Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Following the Thread: Swedish hand-weaving traditions and Contemporary textiles, part 2

I've been meaning to make my second blog post about my Swedish textile adventures for a while now.  No excuse other than daily life seems to take most of my time with school house renovations underway.  I will be giving a public talk about my Swedish hand-weaving research called Following the Thread: Swedish Hand-weaving Traditions and Contemporary Textiles at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery on Sunday Dec. 16th at 2pm in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island...if you are able, please come!

              (above: detail from a 15th century royal tapestry taken for my father, a beekeeper)

To start off where I finished in Part 1, my first week in Sweden was spent in Stockholm.  This gave me a chance to visit the major museums of the country and see how hand-weaving and textiles are represented in exhibitions and collections. I visited the National Museum in Stockhom, directly across the water from the Swedish Royal Palace. I was very impressed with the quantity and quality of textiles in the museum:  they were a strong presence in both the temporary and permanent exhibitions and exhibited easily alongside design and fine art.  The range of textiles was quite impressive as well:  historic tapestries from the 15th Century, textile design from the 1900s - 2000, and contemporary textile art.


Just like with the exhibition "Vav/Weave" at the Nordic Museum, I was lucky in the timing of my visit to the National Museum.  An exhibition entitled "Slow Art" highlighted a tendency in contemporary art practice to embrace slow, process-based methods of art-making - perhaps as a reaction to the high-speed of today's world.  The exhibition featured a selection of Swedish-based artists, each using what could be called craft-based materials and work methods.  There were four hand-weavers represented in the exhibition, plus a few embroidery-based works - including the life-sized clawfoot bathtub embroidered on organza (above) by Helen Dahlman entitled "Sanitary Furniture" (2012).

This handwoven rug above and detail below is by Malou Andersson, entitled "Tracks" (2008), 150cm x 105cm and was part of the "Slow Art" exhibition at the National Museum.  It is a short pile rug depicting tracks in the dirty winter slush and snow.  This piece of Swedish textile art is a good example of a contemporary approach to textile art in Sweden: using a traditional rug-weaving technique to depict an interpretation of photo-based imagery in a limited colour palette.  Andersson dyed all the wool herself, over-dyeing natural shades of white, light grey and dark grey wool.

The large tapestry above with the sheep detail below is by Swedish tapestry artist Annika Ekdahl, entitled "Road Movie: Visiting Mom" (2010).  It measures 227 cm x 297 cm and was impressively enormous when I viewed it in the museum.  Annika Ekdahl weaves one square metre per month and her tapestries are meticulously planned.  She dyes all the wool herself in small batches, creating subtle variations in colour and a rich palette.  I especially like the detail of the sheep...



This double ikat wall hanging is by Irene Agbaje, entitled "Binary" (1990), and measures 212cm x 144cm.  Hand-woven from cotton, both the warp and weft threads are dyed prior to weaving and the pattern is then created during the weaving process as warp and weft intersect.


I have always appreciated the fuzzy, static-like edges of ikat.  I use ikat in my own work and am never meticulous enough to have perfect ikat colour edges, and I love the effect of "messy" ikat: the shifting of the dyed threads looking like a directional coloured pencil drawing.


During my visit to Stockholm's National Museum, I also took in the exhibition "Design 19002000" which focused on Swedish design across all the materials (textiles, wood, glass, metal, ceramics, furniture, product design).  I discovered these wonderful damask weavings (above) from the early 1900s.  I love the use of imagery and simple pattern weaves and they reminded me of some of the effects created by my own inlay work.

 Innovative textile design extended to the use of weaving techniques in furniture design.  The lounge chair pictured above is made from a wooden frame and bands of woven jute which are then woven together to create the seat and back of the chair.  Variations of this chair design were everywhere in Sweden and I really appreciated the integration of woven aesthetics into the design of everyday objects.

Another chair in the "Design 19002000" exhibition using woven ikat cloth for upholstery.  This sensibility to high quality materials referencing hand-woven techniques was such a pleasure to witness. Simple white ikat dashes in indigo blue....

The woven art tapestry/rug above was one of my favourite pieces I had the opportunity to see while in Sweden.  Woven by the Marta Mass-Fjetterstrom (MMF) weaving studio in Bastad in the first half of the 20th century, this piece exemplifies the style and loveliness of the art rugs woven by the MMF studio...the stylization of natural forms into patterns referencing woven patterns, a symmetry that is not quite perfect and the richness of subtle variations and mixtures of colours.  I had the chance to visit the MMF studio in the south of Sweden on a rainy Friday afternoon in September and I will devote a whole blog post to the subject in the future....

This tapestry above depicts the football player Bubba Smith.  Woven in 1969 by famous Swedish textile artist Helena Hernmarck (known for her giant photo-realistic tapestries, now living in the US), she uses a mix of tapestry techniques, inlay techniques, and a variety of different textures of yarn to build the imagery.  I really like the use of tapestry to depict what is perceived as such a macho sport.

The tapestry above was designed by Barbro Sprinchorn in 1966 and woven by the Marta Mass-Fjetterstrom weaving studio I mentioned earlier.  Interesting to see the MMF designs getting a little looser and impressionistic.

A little out of focus, and so bright, the detail above is from a larger weaving entitled "Rosornas gang" by Margareta Hallek in 1983.  I really like the use of woven pattern (rosepath) used as part of a tapestry.  The depth and texture is very dynamic and gives an interesting push and pull between foreground and background.

I promise less time will pass between this and my next installment about my Swedish textile odyssey!  Stay tuned.....