particular has been very inspiring to me personally, and for that I send my thanks to ALL the exhibitors, including even those whose work I haven’t commented on.  Felting is very organic, somehow very ‘environmental’, and I will not forget this exhibition.   But there were a couple of negatives – the signage was tiny, often poorly lit and positioned way down close to the floor.  Good grief organisers, think a bit more carefully about making it easier for all people to access the relevant information – use larger signage, placed close to works at heights that don’t require visitors to almost kneel on the floor. (In another museum today, Museo Andes it was exactly the opposite)  And, further, I was stunned to find when I got home and consulted the biennial catalogue, that not only were not all images of pieces in this show included in the catalogue, but none were attributed at all – how very disappointing for everyone involved, and unprofessional to say the least.  I could not have written what I have if I had not taken photos at every point in this lovely exhibition.


Purnululu #7 in Melbourne, Australia

November 3rd, 2017

My much-travelled quilt Purnululu #7 will be appearing at the Into Craft Handmade Expo, Melbourne, Australia, in just three weeks’ time, from November 24 – 27.  If you’re going to that event, look for it in the SAQA exhibition “My Corner of The World”

Alison Schwabe, Purnululu #7,  2015


Textile Exhibitions, Montevideo, 3

October 31st, 2017

At the Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales   MNAV  until Sunday November 12th is an interesting invitational exhibition of 22 works by artists from several countries, curated by Alicia Haber.  It’s a large space, displaying some very large works, all of which have enough room to be enjoyed in their entirety without being crowded out by something nearby.

Of course, being a textile artist myself, it was interesting to see, as I expected to, the use of many techniques traditionally associated with textile art, and in all cases one or several of these were combined with non-traditional materials and /or newer digital technology to push the boundaries of the concept ‘textile’ and it’s role in Life.   After commenting on the incredible degree to which traditional fabric and thread techniques such as knitting, sewing, quilting, weaving and embroidery (and many more) blend and overlap in modern textile art, Alicia Haber writes in the catalogue introduction to this exhibition: “Current textile artists carry out experimental research, including games with gravity, use of light effects, use of transparency, inclusion of video art, integration of performance, composition with sound (and sic…) art resources, creation of soft sculptures, installations with fibres and videos, creation of wearable art, jewellry making, urban art applications, construction of settings and interventions, among many other innovations.  They do not stop before frontiers.”  

All artists had something ‘important’ to say in their statements relating to each work located on nearby walls.  These additional statements, however, were not included in the Biennial exhibition catalogue, and for some perhaps that is just as well.  Many were long, minor literary works, really.  Some were so complicated and drawn out that even in the English translations supplied I felt I had to work too hard to understand them, so those few I just abandoned, which unfortunately influenced how I felt about those particular works.  Someone famous once said “Less is more” which is so apt here. I believe a brief title should be the only ‘statement’ a good artwork needs.  In three or four words only, a title can nudge or prompt viewers to develop their individual response by examining their own associations of memories and feelings. Brevity allows the mental freedom to explore them without pressure from the artist to interpret or react in a particular way.

And so to the works which made it onto my potential favourites list.

Maria Ortega, Spain  Self Portrait  95 x 95 x 300cm

In this soft sculpture, Maria Ortega of Spain presented a personal statement of how exploration of her reactions and feelings generated from within her body help her to come to know herself and find what she termed her spiritual essence.  Her statement says different parts of her produce emotions and feelings. This is a veiled representation of her skeletal structure from neck, ribs and spine down to pelvic girdle, suspended inside of which are reproductive organs, heart and lungs, and possibly the stomach.  To present her vision without distraction from non-involved body parts, the head with face, other organs and limbs have been discarded. “With their own and independent language they (the body parts, ed.) speak of links, love, passion…lack of communication, censorship, lack of freedom and understanding or the narrative ability of my hands.”  I found this vision and it’s expression very powerful.


Margaret Whyte, Uruguay,  Hoy te pertenece, mañana no.  (Today it belongs to you, tomorrow it does not)

Margaret is known for large works often created in situ, and in 2009 I wrote of a Margaret Whyte exhibition at this same venue “Her sculptural works are large panels of colour, texture and shape …. richly ornamented 3D  large figures.  She uses a lot of paint on the canvas and then adds manipulated fabrics and other materials, perhaps more paint and large hand stitches and coils and drapes of wrapped stuffed tubes – the whole having a rather rich voluptuousness, a medieval costume quality, and yet sudden details disturb, such as fish hooks appearing from somewhere in the manipulated fabric…”  Though fully 3D this time, I think this description still largely fits her work today; a consistency of materials and techniques continuing to provide the framework for her comments on troubling social issues. Using her materials of choice – salvaged and recycled textiles and fabric-like materials, and using techniques of stitch, wrapped and coiled cords and stuffed shapes and more, Margaret presents a collection of bundled textile ‘things’ which to me suggested backpacks or ‘baggage’.  We are urged to consider rampant consumerism that is a societal response of dissatisfaction with rapidly changing, ephemeral, modern society.  It is true that the life cycle of any textile, whether made from natural or man made materials, is often associated with ugly social issues, which we usually don’t see,and rarely think about.  Margaret mentions violence, predation and cruelty, but I would add greed – taking effect in different places of the world as exploitation, modern slavery, ecological damage, environmental degradation by pollution; and this work urges us to look at and think a about these issues.


Beatriz Oggero, Uruguay,  ‘Fire’   7 modules of varied dimensions, 250cm x 50-70cm

Now this beautiful work, Fire, by Beatriz Oggero, I could live with, though I’d have to find another house with a suitable area to display it!  I’d love to have held it in my hands to help decide if it is knitting or crochet or something else – the artist said simply ‘Technica personal’,  but that isn’t really important, as it is without doubt ‘fire’. I felt that mesmerising effect we all feel in the presence of dancing flames.  It was accompanied by a lengthy statement on kinds of fires, benefits, dangers and more regarding ‘fire’ that waxed rather poetic much of the time, in one of those minor literary works I referred to above.  It wasn’t necessary and would have been more elegant to make no statement at all -as we all have plenty of good and bad experiences with fire to fuel our imagination as we stand in front of this wonderful piece.  (I dealt with ‘fire’ myself in a large wall quilt )


Ursula Gerber Singer, Switzerland, “Unidad en diversidad”,  9 figures 18cm x 18cm x 60-74cm

These figures delighted me, grouped as they were, seemingly interacting and some moving slightly, perhaps listening, maybe murmuring quietly among themselves, waiting, or watching something happen… they were sharing an experience anyway.  So human … and so when I read in the catalogue of the materials and techniques used I was really amazed – these are heat treated stainless steel wire (armatures) and mesh – they would be anything but soft and inviting to touch!  I forgot to photograph the artist statement, but they really spoke to me anyway, regardless of what Ursula Gerber Sanger might have written in that.


Amanda McCavour, Canada, ‘Boxes’ (Cajas)   67cm x 76cm x 30cm  plus some variable sizes.

Machine embroidery over a water soluble material, which, when washed away, leaves just the machine embroidery, including lines of cross hatching holding the stitching together in the form of a delicate looking, lace-like fabric, suggesting the fragility of thread and it’s vulnerability to unravel.  But once sewn in this way these transparent thread constructions have a strength belying that appearance, according to her statement here and on her website .  Amanda McCavour used sturdy fruit boxes just like these in several house moves, and states: “This piece is about travel, transport and moving, export and economy – contrasting stitching and embroidery with the mass produced object.”


Cristina Colichon, Peru, Mi vida como un tejido (My life as a weaving) 900cmW  x 25cmH

I loved this woven piece by Cristina Colichon, though I’d have liked to see a bit of colour in it as this did not show up very well against the predictable white gallery walls, but maybe that was part of the point.  This beautiful, sinuous work would always be subtle even against a coloured wall.  Cream cotton weaves over the clear nylon warp in a variable manner suggesting a braided stream, in the traditional technique handed down through the generations of craftsmen since the height of the Paracas culture. Moving closer to look more carefully I became very aware of how this meandering ‘stream’ flows, as a metaphor for Life, dividing and re-uniting from the ‘beginning’ of the life (which I took to be the far left corner) to the point at which I photographed the terminals of the various lines mid-wall: and just like an autobiography, which is never 100% complete, wrapped loose ends suggested the possibility of continuation – well that’s how I felt it anyway.


MNAV is always interesting and lively, particularly on weekends, so I recommend you gather a friend or two together and go down to visit this enjoyable thought provoking exhibition before its final day on sunday 12th November.



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