Archive for the ‘recycling’ Category

A Studio visit with Margaret Whyte, Montevideo Textile Artist

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

p3190010Recently 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,  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.

Reading, Seemingly on a Theme

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

I just finished ” The Tenth Circle” by Jodi Piccoult and am now about to take up another as the book club I belong to here has a couple of others currently on the shelves. This club, quaintly called The New English Book Club (no-one knows if the old one still exists…) is more of a travelling private library, really. It has stood the test of time, being formed about 30 years ago when books in english were difficult and very expensive to get here, while at the same time there were and still are, many Anglo Uruguayans plus a steady stream of expats coming and going who also read and enjoyed english. One interesting membership feature is that the number has been capped at 25, pretty well the maximum any house could accomodate if everyone turns up on the one day! Half the membership is reserved for Uruguayan nationals and the other half available to ‘transients’ as people like me are termed. Socially it is a tremendous point of contact for newbies and locals alike, each benefit, and in the several years I have belonged I have found these women to be not only great friends but a huge source of information on all aspects of life here. Transients come and go, but the locals never relinquish their membership (only one involuntary ‘resignation’ has occurred since I joined 5-6 years back) and with the median age of the local/permanent members around the mid 70’s ! it can be said that these girls have lived through all of Uruguay’s modern history, so discussions get onto some very interesting topics, although generally carefully steered away from the difficulties of the still fairly recent military dicatorship and current politics, which for some, are also very difficult. However, that still leaves religion and sex to talk about…. The several hundred books are sorted into the major categories popular with the members (romance, mystery and crime, good modern fiction, non fiction, short stories and ‘lighter, aeroplane paperback novels’ ) and move every month to a different member’s house. The wooden boxes in which they travel are designed to tip up onto one side and stack on top of each other in an ingenious arrangement forming a temporary bookcase, resting atop of a row of wooden stools (which also travel with them) . During the month the member hosts the fortnightly morning coffee gatherings at which we all hand in our current books and select new titles. We all pay US$25 per quarter to provide new books, ordered in a couple of times per year from the best seller and publishers lists in UK and USA. We then auction off those books which have either been on the shelf 2-3 years or, occasionally,which have just not appealed or lived up to their promise. These we pay for in pesos, and thereby fund the carrier(fletes) to move the books each month, have a catered end of year lunch and make donations to one or two local causes per year. But I digressed – I meant to comment that the story of The Tenth Circle is built around there being one additional circle of hell in addition to Dante’s nine, all of which relates to the afterlife, of course. Despite the fact that I love murder mysteries and anything to do with forensic investigations and profiling, etc, I am not intending to plunge off into a focus on life after death. (DH and I have already made known our wishes for cremation when our times come.) And yet, the following items may seem to have made this a theme for this month:

I read this morning’s online edition of my fav Aus newspaper the following intriguing item:
Grave concerns as Chinese cities run short of burial space Property The Australian
The kernel of the piece is that traditional belief that the peaceful repose of the soul after death requires actual interment in a grave. Presumably a second best alternative, burial at sea or in a river is being subsidised by the goverment of one large city as trading in the costly cemetry plots around that and other cities points to the pressure of shortage of arable land as China’s rapidly growing cities enroach on surrounding countryside.

While still in bed this morning, I had been watching a BBC World item on how methane gas harvested from a rubbish dump (coincidentally also in China) was a small but potentially significant contribution to the carbon credits balance through the electricity it provided to several thousand homes.

Juxtaposing these two items, and taking into account the changing composition of the Earth’s atmospheric gases today, and the whole phenomenon of our changing patterns of climate, led me to wonder, which is more carbon efficient, burial or cremation? Perhaps there’s a quilt or a series in this….

A Very Unusual Antique

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

Even if we hadn’t been in an antique furniture store, I’d have described this as a piece of furniture, but it’s original purpose was much less obvious, and I had to ask to learn it was made over 100 years ago, to hold the preprinted but undated tickets railways then sold to the traveller. Each ticket was then individually stamped for date of travel, either that day or some time in the future.

Made of the wood nogal (sp?) , rather like teak and very hard wearing – the cabinet? (fechero de billetes) was recently auctioned along with all the other office fittings from the old central rail office in Montevideo. The owner of the store we were in also bought several other interesting tables with drawers and even a large bell embossed ‘FCM’ for ferrocarril (railway) central montevideo, which once rang to signal “all aboard”. On reflection, there are parts of the world where this would never have been allowed to happen, and the whole place would have been turned into a museum, although there are pros and cons to that one which I won’t go into here. Last year I was in a marvellous old station in downtown Santiago which is now a cultural centre – there are several galleries, a restuarant and bar, and the huge interior is now a flexible space used for performances and large conference gathering kinds of presentations. The grand old Montevideo railway station building would be fantastic for such purposes, and may one day be so, as it is in the port area of the old part of the city where such things are starting to happen, just as they have in the Rocks area of Sydney, Fremantle in Western Australia, and similar areas of other cities around the world.

The little panels each have round indentations so you can use a fingertip to easily slide one aside to access the tickets behind it. The lack of one panel on each row gives the sliding space needed, a much more elegant design than any door system or open shelves. There is no sign on the lovely woodwork that there was any kind of labelling attached, but I guess working in the then busy ticket office it didn’t take long to know which niche held the required tickets.

As soon as my eyes lit on this marvellous unusual piece, I saw its potential as a storage unit for my sewing room, and DH commented ‘You can have that if you’d like it, it would be good in your sewing room’ , bless him. And so, we bought it, and it was delivered late yesterday. The store owners are pleased it has come to a loving home where it will have a new lease of useful life, not just be a conversation piece. You can see it’s very shallow so although it is large it doesn’t impinge at all on movement in the working area of my relatively long narrow room. The upper part is only about 10cm deep, and the cupboards below about 15cm – still shallow, but they’ll be marvellous for large cones, bottles and the like which currently hang out on the bookcase, either in open boxes or just balancing in a spare space. It will be fun sorting and putting stuff there, and a delight to use it every day. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.

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Thoughts While Tending a Bonfire…

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2007

The throwout continues, and a satisfactory bonfire was just held to get rid of accounts and statements with card numbers on them, signatures and such… back in Aus we have a shredder and do this periodically. One can’t be too careful in these days of stolen identity stuff . tip – when destroying an old credit card I snip it into three pieces, chuck the outer two into the garbage, and put the middle one in a drawer or cupboard where it stays until months/years later when I find it and then throw it out in the bin, too.

While stoking the fire to make sure it all burned, I began to think about this process, and thought back about the lives our parents led. They paid for most things by cash or monthly settlement of a current account in places they did regular business, which they just settled around the middle or the end of the month when they went in. Once paid, the merchant turned over a new page and it started all over. No need to keep records at home. I know my parents did not keep a ledger or anything like that, their affairs were a bit chaotic, and ours are a bit the same way. DH’s parents relied solidly on the little brown teapot system – neither of them ever ran a cheque book let alone credit card. Paper rubbish that piled up in houses in those days were mostly either lots of letters from far flung friends and family – and/or daily newspapers that didn’t get thrown out, or heaps of magazines and peridocals that piled up in certain areas. Since all brown paper and tissue paper from fresh bread were carefully folded and kept in kitchen drawers and cupboards for re-use, along with string, there was a lot of other packaging stuff around, too. My mother kept boxes of all sizes – you just never knew when you needed one for a batch of rock cakes for a street stall, or one to put the things you mailed to interstate rellies for Xmas and other occasions.

Now, we do re-use supermarket bags in the kitchen bin; they are said to be biodegradeable (although they take forever to disappear) and we never need to buy garbage bags. Shops in this country often have lovely paper bags with handles for their goods, and these come in all sizes – most people I know keep some for that informal giving that goes on – such as a pot of chutney here, there some magazines, or hand me down clothing moving along.

For stuff that wasn’t to be re-used or the occasional confidential letters etc, most homes had an incinerator. And really that is what I have just used the parrilla for. In fact for several years it was my job to go out and burn the stuff in the incinerator once a load built up, mostly in summer – since we ran wood fires in winter to heat the house. Newspaper and other ‘clean’ paper were OK to light the fire inside the house, but detergent boxes for example went into the incinerator. Very little went into the two quite small garbage bins that were put out one night per week only, and we were a family of 5.

Sunday, June 26th, 2005
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