Exercise 3.1 – Researching your Theme

Vanessa Barragão - Instagram

(click images to view each artist’s portfolio on Instagram)

Exercise 3.1 is all about research. There are a handful of themes to choose from but the one that seems to get my attention the most is “Bulbous and Inflated”. The image above is a recent piece created by Vanessa Barragão. Her work is all made with yarn using techniques like rug hooking and crochet. I am very intrigued by the deeply textural nature of her work and the oceanic tone of the finished pieces. The palette, of course, is of interest to me as well given my preference for neutral colours and very limited palettes. 

THEME :: Bulbous and Inflated

Helen Wilde - Instagram

The work of artist, Helen Wilde (aka “ovobloom”) immediately inspires me. Her work has a similar aesthetic to that of Vanessa Barragão but her work is smaller in scale and utilizes embroidery techniques rather than the tapestry/rug methods used by Vanessa. The tones, textures, and presentation of both artists is very similar and I am inspired by both artists’ work. 

Serena Garcia Dalla Venezia - Instagram

The above work of gloriously bulbous textile beauty is created by Serena Garcia Dalla Venezia. I have been following her work for some time. Although her feed is entirely in Spanish, the work is so gorgeous in its depth and simplicity, I can’t help but love it. Every bulging form is hand stitched with stretch fabric such as jersey or velvet and is begging to be touched. When she shares work on her feed showing piles of knit circles awaiting stitching and stuffing or rolls of fabrics in the queue or even when she exposes the back of the work where all the stitching hides, it is all so beautiful and relatable. I really love her work. Something that this artist does that I’ve not seen the others above do is that she also works in 2D with watercolour. She creates similar compositions on paper and washes colour to simulate the wall hangings. It’s incredible. 

Tamzen Lundy - Instagram

In an exploration of making one new piece a day for 100 days, the artist, Tamzen Lundy has shared many felted round shapes such as the one shown here. Each of the pieces that appear on the Instagram feed are felted and include various textural elements such as embroidery, slashing, appliqué among others. The feed isn’t long as it seems to feature only the pieces in this 100 days exercise but that still leaves a lot of variety to consider. 

Tara Kennedy - Instagram

The work above is from the portfolio of Tara Kennedy. Her current series which includes this piece is very interesting. I love the way these bulbous strands interact with one another. I love how the series of works all include this ombré effect using the same shade of pink to red. It is very dramatic and evokes a sense of medical or some other biological theme. A very organic, body-parts kind of feeling. 

Inger Odgaard - Instagram

Discovering the work of Inger Odgaard has my imagination firing so intensely, I’m inspired to go and create some of these kinds of works immediately. Something about the relatability of the work in the simplicity of the knitted stitches connects for me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. The structures are stiffened but still communicate a sense of inflation. The airiness of the knitted stitches allows both air and light to move effortlessly through each piece and the rigidity of the sculptures invites the viewer to touch it as it implies a strength that would not otherwise be there. Super fascinating work. 

This was SUCH a rewarding exercise. I really enjoyed exploring textile artists while applying just the singular theme of “bulbous and inflated. It allowed me to not get distracted by the abundance of talent and to home in on just those whose work fit with the theme. I secretly want to stay home from work so I can keep researching but I think the artists I’ve selected above will adequately inspire my research as I move forward into the next exercise. 

Theme :: Fragile and Transparent

Upon taking another look at the brief for this exercise, I noticed that the instructions were to choose a couple of themes. Below, I explore the theme of “fragile and transparent”

Nikita Nagpal

This artist’s work is so compelling and highly textural. The use of horse hair in her weavings makes me nearly reach out and touch the screen. The compulsion to feel each strand and knot is irresistible. Many of the works are solid tapestries but the raised elements of either loose ends of horse hair or the loops and knots of hair convey a lightness and transparency that I just love. I’ve seen tapestries woven with horse hair in Iceland. I recall living in a small Icelandic community with a slaughter house (horses are part of the Icelandic diet) and on slaughtering day, if one was quick, tails inclusive of flesh and bone could be acquired. An artist friend, Richard McVetis did exactly this but I don’t think he was expecting to receive more than just hair! I don’t know what ever became of that tail…

Ryo Yamada

When I discovered this installation, I was immediately curious. I wanted to interact with the installation and to experience it. The scale and the contradiction of square shapes with such fluidity of movement both were so compelling. This work ignites my imagination and inspires me to explore these kinds of contradictions in my own work. I wish I were able to see this installation in person. 

Chiharu Shiota

This installation was shocking and my reaction to it was visceral. When I discovered this artist on Instagram, the description of this work was that it was speaking to the artist witnessing the house fire of a neighbour. Having experienced my own house fire, this made the installation immediately relatable. It was scary, it made me sick (because of my memories) but it also had a fragility and delicateness that I appreciated. The artist was able to communicate a macabre beauty. An unexpected reaction to this installation but I liked that it made me feel something so deeply. The use of the black threads communicated the behaviour of smoke and soot SO effectively. Light yet heavy at the same time.