Last Saturday I journeyed up to Birmingham with a fellow Textiles student to the Lost in Lace exhibtion study day at the City Museum and Art Gallery. The exhibition was held in the Gas Hall, a grand and spacious gallery where the large exhibits were well accommodated. There was a theme inviting an international group of artists to challenge the perceived conventions of what lace is, what it is used for and how we interact with it, especially the notion of boundaries and the structure of lace networks and architectural space. The exhibits were displayed in such as way that encouraged the viewer to interact with many of the structures. You could walk through and around, peer through, watch a film of and sit and read about many of the exhibits and I found that this presentation encouraged interaction with other visitors which was a good way to gain additional perspective of the works.
The exhibits were displayed well in the great space. Lighting was good, in general, although I found many of the explanatory texts were in shadowy areas and difficult to locate at times.
There was an amazing variety of materials used. You might not appreciate that a collection of strings of crystal beads form a network that appears as lace if it was described verbally but that is, in fact, what you perceive on viewing. Innovative textiles were also used in some of the exhibits; Tyvek and laminated fabrics were used in a novel way.
Inverted Crystal Cathedral, Atelier Manferdini, 2011
I particularly enjoyed this large chandelier-style piece in the centre of the hall, constructed of Swarovski crystal beads secured with crimps on plied wire, very similar to jewellery necklaces currently available. Because it was hung low in the room you could walk around it and look through it from all sorts of angles and appreciate the way the light bounced off the facets. I can imagine this must be what it is like when large crystal chandeliers are taken down for cleaning and you can see the elements closely. I also loved the way that the crystals draped like a fabric. The exhibit was produced by an architectural practice and inspired by the shapes formed by vaulted ceilings. Literally turned on it’s head, this concept is transformed into the construction which investigates the way gravity acts on each strand and produces the curves of the waves.
‘Moucharabieh’ and ‘Jardin de lit, lit de jardin’, Annie Bascoul, 2010
This exhibit consists of two parts. The first is a lace screen with an archway you can move through. The explanatory notes for this exhibit describe the technique used here as the traditional needlepoint lace of Alençon. I watched this informative video to find out how the lace was usually produced. The skilled ladies of the Atelier National du Point d’Alençon work to preserve the tradition of needlepoint lace making that has been typical of the region since the 17th Century. According to the Pays d’Alencon tourist website, “It takes eight years of training to master the Point d’Alencon technique and it takes 25 hours of handiwork to produce a finished piece of lace the size of a postage stamp.”
In the exhibit ‘Moucharabieh’ the artist has used cotton rope to produce a lace panel with motifs inspired by plants and flowers on a scale far larger than the traditional technique. The result is more recognisable as netting, with which the technique has a connection in the way the lace net is produced. An archway has been incorporated which makes it easy for the viewer to become involved in the piece. Walking through and around you can easily get an idea of the skill and time that was needed to make the panel.
The second part of the exhibit is Jardin de lit, lit de jardin, a bed of feathers laid on net and suspended about 90cm above the floor by transparent wires. Beneath this is an arrangement of metal springs laid on the floor, some of which have been stretched and re-formed into words, extracts from the poetry of Béroalde de Verville. The artist has been inspired by the bedding materials, feathers from a duvet, and de-constructed bed springs. She states: “White and gold are for me the colours of light, beauty and ambiguity”. This exhibit evokes, for me, the images of passing through a door in a garden into a special place, perhaps a secret rendezvous for lovers?
Percieds, Katharina Hinsberg, 2011
Pouncing was traditionally used to transfer embroidery designs onto fabric by forcing coloured chalk through a pierced design. This exhibit echoes that technique. There are small holes drilled in a large panel of mdf about 2 metres by 3 metres. This forms a screen through which light is percieved. The screen is positioned cleverly so that natural light from a large window behind illuminates the holes which are about 1 cm in diameter. (One of the things I appreciated in this exhibition was being able to go right up to exhibits to examine them closely, necessary when you suffer from short-sightedness and it meant I could peer through the holes to see the space beyond.) The design is like a meandering spiral and the holes vary from larger to smaller. In some areas the holes are obscured which could be due to the construction of a frame to support the panel or an intentional effect from the timber studs which varies the amount of light allowed through the fretwork.
The exhibit is called ‘Percieds’. The explanatory notes mention the artist has cleverly spelled the word with a ‘c’ echoing the French word for drilling, ‘percer’. The Persieds are meteor showers in the Perseus constellation and I think the work conveys well the effect of stars in the sky. This is a large decorative piece but I can see the concept being used in a domestic situation, perhaps as a room screen, or on a smaller scale as a lampshade. I really loved this exhibit and can see you could develop the idea further in fabric, plastic or other materials and you could use artificial light behind the piercings, perhaps in different colours, or by using colour changing lamps.
27th March 2012
It has just occured to me, whilst contemplating my current colour work in Project 3, that there was a lack of colour in the exhibition. There was a lot of white, black and neutral shades and a couple of the exhibits, Ana Holck’s Untitled, 2011 and parts of Michael Brennand-Wood’s Lace the Final Frontier were a bold red colour. Lise Bjørne Linnert’s exhibit, Fences 2009 was a compilation of colour photographs and a book giving the stories that went alongside her stitching red threads into boundaries that highlighted the openings, but if you look at the way the photographs were displayed in the whole space you do not get much of an impression of colour, more the shapes of the small rectangular prints arranged in lines, like bricks in a wall.
This concentration on monocromatic and neutral colours is understandable when lace can be a complicated and detailed structure. You are focusing on the design, the shapes, the bones of the textile straight away. Does this mean that if you produced needlepoint or bobbin lace in a bold colour such as turquoise or orange, that you would notice the colour first and not the design of the lace? Is the essence of lace the construction of threads into lines, curves, picot edges, traditional floral designs, the spaces between?
I think it is.