Experimenting to move forward

Experimentation is a very important part of the creative process. It is through trying different ways, mixing techniques, combining processes, challenging your thinking that we come up with unexpected and new outcomes, it is the way to move forward. I would like to share a few textile artists with you, that take experimentation very seriously, hoping that they inspire you.

Faig Ahmed, Singularity, 2016,

An exciting artist that pushes the boundaries of traditional textiles is Faig Ahmed, he works in painting, video, and installation, born in Azerbaijan, he is most known for his fantastical carpets and embroideries.

Ahmed explains that his fascination for textiles stems from their historical value, humanity utilising fabric for nearly the entire length of human history. Another thing that interests him is pattern. Patterns and ornaments can be found in all cultures, sometimes similar, sometimes very different. He considers them words and phrases that can be read and translated to a language we understand.

On his textile pieces, he playfully riffs on traditional techniques like weaving patterns, developing new rugs, and sometimes ripping apart old ones. His rugs feature optical effects and illusions, acid drips, and pixelated effects.

His process starts on the computer, where he uses Photoshop to create these psychedelic distortions. He then prints the design to real scale on paper before sending it to his team of 30 weavers.

As carpet-making is a revered practice in Azerbaijan, it took Ahmed a few years to convince local weavers to produce his warped designs, and the first to do so worked in secret. While some might describe his practice as rebellious or irreverent, the artist has been embraced by the international art scene. In 2007, he represented Azerbaijan in the 52nd Venice Biennale.

Another exciting artist that will inspire textile students when discovering wrapping techniques is American born Judith Scott, she created over 200 cocoon-like sculptures while participating in the art program at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, the first organisation to provide a studio space for people with disabilities.

Showing little interest in art making during her first two years of her studies, Judith Scott began her textile practice in 1987 after taking a course with a fibre artist tutor.

Working at a frantic pace, Scott would wrap yarn, fabric, and other colourful fibbers around found objects like broomsticks and shopping carts, often engulfing these items so thoroughly that they would become unrecognisable.

Scott could spend weeks and sometimes even months on each sculpture, working up until her death in 2005. Considered to be an “outsider artist,” Scott was born with Down syndrome and became deaf during her infancy. She had lived in a state-run institution in Ohio for 35 years before moving to California.

Exploring and Experimenting is at the heart of Michael Brennan-Wood’s practice.

Michael Brennand – Wood visual artist, curator, lecturer, arts consultant is internationally regarded as one of the most innovative and inspiring artists working in textiles. He has occupied a central position in the research, origination and advocacy of Contemporary International Art Textiles. A defining characteristic of his work has been a sustained commitment to the conceptual synthesis of contemporary and historical sources, in particular the exploration of three-dimensional line, structure and pattern. He has persistently worked within contested areas of textile practice, embroidery, pattern, lace and recently floral imagery. Sites, which offer unbroken traditions, cross cultural interventions and a freedom to work outside the mainstream. He believes that the most innovative contemporary textiles emanate from an assured understanding of both textile technique and history.

Michael has explored and developed his own techniques inventing many new and imaginative ways of integrating textiles with other media.

Recent work inspired by traditions of floral imagery have utilised computerised machine embroidery, acrylic paint, wood, glass and collage. Exploring the illusionary space between two and three dimensions, these works are colourful, dramatic, rhythmic and holographic in feel with intense detail that merges at a distance into strongly optical configurations.

I would also like you to know about Rebecca Medel, she has a background in three-dimensional design and fiber art. She has learned two historical processes, ikat and knotted netting, that she uses to create her work. The conceptual basis and development of her major professional works occurred during her graduate studies of Sculptural Fibers.

During her graduate education she developed a personal off-loom technique using the processes she learned to knot large structural multi-planed square grid nets with ikat and braid resist threads. These resist processes separated colour and created ambiguous or floating values of colour. Rebecca Medel singled out the use of linen and cotton thread because they are intrinsically structural and can be both bleached and dyed. During the many years that she used these processes her work comprised a series of ideas involving time & space, metaphysics, and symbolism.

The elemental characteristic of the work was an exploration of light through the grid structure, without mass and weight, on the edge of being physically supportable, and creating transparent weightlessness. Structure was achieved through the use of lines that became planes, at times parallel and layered, at other times connecting and intersecting perpendiculars; against the wall or coming out in relief. These structures supported other concurrent ideas that spoke of voids, of tensions and distortions, of universal symbolism and the beauty of mathematics through an underlying geometry and the use of such mathematical principles as Sacred Geometry, the Golden Proportion, and the Fibonacci series.

You can find out more about experimentation and textile artists that push boundaries in the links below:

Recommended reading for experimental approaches to textiles:

  • Experimental Fashion: Performance Art, Carnival and the Grotesque Body by Francesca Granata · I.B. Tauris & Company Limited
  • Layered Cloth: The Art of Fabric Manipulation by Ann Small, Search Press, Limited
  • Experimental Vessel, Fibre Art Vase, Textile Vessel, Textile Art
  • Layered Textiles: New Surfaces with Heat Tools, Machine and Hand Stitch by Kim Thittichai · Pavilion Books

Also published on Medium.

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