Fabric and Form: New Textile Art from Britain

16 May – 10 June 1984

Fabric and Form is one of the most exciting and innovative craft exhibitions to come to New Zealand in recent years.

The exhibition was planned and selected by Michael Brennand-Wood who studied fabric work and embroidery at Bolton College of Art Manchester Polytechnic and Birmingham Polytechnic and now makes work that defies the borderline which has been arbitrarily created between painting and crafts. His current work is based on wooden grids, stained and painted with acrylics to which are applied cotton stitchery and collage of paper, fabrics and other materials. Three of Brennand-Wood's own works are included in this exhibition.

Work from a further eleven artists has been selected by him for this show, demonstrating circumstances in which artists and craftspeople have chosen to use thread or fabric as the medium for their work. All the work selected is abstract and the only exhibits which could be said to have any 'practical' application are the two knitted scarves by Barbara Brown.

The methods by which the fabric is used or worked are determined by the visual result required and it is interesting to note where a traditional textile technique has been found appropriate, for example, in Ingunn Skogholt's wool and linen tapestries or Mary Restieaux's obscure but traditional dyeing techniques. Sometimes a decision has been made to create a new technique, such as Stephanie Bergman's adaptation of patchwork, where she makes work which is both a textile object and a painting out of dyed, cut and stitched cloth, or Diana Harrison's stitched hangings which have departed completely from the original function of quilting.

There are also examples of work where the nature of the fabric has been changed completely, as in Brennand-Wood's own work where the fabric is shredded and torn, or transformed by tearing and burning as in the work of Katherine Virgils.

The show as a whole provides a concise and revealing examination of the many approaches to the use of fabric and thread in the work of some contemporary British artists and craftspeople and will raise debate about the present position of the boundary lines between fine art and craft.

A significant feature of this exhibition is that, firstly, the works are "one-offs" and secondly, the selection of works has been based on content rather than technique. This shift in emphasis reflects the change that has taken place in the terms of reference in which contemporary textiles are produced. In recent years it has been the study of painting and sculpture that has exerted the greatest influence on the textile artist. The study of technique has become of lesser importance. This new freedom from the constraints of the process has broken down the lines by which textile art is defined, in much the same way as the distinctions between painting and sculpture are today increasingly blurred.

The artists represented are Stephanie Bergman, Tadek Beutlich, Michael Brennand-Wood, Barbara Brown, Diana Harrison, Danielle Kennen, Di Livey, Michael Moon, Mary Restieaux, Ingunn Skogholt, Richard Smith and Katherine Virgils.

This a British Council Crafts Council exhibition and is toured by the New Zealand Art Gallery Directors' Council.

('Fabric and Form', Bulletin, No.33, May/June 1984, p.1)