Eye-Opening Grids

May 25th, 2018

Browsing online recently, I discovered the beautiful textile art of Canadian artist Chung-Im Kim .

Born in South Korea, and for nearly three decades resident in Canada, Chung-Im’s art interestingly and successfully blends her cultural past with her cultural present. Traditional Korean bojagi are some of the cultural roots to which Chung-Im periodically returns for inspirational refreshment; and in one body of work these well-known traditional textiles have become canvases for print and stitch compositions.  But it is her dimensional, sculptural work with felt that blew me away, with alluring titles of groups of work in her portfolio – pre-grids, grids, free grids, living geometry and miniatures.

Felt is made from a large variety of natural, synthetic fibres and blended fibres, with wool felt considered to be one of the oldest textiles in human history.  Late last year I wrote of an interesting exhibition by some international feltmakers in the textile biennial here in Montevideo, and though I have found and bought some beautifully crafted felt things down the years, I’ve still never seen anyone actually making felt, and have never seriously considered it as a ‘raw material’ for my own art, though I am aware of artists such as Rebecca Howdeshell US,  Siv Goransson UY and Australian Nancy Ballesteros.

Chung-Im describes her materials and process as industrial felt screen printed with digitally engineered images, which she presumably cuts into, and then assembles the remaining pieces by hand, for which see this image.  So I googled ‘industrial’ felt, and now understand ‘felt’ to be a huge field, more varied than I’d ever thought about, and of large scale manufacturing of felted fibres of various kinds and blends with industrial applications including carpet underlays and gaskets for use in some machinery. The most interesting site I spent time on provides sizes of pre-cut and rolled felt from small custom shapes, various page-sized sheets up to huge rolls of various widths and thicknesses, depending on the buyer’s requirements.  I immediately began developing a mental list of ‘buyer’s requirements’ to ask about, and it almost makes me want to ditch my woven fabrics and clear studio space for some industrial felt supplies … No, I doubt I’d take such a radical step, but some ideas a percolating, and as I do have some small pieces of craft felt around, some time I might paint, monoprint or stencil something on it of my own design, or look into getting something printed, as a canvas for embroidery, perhaps.  Felt as a non-fraying material with some body or stiffness is inspiring…but I digress.

These works really opened my eyes to the potential of ‘grids’, and to the realisation that I may have been interpreting ‘grids’ too narrowly, despite several posts on the subject, like this one .   Isohyets, topographical maps, aerial photos, erosion patterns, in fact all kinds of contour lines associated with diagrams, maps and charts all come flooding into my mind when viewing these works.

Chung-Im Kim, dawn,  2012,   71 x 60 x 6 inches.  Image artist supplied.

Chung-Im Kim, nalgae,  2012,  43 x 44 x 5 inches.  Image artist supplied.
Chung-Im Kim,  baekya 2009, 46 x 47 x 4 inches.  Image artist supplied.

These and many more works on her website show inspiration from landscape shapes and patterns of surface textures.

Another interesting group of work is titled ‘living geometry’ , containing pieces which I initially thought could have been filed with ‘free grids’, because all their grids are certainly irregular.  However, on further reflection, I realised the difference in concept is that these pieces appear to be growing right out of a surface in a very organic way, suggesting they are alive.

The combination of smooth, printable surface and stiffness that lends itself to sculptural goals, reminded me of the wool felt sculpture/garment exhibited by heather Brezo Alcoceba of Spain, which I mentioned in the post of 14/11/2017 last.  (scroll well down)  In this pop-over shoulder cape kind of garment, the wearability of which was not immediately obvious, it now occurs to me that that very 3D surface has a strong connection to the idea of irregular grids.

I’d like to thank Chung-Im Kim for supplying images and giving permission to use them in this article.

 

Browsing On Pinterest

May 9th, 2018

My readers know I dip into Pinterest every now and then, sometimes browsing and procrastinating for hours; but this morning I was a little ahead of my loosely imposed daily schedule so took ‘only a few minutes’ …. then felt moved to write a little on this, create and resize a collage pic to illustrate this, and so really, nearly an hour has flown !  But shortly I’ll head back to more quilting on the one I’m half way through.

To me, Pinterest is an ideas source, just like what journalists call a morgue – collection of files and clippings for reference.  I’m so glad I don’t have bulging drawers of paper clippings gathering dust somewhere – thank goodness for computers.  I watch out for interesting edge treatments, presentations, lines and shapes, contemporary hand stitch, holes, and a few other categories for which I have boards.  I just checked and among the 13 boards I have one for recipes – which I really don’t collect at all, hardly ever consult the cookbooks I have, and instead focus either on family favs or on the spot creativity.

With the exception of the broderie lace upper right, included because I own it and it inspires me  (holes) the other sections on this collage are samples I have probably tried out for reference having seen something relating to them on Pinterest.  This morning  I saw and saved some contemporary hand stitch that reminded me of mending, and several  things on paper which took me browsing into a couple of interesting bloggers’ sites that seem to have been abandoned several years ago – that’s always a bit disappointing.  But, hey, Life intervenes at times, and I’ll look further to see if they are still producing, perhaps in another medium.  But my hour’s nearly up, so that’s all for today 🙂

The Chinese Coins Connection

April 29th, 2018

A day or two ago I commented on facebook to Kay Korkos who showed a pic of a vibrant, colourful, bedquilt she made in the traditional Chinese Coins pattern.  I said how that particular pattern had provided ongoing inspiration for many pieces in my Ebb&Flow series which began around 2004.  But then I remembered that I recently fished Green Island out of the cupboard, and it dates from 1996, so I’ve been inspired by C.C. for longer than I had thought !

Green Island 142cm x 104cm, 1996,  photographed against black

I think this is a poor quality DYI scan of a slide, the background was plain black not a dark print as it appears here.  I put it up on the design wall and looked at it for a while, as I hadn’t really looked at it in ages; and it sort of surprised me how much I love it.  I need to put it up somewhere – or perhaps someone else does 🙂  The irregular shaped top is internally reinforced so that the pieces stay upright flat against the wall and don’t flop forward.

Spiritual Offerings, Not On Beaches

April 23rd, 2018

My longer term readers will remember that frequently I have posted pictures of offerings I’ve found principally on the beaches of Uruguay, but also encountered on a visit to Cuba.  Collections of fruit and vegetables, fresh flowers, grains, often coins and candles, and usually with some bird or animal sacrifice, commonly chickens, roosters or doves and sometimes goat limbs or heads.  It has been a while since my last offerings post, though, for reasons I’ll skip here.  I’ve occasionally seen them on roadsides and at traffic intersections, for years in my ignorance believing these were dumped rubbish.  Uruguayans do litter their streets terribly, but these are, well, now I realise, offerings, and whatever they are hoping for is better served by placement where many people will pass by, I’m told.

These offerings relate to the makumba belief system that prevails here, Brasil, Argentina and Paraguay in particular, but also across the Caribbean and other parts of latin America where African people were brought across the Atlantic as captive slaves in the C16-C19.  Links to some of those posts are here,  here and here .

Early last year some Aussie visitors were in port for the day on a cruise ship, and Mike and I took them on a whirlwind tour of Montevideo, concluding with lunch at the port just before their departure.  As we often do, we started with The Cerro – a high hill overlooking the port and city of Montevideo, on which was constructed a spanish fortress in the early 1800s.  I was not entirely surprised to find an offering tucked into forked branches of a tree on the side of the hill, overlooking the harbour and city beyond.  I wouldn’t have said it was a high traffic site, but it does have a view of water – which is another very auspicious factor, apparently.

Offerings in (left) forked tree branches and (right) street intersection

A few weeks ago we were taking some departing friends around a couple of parts of the city they’d never managed to visit in the years they lived here.  After The Cerro fortress we made our way to the northern side of the city where in the barrio of Cerrito de la Vittoria stands the huge magnificent church of the Cerrito de la Vittoria   Right in the middle of the intersection where two  of the surrounding streets meet, was an offering in a cardboard box, including dead chicken, fruit, vegetables, flowers, corn and other stuff.  Nothing had driven over it – such a thing is probably a common sight there.  We’ll be going up there again soon, so maybe there’ll be another.

Repeat Units in Grids

April 22nd, 2018

This morning I was reading a lovely catalogue I bought on Pacific tapa cloth  when I was in Auckland 10+ years ago.  I was shocked to find I’d never even dipped into it, and feel a bit less ignorant now than I was at breakfast time.  Lots of the photos feature designs on grids.  There are hundreds of islands in Polynesia, Micronesia and Melanesia where it is made, and tapas from the main islands show enormous differences in patterning and in painting or printing techniques, sometimes combined. One pattern from the island of Niue caught my eye and I diagrammed the content inside the squares.  The patterning over in adjoining squares is my doodling…

If I have a grid/block unit in mind, I’ll diagram it out on one of the sheets of paper I’ve printed off with approx 5cm squares especially for this, and always have some handy; after all I do love grids and when you look around, so do lots of other people too; the artist Agnes Martin for example, said  ‘When I first made a grid, I happened to be thinking of trees, and then a grid came into my mind and I thought it represented innocence, and I still do, and so I painted it, and then I was satisfied.  I thought ‘This is my vision’.  I can’t claim to have had such a lightning bolt experience, but I have definitely been influenced by learning traditional American geometric patchwork back in the late 80s, before I veered off into the original and non traditional.  About 20 years ago I was given a catalogue of an Agnes Martin exhibition in Madrid, with text in spanish and english – by someone here in Uruguay who was able to see how important grids were to me.  The paintings in that show included many of her grids and lines, most in the soft colours from the New Mexico desert she favoured, and I fell in love with her work.  

I also diagram out more complex things in the pages of a nice cloth covered sketchbook given me by my creative son many years ago – it’s approaching full, but there is another to hand.  I sometimes go back and carefully look at the pages from years ago – occasionally I have another go at ideas in ways I’d never have done when I first drew them up.  It’s an interesting record – not always dated or strictly chronological either, but today I thought I’d enlarge on the first two diagrams that are top and centre of the page, and did diagram #3 dating it.  I know to ‘do something’ with it I’d need to consider the lines and their shapes more carefully, and I think the resulting units need to be bigger than I’m enjoying working with at the moment (units of ~8cm finished) so scale’s a problem.   So I’ll leave it sitting there on the page – I might never use it, just as I haven’t #2 and #1, but this is definitely not a waste of time as my mind will be on it in the background and something quite unexpected might emerge the next time I look through that book 🙂

 

 

 

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