Magdalena Abakanowicz was a contemporary Polish artist known for her textile sculptures of biomorphic forms, of her use of non-traditional materials and genres. She manipulated textiles like burlap, which was a used coarse canvas woven from jute or hemp to create monumental hanging textiles, which she named “Abakans.” They function as both objects and spaces to infer vulnerability within human individuality. Abakanowicz’s art was affected by her experiences in Poland under Nazi and Soviet occupation during World War II and its aftermath, her work often possessed an ambiguity that encouraged multiple interpretations, which reflected a range of human experience. Abakans (1965-1975) referred to her large-scale fibre works and was in reference to her own name and through this series of experimentation she innovated. The artist designed on paperboard and commissioned craftsmen to make so she was able to increase the scale of her textural sculptures which symbolised for her freedom. Through such enlarged scale she was able to communicate her concern for man and the environment within a cultural and socio-political context while maintaining her autonomy. As Magdalena Abakanowicz noted my work comes from the experience of crowds, injustice and aggression… I feel an affinity for art when it was made of existence, of experiencing in the world.
Natural elements inspired this artist which often evoked emotional responses in process as she sought to be one with nature. Sisal weaving was often used in this artists textile work or Abakan installations as sisal was a natural fibre and remains an ego-friendly option, it is both a sustainable resource and grown with no or very few pesticides and herbicides to reduce any possible damage to the environment. Given her innovative art practice she created a new relationship with materials, sculpture, the environment and three-dimensional forms. I have been impressed by Magdalena Abakanowicz and her monumental use of scale, of her capacity to utilise the materials properties including sisal to such good effect, to forge an emotional connection between the materials used and the context in which she worked.
In concluding this blog post I have been left with so many more ideas concerning my own weaving projects and the use of scale, of thinking more deeply about my relationship with materials and how I work with them to connect emotionally with the context in which I work. I aim to continue to research weaving methods and materials and their meaning, to integrate weaving more completely within my current creative process.