Recently I visited a prominent Uruguayan artist, Margaret Whyte, well known for her large scale fabric and stitch conceptual installation works, featuring extensive use of recycled and salvaged materials, particularly textile-like materials. Just by chance I met her a few weeks ago at a gallery in the Museo des Artes Visuales,where her work was then on show. See picture right, photographed with permission of the artist, showing part of the exhibiton ” Belleza Compulsiva” It was the second show of hers I had seen in several years, and to my delight she seemed very interested in our meeting. I love meeting other artists and talking directly about what we each do. She works in a studio located in the Fundacion de Arte Contemporaneo, www.facmvd.org in the old city area of Montevideo, in a quite small room surrounded by other artists in other rooms on the several floors of an aged apartment block. Some were working when I visited, all doing a wide variety of very contemporary 2-d and 3-d art with a preponderance of painting. In addition to Margaret’s work which had interested me for some time, I was especially taken with the paintings of Fernando Lopez Lage – check the above URL – go to the list of artists and scroll to his name. His colourful paintings comprise bands and stripes/strips of colour, wonderful combinations, quite reminiscent of some contemporary quilters’ works, and the Australian abstract landscape artist, Jules Sher. (one of my favs) Very large portaits are painted by Maria Carla Rossi, who was not around, but a striking work in progress was waiting for her return. I was however puzzled by the art of Cecilia Romero, who presents objects she picks up on the streeet, such as a cupboard door handle or a piece of cutlery or jewellery, encased in frames where they nestle into backgrounds of padded fabric looking as if they are in presentation cases, and I wonder does framing them in some way confer preciousness, value ….I didn’t come to clear terms with that. There was another young female artist painting an image of a clutch purse as if seen through cyclone mesh – from the pics around her work area she has a message about women being victims of the fashion industry. I liked her work, and will try to find out her name although she did not seem to be listed on the fac website.
But back to my visit with Margaret. She keeps another studio space where she stores most of her fabrics and threads. In this room at the fac was a big work table with a mezzanine storage area above her head height – of course, older buildings have very high ceilings. Margaret herself has done a lot of abstract painting but is currently working in fabric. Her sculptural works are large panels of colour, texture and shape, worked directly onto artist canvases, or richly ornamented 3-d 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….
I meant to ask more questions about the rationale behind Margaret’s work, but we also got talking about my work, too. I took ‘Maelstrom’ and Timetracks, 8, to show her what I actually do since she only knew my work from the website. She commented my work was ‘neat’ and was pleased she referred to it as ‘art’ . Even the tracks works such as Timetracks 8 she thought is neat, too, and I was a little taken back at that, even with all the raw burnt edges and hanging threads. Interesting. Should I be concerned about this? Probably not. Everything is relative, and her work is definitely not ‘neat’ – it is exhuberant, almost wild, by some measures ‘raw’. We had a conversation too about mixing with and working among other artists. I have mixed views on this, it could be interesting and exciting, on the other hand loaded with potential distractions, and I know, or think UI know, that I do best when working on my own. That conversation caused me to look at the various feedback structures I have access to, and consider their importance to me. It also set me thinking yet again about the ‘quilt industry’ and its relationship with the realities of the C21. On that note I am especially looking forward to the SAQA conference where someone will be speaking on this very aspect – where to from now kind of thing. Contemporary craft and art will change to reflect to some extent the pressures the world is under, I am certain. This was a thought provoking visit.