A month long open textiles exhibition titled ‘Pattern and Place’ opened at Solihull Arts Complex last week. I knew one of my favourite textile artists, Ruth Singer, was featured in the exhibition so I couldn’t wait to go along and have a look. I left the children under the watchful eye of The Husband in the Arts Complex cafe (which is actually a great little hideout!) and pottered off upstairs to the gallery.
The pieces featured in the exhibition are by midlands artists, and its so lovely to see local talent being promoted. There are members from Textile Connection, Solihull Embroiderers Guild and Solihull Artists Forum as well as some individual submissions.
The gallery at Solihull Arts Complex is small but light and uncluttered. The work has been well laid out and is easily accessible for visitors who may need additional space. The first piece of work that greeted me was Ruth Singer’s beautiful Star Quilt. Mounted onto sheer fabric, this hand stitched paper-pieced patchwork is made using naturally dyed threads & fabrics, and is inspired by Victorian quilts.
I love the way this piece just glows. It’s opposite a bank of windows, so the natural light really brings the quilt into a world of it’s own. I love the shadow it creates too. The colours Ruth uses feel ethereal; the fabrics add to this with their sheer and silky drape. I love Ruth’s work on fabric manipulation, and she has a book on the subject and techniques available here.
The next piece that really struck a chord with me is by Textile Connection member, Judith Rowley. Judith is a well known and respected local artist, being chair of Textile Connection, Midlands Textile Forum and Bilston Craft Gallery Textiles Group, as well as President of Birmingham Art Circle. My own previous work has involved simple line drawings of Birmingham, which were then translated into stitch with some use of applique. Judith’s piece is inspired by construction sites in Birmingham and London.
Included with Judith’s piece was her sketchbook for the project, showing pages of original drawings and inspiration. I find it fascinating to see what an artist’s original thinking is behind a piece of work. A step by step thinking process that shows how a piece of work comes together, the various stages of development before the ideas are resolved into a final piece.
Sue Wassell’s piece, Horizon II, really caught my eye because of it’s unusual shape and size. Generally when we think of art, we expect a fairly standard large & proportionate rectangle or square. However Sue, who is also a member of Textile Connection, has used a very slim rectangle for her piece.
Sue has used machine and hand stitch in her work, with the hand stitch featuring particularly prominently across the length of the piece. This would be such a statement feature on a plain wall!
Stephanie Adams is a member of Solihull Artists Forum, and also a founder member of Genesis Textile Group. I’ve not heard of the group before, and a little research shows that they’ve previously had workshops with none other than Kim Thittichai plus fabulous local embroiderer Claire Muir. I’m intrigued to find out a little more about them, so I’ll do my best and post more information if/when I find out! Anyway, Stephanie’s work features fragmented surfaces with a distressed look, with some aspects of beadwork. From what I can tell, some of the upper layers are actually metal, which I thought was particularly clever.
I apologise in advance for what is a rather bad photo, I just couldn’t get the right light.
From a distance, it almost has an oriental feel to it. My mother has a thing for oriental art, and it reminded me of her as soon as I saw Stephanie’s piece. I think it’s the colours and the shapes featured in the work that gave me the association.
The final piece I wanted to share with you from the exhibition, is Jackie Mackay’s Herringbone Trout piece. Overall, I think this was my favourite piece, and I’m sure you can guess why. Yes, it’s full of colour!
Each fish is created using layers of fabric, which are handstitched in a way that replicates the scales of the fish. Not only that, but the colours of fabric Jackie has chosen really gives that oily rainbow effect that we associate with trout.
Never before have I had such a desire to put fish on the walls of my house, until I saw this. They’re so realistic, you could probably sneak one onto the fish counter at Tesco and it would blend in perfectly.
Many of the pieces in the exhibition are mounted so that you can touch them and examine the intricate stitches used to create them. Textiles exhibitions are very often interactive in this way, but please bare in mind the hours of work that have gone into each of these pieces. The exhibition runs in Gallery G1 until 28th March at Solihull Arts Complex and is free to visit. Pop along, have a look, and let me know what your favourite pieces were!
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