Individuals intrigue with sincerity of textile works

Last updated 12:17 10/10/2012
zephyr quintet

STRANDS: Maria Julkunen, Jo Kinross, Ronnie Martin, Meg Nakagawa and Pat Spitz, at the Refinery Artspace.,

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Arts reviews

Residency pays dividends Time taken is well spent Difficult conversations laid bare Dramatic work by serious artist A move to unfamiliar waters Kiwi scenes conjure sense of adventure Exhibition sparks, but doesn't catch fire Nice, new, but where's the young blood? Intelligent engagement with audience Doors open to creative minds

REVIEW: Beginnings – A Textile Exhibition by Strands, October 2-26, Refinery Art Space.

I was seduced by subtlety, by depth of feeling.

When you ask five very individual women, who all love working with textiles, to create a show around the theme Beginnings, each responds in her own very individual way, and pursues her particular passion within the broad spectrum of what we call textile art.

This is one of the successes of this exhibition. It is intriguing and interesting, not just visually, but intellectually, as revealed in the individual artist statements and catalogue.

When first walking into the main gallery space, I felt underwhelmed. The works are mainly in subtle earthy tones, almost lost against the white gallery walls and overpowered by the paint-splattered timber floor.

I was looking for instant impact and instead was seduced by subtlety, by depth of feeling, by the sincerity of each artist's works and the collective expertise of this group of women.

Pat Spitz's series of black, white and grey wall hangings are visually striking and yet subtle, each woven using an ancient silk kimono technique. Her use of paper instead of silk is inspiring, as is the technical expertise she has employed to make it work.

Holding myself back from touching this unusual "fabric" was difficult. I was so curious to know how this could possibly be paper.

Meg Nakagawa makes reference in West End (of the Silk Road) to her own Japanese roots and responds by weaving long panels in wool rather than silk.

Each, in subtle cream, hangs with space to move around and take in the patterns that change as the eye moves up the piece, while allowing light through when looking from behind, like a room divider or Japanese screen.

I was pleased the panels were exhibited in this interactive way, rather than limiting their appeal by placing them static, against a wall.

Maria Julkunen's From Finland with Love creates a traditional female silhouette with her use of ancient Finnish felted cloth, made from cotton grass and sphagnum moss mixed with wool to make thick felt.

Again, I was left wondering how this was actually done, and was impressed by this piece of historical information.

This protective-looking fabric is balanced by the use of eco-dyed silk and silk velvet, the impenetrable with the sheer.

Ronnie Martin has adopted a subtle colour palette for her works in this show, her stitched and dyed pieces in the Ancient Journey series telling stories of journeys and more inward ones at that.

An in-depth knowledge of historical cartography is revealed successfully here, with each piece laid out flat on a table like an ancient map or chart.

Her stitched and dyed book appealed less. With decorative beads and protruding wooden legs, it didn't seem as resolved or true to her theme.

Jo Kinross explores themes of conservation and environmental damage through a more abstract visual than previously used. It is difficult to transition from utilitarian to abstract for most artists, and here we see Kinross pushing her own boundaries with a bold statement in her work Pure New Zealand - Clean & Green.

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Roughly textured and darkly moody, this piece is lifted by the off-white central waterfall - a bold statement that leaves behind any need to embellish further.

Her other pieces, such as No, not the Denniston, lack as much protest punch in their overworked detail, part of her transition perhaps from literal to abstract.

Like anything with depth, it takes time to absorb this show, with moments spent looking up close as well as from afar.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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