We have been busy with activities keeping us at home for a wee while now, and on Friday I had a need to get out for a short outing. Ever practical, we combined a trip to a visually attractive town (Farnham) and an indulgent coffee and patisserie at Maison Blanc with the acquisition of a pile of current magazines for me and a look round The New Ashgate craft gallery, and what turned out to be the real treat: a visit to the current exhibition on at the Crafts Study Centre: Topography: recording place - mapping surface.
Weaving is an activity which interests me, in the way that many other skilled crafts and techniques do. It is usually tapestry weaving which excites me. It was in this mindset of casual curiosity, enhanced a little by the Greek name of Ismini Samanidou (Greek textiles are a brick in my own foundation.) that I entered through the Study Centre door.
Well, I was immediately attracted by the large hanging in the atrium of the building. Muted colours and decorative patterns produce something that for me was recognisably Greek (and by Greek I do not mean work which has developed over the past few decades to satisfy the tourist market, but what used to be produced in the villages in my childhood - as shown in the photos in this blog), but also timeless.
I was fully gripped once I'd entered the exhibition proper. As illustrated by the photo above (taken from this review) the first display is of Ismini Samanidou's own photographs (she calls her photographs her memories) and notes, including some wondrous work done on observations of clouds. This is what is shown at the extreme right of the photo. Then there are woven samples, done to try to capture various aspects of the light, the experience, the feeling of the clouds. This wall alone was an inspirational experience for me. There is something about seeing the working process of another maker which seems to throw switches in one's own mind - even if the making is of a different kind completely - and somehow provides another perspective from which to consider one's own work. Ismini Samanidou also combines digital techniques with hand work, which is of interest to me.
And somehow that opening of the sight lines onto one's own performance enhances the attention to and appreciation of the work being exhibited. It turns out to be a winning spiral which in this case I found exhilarating.
It was my husband who described Ismini Samanidou's work as philosophical. The weavings are multi-layered, both physically and philosophically. Paired with the photo which inspired them, some at first glance seem to be an attempt to reproduce the effect - of peeling walls, of rust, of so many aspects of neglect and decay that have become a visual cliche - but they are so much more than that.
The two images above are from Ismini Samanidou's Bangladesh residency blog. It is so difficult to talk about fabric of such subtlety without being there with the stuff itself - just as it was difficult to stand there looking at it without touching it, pulling it, scrunching it, filling one's hands with it. I once heard Lesley Millar, a weaver herself, say that in weaving the making is the work. The room is full of lengths of different fabrics, as well as a site-specific piece of threads woven round the two central pillars.
In the exhibition also, in the large display case through which one can see the hanging in the atrium (I love that building!) are examples of the collaborative work Ismini Samanidou has done with Sharon Blakey in Pairings II conversations and collaborations.
I found the exhibition a great experience: inspiring, thought-provoking, enlightening, uplifting, ... and also was entranced by the piece of conceptual work which was shown only in an album of photographs: Arachni's Revenge. This is an installation in a disused enamel factory in Greece, where threads have been stretched, woven across the spaces. This in itself is attractive, but what is supremely delightful is the use that spiders have made of these threads to make their own beautiful webs, to make their essential contribution to the work. I cannot track down any photos to show of this, but any visitors to the Crafts Study Centre will see the album, as well as the whole glorious exhibition, as will US visitors to the Center for Craft, Creativity and Design in Hendersonville, North Carolina. And here is another link to information about Ismini Samanidou.
Leaps and Bounds
48 minutes ago