20 X 20 – An Exhibition Of Small Format Mixed Media, By Uruguayan And Chile Artisans.

Late last week I called in to Centro Cultural FUCAC at 18 July 2017 Montevideo to see a small format exhibition textile sample exhibition (M-F, 12-8pm) curated by Blanca Villamil, and participated in by 20 Uruguayan textile artists and 20 Chileans. This exhibition closes at the end of this week.

Wherever we’re from, cloth and stitch are central to all our lives from the moment we’re born. As far as we can go back into human history via archeology, there are always signs of that part of human nature which drives us to decorate garments and other objects. Human nature knows no national boundaries, and we all recognise something as hand decorated or hand made, even if we have no idea of the meaning of any symbols used.

The exhibition information card speaks of makers in Uruguay and Chile this way – roughly translated – if they have and unleash their emotions our hands don’t know about countries…. these small pieces, 20cm x 20cm, are emissaries of diverse worlds that materialize in the textile, opening a different field of perception; for the artist who builds like the honeycomb his honeycomb, as for the one who participates with his attentive gaze and the avid heart. Fine words about a joint effort, but nothing to suggest what the artist’s brief was, other than stitch or do something else with fibre, and present it in 20cm x 20cm.

These 20cm squares were attractively mounted in well spaced pairs on white boards, Chilean beside Uruguayan. As far as I could see, some pairs bore some visual relation to each other, but many did not. I photographed what I thought were the best, sometimes both but more often just the one.

To curate any showing by 40 people is hard, and 20cm x 20cm is a very small space in which to design and execute any textile featuring hand embroidery, embellishment with found objects, weaving, applique, felting, needle weaving , machine embroidery, wire crochet or knitting, fabric manipulation techniques (and I’ve probably missed something) Were they all trying something new? Were invitees given a technique at random to work with? For the most part I knew nothing about these artists’ work, so I couldn’t tell. Of those whose work I do know, I felt that the change of scale and perhaps change of material was not handled well. Many of the pieces appeared to lack thoughtful design. But, if these were ‘just samples’ I can understand that. My own samples are usually nothing to write home about, and generally don’t see the light of day, even among my closest friends. So I found this exhibition puzzling. I asked and looked around, but there was no information sheet or didactic panel on display to enlighten the viewer.

This first pair are the nicest pieces in the show. Each shows thoughtful design and well handled materials and techniques. I love them both.

Denise Blanchard CH and Blanca Villamil UY

What follows, in no particular order, is my selection of the best of the 40 pieces.

Sylvia Umpierrez UY
Romina Ulloa CH and Nilda Frankiel UY
Carolina Oliva CH and Monica Poliero UY
Paz Lira CH and Ines Iribarne UY
Nora Rosas UY
Felipe Maqueira UY
Beatriz Oggero UY (I apologise for this poor photo)
Andrea Bustelo UY (poor photo, sorry)

After I’d seen this exhibition, a Uruguayan artist friend expressed her disappointment with this show, and I share some of that. Being a fan of hand stitch, I found some great textures, including some interesting enough to use on far bigger pieces, and perhaps those makers will do that. Of the pieces I didn’t include, far too many just looked like the maker hastily plopped something onto a 20cm background, did a bit of stitching or gluing, added a bit of coloured fiber, or a button or two, and sent it in, that is, most failed to use the potential of this small format to create something special and worthy of showing to the public.

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