I have NEVER read such a condescending, back handed, narrow-minded, uninformed article as this one!!!!
Making pictures from strips of cloth isn’t art at all – but it mocks
art’s pretentions to the core.
Monday August 13, 2007
The Guardian <http://www.guardian.co.uk>*
On August 4, an exhibition of patchwork by Edrica Huws opened in the
primary school at Llangefni, on Anglesey, possibly the most inaccessible
art-venue in the British Isles. I had meant to make the 12-hour journey
from east to west and back again in honour of Edrica, who was once very
kind to me, and gave me an unfinished watercolour flower piece by her
aunt, Ursula Tyrwhitt, who was at the Slade School of Fine Art with Gwen
John, Gwen Salmond, Edna Clarke Hall and co. The flower piece, which
Tyrwhitt abandoned when the composition went wonky, now straightened up
as well as may be in the framing, hangs in my breakfast room to this
day. Perhaps, if I went to Anglesey, I would find the answer to the
perennial question why any woman would set about to make a portable
artwork, a picture, out of bits of old fabric?
What could be the point of such an exercise in futility? The work of art
is supposed to defy time but fabric is bound to fade and rot, even when
it is kept in between layers of tissue paper and shut away from sight.
There’s nothing new in this kind of heroic pointlessness; women have
frittered their lives away stitching things for which there is no demand
ever since vicarious leisure was invented. Mrs Delaney was spending
hours of concentration making effigies of flowers out of bits of
coloured paper mounted on black card as long ago as 1771. Why didn’t she
just paint them? You can see her paper mosaics in the Enlightenment
gallery of the British Museum, if you insist, but be warned. You could
end up profoundly depressed by yet more evidence that, for centuries,
women have been kept busy wasting their time.
It is really difficult to make a picture out of scraps of printed cloth.
It is not in the least difficult to buy a kit with pre-cut
colour-coordinated scraps and toil away at ironing the pieces round the
paper cut-outs, pressing their faces together, stitching them from
behind and ironing them flat, until you’ve recreated the quilt in the
illustration, but even then you can’t read or watch telly or even think
while you’re doing it. There was a time when women made patchworks
together, in quilting bees, and chatted as they worked. The materials
were worn-out clothing and aprons; the pattern was a variant on a stock
pattern, learned from the older women and modified to fit the
circumstances. Such quilts are dignified, dense and often very beautiful
objects. They have no pretensions to being works of art, or had none
until some impious philistine decided to stretch them flat and hang them
on walls. The same thing happened to the Navajo blanket. Taut against
the walls of the Whitney museum, the lightning blankets that used to
flash and flicker on the plains are dead as shot crows on a fence.
Edrica Huws, born in 1907, spent two years at the Chelsea School of Art,
gained a diploma from the Royal College of Art, and worked as an artist
until she married the Welsh sculptor Richard Huws in 1931. Five children
later, and living in rural Anglesey with neither electricity nor running
water, she turned her hand to poetry and began collecting fabrics for
her patchwork. She was 51 when she began her first patchwork picture of
a greenhouse. It took her a year. The challenge was in getting the
assemblage of differently figured pieces to look like a representation
of her subject, but not too like it. The scraps had to be treated like
scraps, not like paint, or mosaic. Edrica said herself in a lecture in
1982 that to her “the essence of an aesthetic experience” was “the
control just winning”.
What this suggests is that for Edrica, as for many other women artists,
the art activity was haptic, like dancing, say, which may leave a
pattern in the sand but the pattern is not the point. She chose to
interpret visual subjects in fabric because she liked doing it. As she
said of her setting out: “I decided that if I were to finish [the work],
it must be representational; anything else would either be beyond my
powers or would bore me.” As soon as the riddle was solved, and the
fabric assembly had come together, looking as like the subject as she
wished but no more, she was uninterested in it. She enjoyed this
laborious and tricky process as she did not enjoy painting.
Other patchworkers have said that paint is too cold and wet; fabric is
warm, tactile and surprising. Patchworkers do not work at the vertical,
but engage with their pieces from outside in or inside out. Edrica said
that she was never sure, working from back to front and back again,
which way she was going. By making her cloth pictures Edrica was,
consciously or unconsciously, subverting art, mocking its pretensions.
Hers are pictures that refuse to be seen, that cannot be hung. Edrica
Huws might be surprised to find herself shoulder to shoulder with Tracey
Emin, whose untidily sewn tent, Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963-95,
sadly destroyed in the Momart fire, is in the same self-mocking tradition.
This article makes my blood boil—and makes me laugh as well—-how the mighty have fallen, in my books when they write such “reviews” without actually researching the subject. MS Greer has obviously never been exposed to the intricacies of textile art, yes ART i say, and has ignored the fact that quilts and quilting were not always done for utility purposes but for beauty and the love of beauty.
“Frittering away”????? Is an artist more of an artist because he/she “fritters” time with paint, stone, wood, metal or words?
“…women have been kept busy wasting their time”—-same response, darling Germaine—and why is it a waste to create? Is it more important that we raise children, wash laundry, wipe noses and the asses of children and husbands and infirm parents, or rather as the “liberated” Ms Greer would have us, spend our time in courtrooms, operating rooms, science labs, spaceships or battlefields? Is that why we were “liberated”, why we are the “new women”, the post Baby Boomers, Gen X’s etc? To use our brains without using our hearts, without adding our souls to the mix?
Pah, Ms Greer. Pah. All you have to do is go to an exhibit at an “accredited” museum/art gallery/textile symposium/ biennale–and you probably won’t be inconvenienced by a 12 hour trip either because they are all over the world—-to see Real Art. Made from scraps of fabric, of old rags, new fabrics, hand woven fabrics, antiques and heritage pieces, reeds and barks, synthetic space age materials… oh you get it, you readers, you artists, you open minded sweethearts. We address all issues, feelings, moods, politics, religious beliefs, hopeful aspirations and hopeless assasinations ofd spirit, we share, we teach, we explore, we dream, we learn, we cure even.
With “strips of cloth”.