It was our last day in NZ and it was also raining quite heavily – so what better place than in an art gallery or museum for walking around for a few hours before boarding a long flight? In a previous post I wrote of a wonderful morning at the Auckland Art Gallery – and have another interesting work of art to share from that visit – Shield For Ancient Mothers by Claudia Pond Eyley The artist statement for this series begins “Images from art made by women of other cultures are a continuous theme in the series of “shield” paintings she began in 1983.” The rest of the text to this collection and elsewhere on her website is so powerful that the didactic panel below her work seems a bit flimsy now, but I am leaving it in this post, because I’m sure it’s prompted others to learn more about Claudia Eyley’s art. Again, in my ignorance of things cultural in New Zealand, she was new to me. Visit her website, it’s truly stunning.
I think this is a wonderful painting. Of course I relate to the eternally iconic themes of femininity, fertility, motherhood and all that – and always find its various cultural expressions interesting. One thing about this work caused me to spend a lot of time enjoying this painting is that maybe not in 1983, but certainly in 2019, the artist could have made this piece as a textile work, an art quilt. A textile artist would have used plain, patterned and hand dyed fabrics, digital and other low tech ways of painting onto that fabric before machine sewing the parts together, quilting and finishing it off with a fine binding. Another approach would have been to paint and print onto a single piece of fabric (whole cloth) before quilting and finishing. ‘Trending’ (a useful word I love/hate) today is the use of text as a decorative or design element. It’s not new in most media, but textile artists now have so many techniques by which text can now be applied and used that is driving a new popularity for text. Claudia Eyley applied lettering highlighting key concept words – water, fire, blood, stone.
Based on geometric shapes ( the triangular shields) and bordered by assemblies of lines, squares, rectangles and triangles, this whole piece bears a strong connection to traditional patchwork, the units of which are still used creatively by non-traditional quilters today. Though I didn’t find actual reference to ‘quilts’ in her website, seeing other pieces in this series and noting her deep seated concerns and inspirations in other work, I feel this may have been a conscious choice of format. Her statement refers to the usefulness of mosaics, of how shapes that fit together enable collaging and assembling of units – the general term for which of course is ‘patchwork.’ From this and other series images it is easy to feel these works are imbued with caring and nurturing implied in patchworked bed covers.
Many art quilt makers produce work that begins with or is fundamentally derived from repeated units that can be collaged once their surface design (by almost infinite technical means) has been worked. My own work is full of them:
My introduction to patchwork was via traditional geometric patterning. I made one antique style Flying Geese wall quilt before my need to create original designs took over. However, I love the cutting and piecing of shapes – it remains my go-to technique and I am one of many art quilt makers working improvisationally, while more makers use paint, stencilling or print to achieve surface designs based on geometric shapes.