Specific Knowledge and Specialist Understanding of the Professional and Contextual Location of my Contemporary Textile Practice
Gillian Morris Student No. 511388
Throughout my academic process within this textile degree programme I have researched widely other artists including textile practitioners and written up over one hundred and seventy individual blog entries on https://weaveprint.com/ to showcase my connections and to evidence my learning through some of my gallery and exhibition visits, workshops and meet ups with other artists which have continued to influence and inform my creative practice as a textile artist. I have researched and understood textiles and their changing cultural and societal relationships within the production and consumption of textiles through to more recently. As textiles were produced more quickly and cheaply, they became available to a larger demographic of society. Various small-scale textile and fibre arts and crafts such as sewing, weaving, embroidery or quilting, increasingly inhabited average households as the preserve of women which was often devalued as associated with the home and identified with domesticity. Fortunately, times have changed and continue to change through using textile art differently to challenge, confront and to reinterpret the meaning of women’s creativity away from being reassigned and reconfigured as feminine craft. I have sought to be a part of this creative process to work in very large scale to be heard, seen, and responded to so as not to be overlooked, to select personally relevant narratives using print, weave, and stitch to highlight what is so often not well considered, valued, accepted, and supported, which has been influenced by other artists work and creative processes in relationship with a range of materials.
With the increased use of textiles in high art there was a re-emergence of increased status alongside the Feminist movement in the 1960s and 1970s as textiles were reclaimed within artistic practices that had traditionally been acknowledged as women’s work. The basis of my creative process stemmed from artists like Anni Albers, who played a fundamental role in the development of the Bauhaus school’s weaving workshop. Anni Albers, an artist who created weavings which came to define high end textile art moved textiles forward towards contemporary practice. Anni Albers created pioneering graphic and abstracted wall hangings, weavings, and designs, and as an influential designer and printmaker encouraged my way of working with textiles given her deep and intuitive understanding of materials, relationships, and process alongside her inventive and visually engaging exploration of texture, form, and colour. This helped to forge a relationship with textiles that has never diminished, of using weaving initially enabled me to see a place for textile art including print and stitch within exhibitions and galleries where I site my own larger-scale textile art.
Sheila Hicks and her creative practice highlighted the capacity to be large scale and therefore more impactful through creating objects and installations for exhibitions whereupon her making centred upon life, living, and experiencing, of communicating through her creative processes and work, which influenced me greatly. As often stated, her enduring art and meaningful experiences derived from a conscientious, curious, and ongoing engagement with the material world. I use my own experiencing within given environments to evoke and provoke an emotional reaction alongside my relationship with materials in creative process. Such foundations have helped to establish my own creative practice however this textile degree process with tutor support including ongoing research and creative processes has enabled the exploration of new contexts with the investigation of social and conceptual implications for innovative textile use within contemporary art. https://weaveprint.com/2020/10/01/sheila-hicks-textile-artist-anthropologist-capturing-environments-through-the-medium-of-textiles/
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Contemporary Artist and the ‘Godmother of Installation Art’ has influenced through her radical set of tapestries known as ‘Abakans’, these large-scale tapestries were not flat, but roughly-woven, abstract weavings of sisal fibre, which functioned as objects and spaces full of emotional intent. I have increasingly sought to create wall hangings and installations with emotional content from felt experiencing. Abakanowicz’s art was affected by her experiences in Poland under Nazi and Soviet occupation during World War II and its aftermath. Although she drew inspiration from her autobiography, her sculptures possess an ambiguity that encourages multiple intriguing interpretations, which relate to human experience. Magdalena Abakanowicz used stretched stitches and gnarled strands as if bursting from their head-like wrappings to convey such emotional distress to madness in Head, (1974) burlap with resin 36 x 26 x 19 3/4 inches. The raw material used exudes such a raw and organic feel to it, leaving a sense of discomfort. This flesh-coloured mass with a head shape which was pulled together with stitches and knots radiated such emotion which has helped me to recognise the potential that textiles have to communicate significant emotion which I continue to emulate to convey my own personally relevant narratives.
Increasingly I have used textiles differently, to use textile art as a newer communicational form to visually express myself including my ideas and beliefs through direct experiencing, to use as a type of language for what I want to say to be better understood. I have therefore been influenced by a range of creatives and artists who have experimented with techniques, materials, and concepts, especially those who have continued to push the limits of the medium like the Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos whom frequently incorporates crafts like knitting and crochet into her art to explore ideas of womanhood, nationality, and family. These previously devalued craft practices such as embroidery, tapestry, weaving, quilting, crochet, knitting, and sewing for example have increasingly been used to challenge social and political issues such as gender feminism, domesticity, women’s work, and identity politics which naturally has always interested me but which I am now using to inform my own creative processes especially through sewing and stitching. I visited the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last year to see the work of Joana Vasconcelos, which was monumental in scale and narrative, of created vibrant sculpture, using fabric, needlework, and crochet alongside everyday objects from saucepans to wheel hubs which she associated with domestic work and craft to comment from a feminist perspective on national and collective identity, cultural tradition, and women’s roles in society. Such creative processes including the use of hand sewn and stitched knitted and crocheted materials, solo shows, and associated narratives continues to influence my own professional approach and its contextual location for my creative textile practice including the need to exhibit and show my work, alongside the use of feminist ideology and personal identity.
The provenance of materials is essential for me based upon environmental sustainability and environmentally supportive practice, to respect, reuse, reclaim, repurpose, and recycle to enable me to relate personally with the materials in creative process, of relating to and with their prior experiencing and to incorporate this within the narrative. I work in ways that convey emotion and meaning concerning these relevant contemporary narratives from personal and professional experiencing, as a person, and psychologist, of creating visual accounts of connected experiencing, to tell a story. My identity, who I am and what my experience is continues to lead the creative process, to deepen and improve understanding concerning prominent concepts, themes and ideas that are relevant today including discrimination, dysfunction, and inequality, to produce textile art for exhibitions and galleries which communicates something of significance, as forms of high art while responding respectfully and responsibly with the materials in use. https://weaveprint.com/2021/07/07/oca-textiles-3-sustaining-my-practice-part-2-making-connections-2/
Getting to know and working with Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor, textile artist at Wasps (Workshop & Artists Studio Provision Scotland) artist’s studio complex for years has influenced my use of materials including vintage linen which fostered an ongoing affection for the cloth, its longevity and capacity for reuse. As a successful professional textile artist, Joanna Kinnersly-Taylor has mentored and supported my development as a textile artist, and her creative process has helped to showcase the standards required for professional practice through gallery exhibitions and commission work. As a print specialist Joanna has taught screen printing and modelled the overall capacity of hand screen printing which I have fully embraced and developed through my own stencilling and masking techniques, unique imagery, colour palette, line, texture, and multiple layering effects which best reflect my personally led narratives. Through learning such screen-printing techniques, skills, and competences over many years I have been better placed to set up my own small print studio at home within a shipping container in the garden to continue my creative practice which often includes numerous hand printmaking options including relief processes on linoleum and wood, use of intaglio on plastic and metal using drypoint and engraving methods alongside collagraph printmaking on mount board which is often used as part of my preparatory processes for the completion of larger scale work at Wasps.
Although I have enjoyed using other artists studio spaces at Wasps artist studio complexes for over ten years, I now intend to relocate permanently to my own Wasps professional studio space within the Glasgow area within the next year given my primary focus is to set up my own business as a professional textile artist through Wasps especially considering all that I have learned and achieved to date there. I wish to continue to have the required increased space but it to be my own creative space to use as I want, to work in larger scale using print, weave and stitch using an increased range of materials. That said I have made so many creatively led relationships with other artists along the way that I want to continue to make and create alongside other artists given the overall vibrancy and creativity of the Wasps artist studio complexes. I have been influenced by so many other artists at Wasps as I have had the pleasure in getting to know artists, their creative processes and work, to discuss and reflect upon how they create and why they create, which has been an inspiring process for me filled with my own creativity. Throughout such experiencing I have continued to document this within my online learning log https://weaveprint.com/ over the years and I have included a selection of blog entries to highlight some of my learning which has helped to situate my creative practice amongst other artists.
Ghanaian artist El Anatsui has been such an influence for me for some years given his monumental environmental statements through ‘great chain tapestry’ installations and reuse including found, reclaimed, repurposed, and recycled materials in context. He developed his artistic philosophy – of using what the environment throws up as medium as he emphasised ‘You should look for things around you, and not look for anything else, because if you find materials from around you, you will do work that relates to your location and circumstances.’ He has held on to these foundational principles and experimented with wooden mortars, broken ceramics, cassava graters, printing plates and milk tins; creating work with fluid forms, reminiscent of textiles, upsetting categories of sculpture, exploring the reuse and transformation of materials, proving how ‘these materials are at once local and specific and yet transcend place.’ El Anatsui stated ‘My work has freedom as its watchword, the idea of freedom being able to shape itself or get shaped in different ways.’ http://www.ricegallery.org/el-anatsui
Like El Anatsui I work in environmentally supportive ways, and I have tried to locate used materials from local sources whenever it is possible to do so including a range of charity shops and to reclaim waste from numerous outlets which feels more in keeping with the way I work, my creative process, my narrative and what I wish to communicate through my making processes with vintage materials. I have been particularly struck by this artists work for some time now including his more recent 2019 exhibition whereupon he created a walkway through hanging structures which has helped to inform my use of printed and stitched vintage linen to visualise emotional distress and crisis through to recovery and repair.
Anatsui’s choice of these preferred materials reflects his interest in reuse and transformation as an intrinsic desire to connect to his native continent of Africa while transcending the limitations of place as his style combines the world history of abstract art with his local aesthetic traditions. Much of his work interrogates the legacy of colonialism, drawing connections between consumption, waste, and the environment. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/el-anatsui
The materials which I use are in keeping with my own identity and who I am, the vintage linen bedsheets used more recently for example are imbedded with meaning for me, of my family’s history based in linen, of a lineage, weighted with provenance, of generations of home and mill workers making linen, of layers of experiencing enmeshed within the material, of personal identity and belonging. The vintage linen bedsheets lent themselves to communicating the narrative, of previous wear and tear, of communicating a range of experiencing through a lifetime and the repetitive need for repair. Of the capacity of the vintage linen bedsheets to encompass pleasant dreams to traumatic nightmares, of bringing comfort, restorative sleep, and relaxation to unravelling despair and spiralling low mood.
The work of Eszter Bornemisza has focused upon the creation of transparent wall-hangings, objects and installations using ripped, and overprinted newspaper. The choice of newspaper as a basic material plays a central role in her more recent work as it provides further visual experiences through their ephemeral character, of bearing witness through fragility, using fragments of important details from the near history to communicate what is seen, heard, and understood including fake news which emphasises the vulnerability of what we know to be true. I related with and was influenced by these environmental issues, relationship with and use of such materials with their layering effects. Eszter Bornemisza has regularly worked with recycled paper, textiles and other found soft materials which relates to the context in which she works. Seeing these wall hangings and the way she works with why she works creatively helped me to recognise new ways of working in relationship with more materials, of the added worth of using a greater range of paper types within my own creative process for sampling and within finished pieces using print, weave, and stitch. I have widened my reuse of materials with an increased environmental and experiential focus, of multi-layers of print, weave, and stitch being embedded with felt experiencing and meaning through imagery and technique. Larger scale wall hangings, sculpture, and installation continues to be explored creatively for future gallery exhibitions.
For many textile artists stitch is often used however I related most to Gwen Hedley, textile artist and educator as she is drawn to the textural details and flaws of the worn surfaces which motivates much of her creative practice. Since her work is centred around restoration and repair using hand stitching, I could readily respond to this approach given my own need to reuse the materials I use in creative practice but also because I do not stitch to decorate and embellish for its own sake. For me the sewing and stitching is more about communicating my narrative than for purely aesthetic values, to acknowledge and demonstrate the art of sewing by hand to confront and challenge narrowly defined and negative notions of women and their creative work. Such textile artists have increasingly helped to draw me into this use of stitch, to represent processes of change, growth, and repair from adversity, suffering and fear. Through reflection material like vintage linen and a range of papers has continued to act as a perfect foil for stitch especially when concerning trauma, of the textured scars and signs of emotional erosion which can be evidenced through stitched mark making alongside related imagery from print to represent and to symbolise another’s experiencing of emotional pain and distress.
I have continued to build my relationship with material relating, to react and respond to the materials I use in process whereby the materials are an integral part of the context and theme alongside sharing my work with others. Through researching the work of Claire Wellesley-Smith, textile artist alongside others has informed my integrated use of hand stitching to the surface of dyed and printed cloth to experience myself and to illustrate different types of experiencing and different emotional states of distress and repair, from splitting and rupturing to mending, strengthening and recovery, to support, consolidate and increase mental resilience and robustness. Reinforcing to renew was in keeping with my environmentally supportive practice and my visual representation of my own and others emotional experiencing as demonstrated in material statements. Hand stitching has been used by stitching over the weakened areas to strengthen the material or by joining split and broken areas to make whole again, of weakened areas receiving a new layer which can then be toughened further through adding additional stitching to create another layer which reinforces strength and recovery.
More recently I was able to visit numerous contemporary textile art exhibitions as part of the British Textile Biennial 2021 which was based throughout Lancashire. The exhibition of contemporary textile art by The 62 Group of Textile Artists for the British Textile Biennial entitled Connected Cloth: Exploring the Global Nature of Textiles, at The Whitaker Museum and Art Gallery, Haslingden Road, Rawtenstall, proved to be one of my favourite art shows as many of the textile artists who continue to influence me were showing their work there including Eszter Bornemisza, Hazel Bruce, Emily Jo Gibbs, Claire Johnson, Teresa Whitfield, Paddy Killer, Jennifer Smith-Windsor, Flox den Hartog Jager, Hannah Lamb, Debbie Lyddon, Richard McVetis, Vanessa Rolf, Lynn Setterington, Kay Smith, Sally Spinks, and Sue Stone. https://weaveprint.com/2021/11/08/contemporary-art-exhibitions/
The focus was to challenge viewers to consider the role that textiles play in all our lives and the many unexpected ways we find connection through cloth which helped to continue to ignite and fuel my own creative thinking and relationship with materials which is why I wish to join The 62 Group. Through involvement with such member organisations for textile artists, my contemporary textile artwork will remain engaging, challenging, relevant and professional as their standards are high, and there is a continuous expectation to exhibit, to show my creative work through their ongoing exhibition programme, which is a continuing emphasis for me going forward.
Hannah Lamb noted that this exhibition aims to challenge viewers to consider the role that textiles play in all our lives and the many unexpected ways we find connection through cloth. The work itself took inspiration from the stories hidden within printers and dyers notebooks of the 18th and 19th century. Through the archive collections this textile artist was able to access considerable information concerning the dye recipes, technical notes and samples of cloth which reflected the latest innovations in the textile industries of the north of England. That said Hannah Lamb acknowledged that such archives were devoid of the much more complex and multi-layered narrative. The British textile industries represent a global story which included the exploitation of people, cultural property and identity, and the destruction of natural habitats. Hannah Lamb sought to represent these incomplete stories visually through textiles, print, stitch, and mixed media work like my own material statements using visual representations.
Visual Representations of Mental Distress and Recovery (2021)
Textile Artist Statement-Gillian Morris https://weaveprint.com/
Making textiles through print, weave and stitch represents much of my creative practice and creative life. I work intuitively with the materials in use to ensure respect for the cloth and the environment, to establish a form of reciprocal relating in action as I create. Given my studio practice is embedded within environmentally supportive ways of making and creating I intuitively react and respond to how the material relates to and with the print, weave, and stitch processes to ensure their qualities are best promoted. I prefer to use reclaimed, repurposed, reused, recycled, and found materials, to promote environmental sustainability with no waste including natural fibres, fabrics, and threads which includes wool, paper, cardboard, MDF, rope, string, cord, cable, and wire. Vintage linen represents one of my favourite materials and threads given its proven sustainability, strength, resilience and capacity for repair and recovery. In relation to ‘A Series of Material Statements-Visual Representations of Mental Distress and Recovery’ (2021) my family have long had a strong affinity with linen as home and mill workers, so provenance is important to me, of knowing the place of origin or earliest known history of something that I am working with to best relate with the materials in use to communicate effectively what I want to say to be heard.
As a psychologist and a textile artist I am interested in relating and relationships within material use and throughout my professional work. Given the complexity of human relating I continue to investigate and reflect upon my own emotional reactions in creative process to evoke emotional responses in others when viewing my work. I like to explore the many effects of layering through print using a range of printmaking techniques and strategies especially screen printing but also ink jet printing, heat transfer printing and relief printmaking, woodcut, linocut, and collagraph. I visually
represent relationships within an abstracted contemporary format involving emotional resonance. I work in a larger scale which stems from my own original mixed media artwork including sketching, drawing, and painting with hand printmaking alongside extensive sampling processes to create unique mark making for screen printing, stitch, and weave. From the initial inspiration through researching my thoughts, and feelings alongside my findings and ideas, my artwork evolves and is translated onto the materials through print, stitch and/or weave as I continue to be open to how I relate with materials as this affects my creative outcomes.
I use more of myself emotionally through personal expression to increasingly challenge the status quo, to address and respond to how mental distress is viewed, to raise awareness to generate discussion, to re-evaluate and reinterpret to help foster change in how discrimination, inequality and dysfunction is perceived and related with, to move towards telling a story which can be readily heard and responded to, for the audience to see and understand, to convey something which is important and meaningful through my creative process. The proposed project of work and related exhibition offers a new way of relating with the experience of mental health and ill-health to fully engage emotionally within a more immersive process.