“Entangled, Threads & Making” at the Turner Contemporary

Through a recommendation on Facebook, this month I took a spontaneous 200 mile trip to Margate to the Turner Contemporary to see the exhibition “Entangled”. This exhibition was used as a profile for women artists, and their use of materials though textiles and threads. 

“This exhibition brings together and extraordinary diverse group of works from the 20th century alongside works made this century- a number of which are specially commissioned for the show” (Entangled, Pomery, pg4). All of the work displayed in this exhibition was selection through a form of curiosity, and trying to define a practice that is difficult to categorise between art and craft.

This exhibition was one of the most diverse, and eye opening textiles exhibitions I have ever seen. Artists includes Anna Ray, Sheila Hicks, Mona Hatoum, Louise Bourgeois, Ghada Amer, Kiki Smith and 38 others, all specialising in a different area of practice. 

Anna Ray, Margate Knot

Anna Ray, Margate Knot, 2017, Cotton, Polyester, Machine and Hand Stitch

“Courage is an important factor in any creative effort” (Entangled, Pomery, pg5), and the courage to create work without considering what other people think is key to this exhibition. Anna Rays work was the second piece of work you saw in the exhibition. As you went up the stairs, just round the corner in front of you what this beautiful technicolor wall. There was no specific focus point, your entire vision was filled with tactile, brightly coloured forms.

This piece of work developed form a former work by Ray created 10 years ago called “Knot“. Knot was based on forms of underwire bras and consisted of over 1’000 elements all in multi colour, also referencing the children game pick up sticks.  She always saw this as a test piece for something much larger and this was her opportunity. She was assisted by

20 female paid artists from the area as well as half a dozen volunteers to create an artwork where the entire surface held the viewers gaze, thus Margate Knot begun. All of the colours within the piece reference to the beautiful seaside of Margatee. “…the red harbour marker posts; the wine coloured and acid green seaweed; the colours of the wild flowers growing up chalk cliffs; the brightly painted beach swings;…” (Entangled, Ray, pg 121). It truly was the best entrance piece to the show. 

Anna Ray, Margate Knot, 2017, Detail

As we went through the doors to the main show, the lighting became dim, with the focus on the small textiles pieces on the walls, this, honestly didn’t excite me. In not one for small pieces of textiles, I like statement pieces of work that give great impact. 

As I went into one of the rooms I looked around saw a piece of work which used textiles in a very strange way, in combination with wood. This work drew me in as the closer you looked, the more there was to see. The colour in this work continued right though the centre of the sculpture to the back. 

Phyllida Barlow, Untitled: brokenshelf2015, Timber, Plywood, Steel, Fabric, PVA, Cement, Tape, Plaster

brokenshelf2015

Phyllida Barlow used discarded pieces of wood and other material to create assemblages that are playful and precarious. They highlight discarded objects of everyday life that we often don’t take a second look at. She works in such a way that contradicts the laborious process that she had been taught at school in sculpture, casting, welding, carving and construction. 

This particular piece uses wood, steel, plywood and steel, and she has entitled it “brokenshelf2015”. This title implies that the work was once a shelf, and now is also a shelf on the wall of a gallery. This conscious choice to display the work on the wall emphasises the title, could it still be used as a shelf, even though it doesn’t have the properties to be one?

Phyllida Barlow, Untitled: brokenshelf2015, Timber, Plywood, Steel, PVA, Fabric, Cement, Tape, Plaster, Detail

Deconstruction

Aiko Tezuka, Loosening Fabric #6, Unravelled fabric, 2017

One thing we don’t see often in textiles art is the deconstruction of fabrics and the textiles we construct. Aiko Tezuka is constantly coming up with new ways of displaying fabric in such a way that enhances the material, threads and craftsmanship that goes into making a material. 

This exhibition was the first time I have discovered her as an artist and explored her work. I am so glad I have had the chance to see this piece in real life, as photographs do not do it justice and don’t show the true patterns and individual threads in the cloth. Tezuka takes existing materials and carefully unravels them over hours and hours to create work that spills and flows into a space. There is a real sense of weight within the piece and gravity clearly plays a huge part within the presentation of her work. Although there is a sense of weight, having the warp and the weft removed from a tight weave also gives a lightness to the work along with delicacy, 

Aiko Tezuka, Loosening Fabric #6, Unravelled Fabric, 2017, Detail

Paola Anziche, Natural Fibers, Installation of 32 mixed, single media pieces, Chenille, Mohair, Alpaca, Hemp, Cotton, Jute, Wool, Twine, Raffia, Paper, Cord Grass and String, 20017

The Finale Piece

Throughout the whole exhibition their was one specific piece I was looking out for as I had seen it on an advertisement for the show. Natural Fibers was an installation piece focusing on knitting and using natural fibres. Paola Anziche created this work specifically for the show, and it was truly stunning. The unusual thing about this work was you where encouraged to touch it, put your head it it, stroke it, and view it from as many different angles you possibly could. Each cone was made using a different fibre, celebrating natural materials and yarns, and because they where natural, this also allowed for a very limited colour pallet. Some of the structures felt soft to touch, other rough and coarse. Bean bags where also supplied as you where encourages to sit below the installation and look up, where the ceiling was all glass. 

This work was truly magical. Each knitting pattern, sized needle and material had been carefully considered. Certain knitting patterns would work with certain materials and it is certainly evident that this work was tested many times before being installed. 

Paola Anziche, Natural Fibers, Installation of 32 mixed, single media pieces, Chenille, Mohair, Alpaca, Hemp, Cotton, Jute, Wool, Twine, Raffia, Paper, Cord Grass and String, 2017

Paola Anziche, Natural Fibers, Installation of 32 mixed, single media pieces, Chenille, Mohair, Alpaca, Hemp, Cotton, Jute, Wool, Twine, Raffia, Paper, Cord Grass and String, 2017

The Purpose of this exhibition was to highlight women artists and show case what they can achieve. A statement that is often quoted by Eva Hesse is “Excellence has no sex”, this show is true to that statement and all the artists selected to be in the show. All of the works in this show clearly display the impression of the hand in the work and this is regardless to whether the artist is male or female. We are often told that bold statement pieces are mannish, and intricate pretty works are girly. Womens artwork is often seen as less important than mens thus also less expensive.  

All I know, is we should be celebrating womens work as much as mens, there should be no difference depending on who created it. And this show was a truce celebration of female artists and their skills. 

Book Ref:

Pomery, V, Hustvedt, S, Wright, K, Coxon, A, Paasche, M, Martinez, R,Hogkvist, S, Ray, A, Martin, S, Lloyd, K, (2017). Entangled, Threads and Making. Margate: Turner Contemporary. All Pgs.