Saturday, 11 February 2012

Lost in Lace

Lace is something which has always intrigued and fascinated me. I have a vast collection of antique lace bits from my local vintage shop back in Wales and each piece seems to hold so much love, passion or history be it hand or machine made. I suppose I'm quite passionate about traditional techniques and the preservation of these in our unforgiving, mass produced textile industry today. I have heard there is a fantastic lace museum in Northern France and it has always been an ambition to visit. Hopefully one which could be achieved in 2012.

I read about the Lost in Lace exhibition through an email from the Crafts Council while I was still in Paris. I couldn't believe it. Such a large scale, innovative exhibition bringing together new approaches by UK and international artists with one common love, lace. I was not disappointed. However I felt some of the exhibits did have rather a questionable and ambiguous association with 'lace' I was willing to accept them as another form of interpretation.

Held in such a vast, grand space (Gas Hall at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery) it is little wonder that the majority of works were chosen for their theatrical, grand scale and visually astounding qualities. Many could be described more aptly as installations rather than pieces of work as they allowed thread to envelope the visitor in a fluid environment.

Lace has definitely grown in popularity and interest in recent years. Artists. architects and designers seemed to be endlessly inspired by it's intricate aesthetics. I remember my joy at seeing the lace imprints embedded into the outside concrete walls of Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery. But increasingly, it's cultural associations and the extensive variety in lace techniques are also becoming increasingly celebrated. I was unsurprised to see that many of the featured artists were Japanese as having visited the country I can recognize how space (Ma) plays such an important part in their culture and therefore the investigation of this through the notion of lace seemed highly appropriate.

The exhibition booklet talks in depth of these techniques as well as the definition of lace. In Italy this would be 'stitches in the air'. Which brings to mind a rather poetic image. What is most interesting about the exhibition is that as well as what is physically there, the gaps, holes and spaces are denoted equal importance. Lace is undoubtedly a way of creating boundaries and structures and can be far more interactive than what first meets the eye. The exhibition plays extensively on the cultural associations of lace. White lace is traditionally linked to purity whereas black lace is seen as sensual. It is seen as a delicate fragile fabric but also a web of continuous connections spreading like a virus and forming defined boundaries. I suppose in a way it is portrayed as having a schitzophrenic personality and is beautiful yet dangerous. It is definitely a perspective I have not previously associated with lace.

The range of materials used within the exhibition is extraordinary- crystals, phosphorescent thread, polymers, video, tyvek, black wool, white cotton, hand-cut muslin, to even Jacquard punch-cards. Here are a few images for you to see for yourselves-

Diane Harrison

Suzumi Noda
Tanabata Lace

Piper Shepard
Lacing Space

Reiko Sudo

Tamar Frank
A thin line between space and matter

Chiharu Shiota
After the dream

Ai Matsumoto
No Reverse- Lace

Nils Volker
Forty Eight

Michael Brennand-Wood
Lace the final frontier

Atelier Manferdini
Inverted Crystal Cathedral

Annie Bascoul
Jardin de lit
lit de jardin

Naomi Kobayashi
Cosmos series

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