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Abra-Fabric-a Artists to Inspire!

When we think of textiles in art, what comes to mind? Do you think of small cutesy embroidery projects cross stitching or do you think of a modern spin in the prints by Orla Kiely or Cath Kidston? Either way, the textile arts are most often associated with female artists since hegemony dictates that women have been the centre of the family unit both psychologically and physically: bound to the house, to domestic chores and the majority of child care.

The delicate sensibilities that comes with textile arts has therefore proved to be the most practical, manageable and convenient creative output for women who might have a baby hanging from her breast and a pie in the oven.

Modernity however has moved along notions of gender as it has the arts and this Junes Creative Net is going to quash any preconceived notions we may have and encourage different ways of looking at and producing art using fabric.

To whet your appetite and get those creative cogs cranking here's an assembly of a few well known artists who use fabrics in a variety of ways to demonstrate how versatile you can be.

Christo and Jean-Claude showed us the very essence of what fabric does in enormous works of art staged on an international scale. The duos environmental art covered and wrapped parts of the natural landscape as well as manmade structures. By concealing our view, Christo actually reveals what is there. They show us the landmarks and the environment which has been overlooked, perhaps forgotten and maybe even disappearing.

Another artist who uses fabric to highlight issues does so by contrasting our association of pattern with types of dress. Turner prize winner Yinka Shonibare crafts beautifully ornate Victorian attire from bright and vibrant typical African prints. Shonibare places his own culture within European history in a way in which it's not been viewed before.  Just like a certain smell or a piece of music, Shonibare shows us how a pattern or piece of clothing can also hold strong bonds to the past and evoke places, periods and cultures easily.

Travelling back to the age of Surrealism and going to Spain for our next artist we'll meet is Joan Miro. By first glance his works will appear to be a complete opposite to Shonibare as flat stylistic paintings or his grungy expressive later works using paint and objects in a collage fashion is dirty and primitive in comparison to the sophisticated dress making skills we've just seen.

 However, working towards a similar goal, Miro incorporated certain fabrics into his collages in an attempt to strengthen ties to his Catalan heritage. Feeling that it was in need of a revival as it was becoming forgotten in favour of an overwhelming Spanish culture, Miro used bright primary colours to demonstrate the Catalan free earthy spirit and often used a coarse sack material to represent the crude interior typical in Catalan churches.

Crossing continents to America, Robert Rauchenberg nestles somewhere between Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art by blending expressive painterly styles and using materials and subjects from mass culture. Rauchenberg's dense collages are layered with paint, magazines, fabrics, objects and experimental non traditional materials in an attempt to work "in the gap between art and life".  The artist also went further with his works on fabric by using silk printing and even developed his own solvent-transfer technique to print fabrics. Rauchenberg was a prolific artist and experimented with many different techniques which was in complete contrast to and in rebellion to his formal artistic schooling.


Ending what I hope has been a discovery for you readers, I return you to that first image of fabrics, of embroidery and pretty sewing with sequins and flowers and quilting I will end on another rebel: Born in Croydon and raised in Margate, Tracey Emin welcomes us into every aspect of her personal life and creates a dialogue between herself and the viewer as well as a personal dialogue for each of us as she addresses topics hard to stomach in a myriad of voices.  We can feel ambivalent about Emin and her quilts as she shows us a confusing marriage between adult themes which include love, fear, vulnerability and sexuality amongst others, with charmingly naive styles of stitching which one may expect to be more suited to a school project.


We hope that this has given all of you creatives food for thought and you'll come armoured with some great ideas to get stuck into at the Creative Net this June. See you then!


List of Artworks

Christo and Jean-Claude, Surrounded Island, 1983

Yinka Shonibare, How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies), 2006

Robert Rauchenberg, Charlene, 1954

Joan Miro, Sobretiexim, 1973

Tracey Emin, Love is What you Want at the Hayward Gallery, 2011