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.
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.