Sunday, December 28, 2008

Caravanserai and some thoughts on Pattern ans Decoration

Night Village
100 cm wide x 120 cm long
For Sale $900 US
hand painted and dyed cotton, machine stitching
Close to Damascus many villages dot the hilly landscape, the minartes towering above the villages.

Small Essay

Pattern and Decoration

Last night I sat and played with a photo I had taken in Venice on my recent travels which I had printed onto water colour paper. The image cried out for something more and as I have been struggling with doing anything creative I decided I would “decorate” the photo. Now the word “decorate” is a loaded word, but has been playing in my mind since we have moved and as I am decorating my environment to reflect my interests and things I have collected over the past. The other thought that played in my mind is why hundreds of thousands of people flock to Venice every year- it is a special place, but what makes it so special? Is it the canals, the narrow streets, the lack of cars, the lack of the “modern”? It is, if anything, a highly decorative city- as you walk around it you are charmed by ornately carved balconies, iron filigree, arched doorways- in fact much of Venice is “decorated”. Part of what has been lacking in my process to work, is to let my mind wander around what it is I am creating- my mind has been elsewhere (preoccupied with personal things) and so I made a decision. I would track the way I normally do when I am not preoccupied, which is to research and read and ponder the ideas I want to explore, and let that inform any work I may create. Keeping a journal is part of this process- and I seem to have not done anything journal wise- or hardly anything since about May of this year. So step 1 is to resurrect my journal- doesn’t matter what, and then define key words.

So when I got up this morning the word floating around my head was Decorative Impulse- I googled it and lo it brought forth Pattern and Decoration and a marvelous catalogue (well the articles are very interesting even if the images are missing for copyright reasons):

Pattern and Decoration: An Ideal Vision in American Art, 1975-1985

By Anne Swartz, Hudson River Museum

Contributor Arthur C. Danto, John Perreault, Temma Balducci, Michael Botwinick

Published by The Hudson River Museum, 2007

ISBN 0943651352, 9780943651354

The catalogue does not seem to be available anywhere except as an unprintable pdf- arggghhh. I was particularly interested by the curator Anne Swartz ‘article Pattern & Decoration: An Ideal Vision of American Art which made some interesting points which resonated deeply with the way I think about how I create. I am well aware that my work is often decorative and whilst doing my masters became quite aware that my work was not strictly viewed as art or fine art (whatever those terms may mean). That was fine by my- I like making decorative things, but they are not only just decorative – there is always a discourse or narrative of some sort- it is there if you want to see it, and it is an attempt to distil experience with visual expression- I have also been fortunate to have been exposed to non-western art and know that this has had a decided influence on the way I express myself. The Pattern and Decoration movement in America of the 1970’s was also influenced by other non-western art, particularly Islamic and Asian art largely by the exposure of some of the members of the group to the teaching and mentorship of Amy Goldin, as well as travel. As Joyce Kozloff, one of the main proponent artists of the P&D movement said “I meant the viewer to ‘read’ sequentially. This was my private metaphor for travel, paralleling the experience of walking through a bazaar or the streets of an unfamiliar city, taking in complex and variegated stimuli at unexpected intervals and rhythms”

And Amy Goldin herself said: “Decoration involves the maker in a relationship to the world around him that is much more intimate and practical than the specialized alienated world of professional art. Decoration doesn’t lend itself to artistic ego trips or scientific abstract thought. Instead of seeing yourself as the unacknowledged legislator of the world, you face the requirements of your own environment, the settings of your own life, and the feelings of the people around you. Your job is to clarify and heighten the impact of objects and occasions that already exist, that already have meaning”

So then I looked at each of the individual artists represented in the catalogue and found that few had any web presence and even fewer had images of their work as a body of work- a great pity. I am so used to being able to find so much on the net- and it is not about appropriation, it is about research- looking at how each of the artists has investigated their response to the idea of working with pattern and decoration.

Jane Kaufman:

Cynthia Carlson:

Brad Davis:

Valerie Jaudon:

Joyce Kozloff and more here

Robert Kushner:

Kim MacConnell:

Tony Robbin: and here

Miriam Schapiro:

Ned Smyth:

Robert Zakanitch:

What little I have found will not influence my work but what I did find was, how much I have worked in their mode of thinking without actually having being aware of the Pattern & Decoration movement as such- I was aware of the work of Miriam Schapiro - mostly because of her feminist stance and also with that of Joyce Kozloff for similar reasons and though I was aware that they had been involved in Pattern and Decoration it wasn’t that which had made me look at each of these women. That I work in a manner not dissimilar to Kozloff in what she is attempting to achieve- reading sequentially and a distillation of experience and sensation intrigued me ( all quotes from the afortementioned catalogue article by Anne Swartz)

I am distinctly uncomfortable with minimalist art and spaces- they seem to me to suggest a certain barrenness of soul and thought. Life is a rich experience with so many sensations, inspirations and rhythms: the challenge is how to interpret all those stimuli- pattern and decoration seems to offer a rich underlay with which to work and superimpose those stimuli. I like Goldin’s idea that the P&D artists are distinctly of this world and shaped by their exposure to the things of this world not to some idealized sublime (the Kant formulation has always bothered me as the man never stepped outside of his city and kept to a routine that was forbiddingly severe)- it certainly was in the back of my mind when I was creating the work for Caravanserai- it was influenced by my exposure to carpets, textiles, ceramics, texts in my travels in the Middle East and Syria- I was not intending to appropriate any art of the region yet I was interested in sharing the impact that those travels had by the things I had encountered. So on that note I shall share a substantial portion of my Caravanserai exhibition in pictorial format:

Travellers Blanket
100cm x 120 cm long
Hand dyed cotton musling, hand stitched
Ibn Battuta was a famous 13 th century traveller who travelled through the region before Marco Polo and recorded his adventures int eh written form. I like to think of this blanket as a cloth version of such memories- each fragment containing a memory of travels in a time when people did not have journals or pens.

Three panels 30 cm x 40 cm inspired by cross stitch of the region

Eye Idols of Tel Brak
90 cm wide x 140cm long
For Sale $1300US

Hand painted fabric, hand dyed fabric, foiling and machine stitching
This quilt is inspired by the eye idols found at the archeological dig at TelBrak- hundreds were found in the temple area, but no one knos what they were used for. Each one is different and so it si thought they may represent individual worshippers.

110 cm wide x 110 cm long
Hand dyed cotton, hand painted and machine stitched
For Sale $1250 US
This pomegranate tree created in the tifaifai method is inspired by a roman mosaic I saw at the Museum in Alleppo. This is the positive interpretation.

The Kahn Assad al Pasha- Damascus
Photo transfer with Inkaid, cross stitched by hand
30cm x 37 cm
For Sale $250US

Gilgameshs' Horse Blanket
50 cm wide x 140 cm long
Hand dyed silk and machine stitched
The sotry of Gilgamesh is said to be the oldest written story, parts of it are missing, but it does detail a journey into darkness where Gilgamesh has to confront his gods. I think Gilgamesh needed a horse blanket to speed him on his journe

50 cm wide 140 cm long
Inspired by the layers of history presented by Syria

Pomegranates- Small SOLD
Teapots and Rosewater Jug
small- SOLD

Magic Carpet
90 cm wide x 120 cm long
Hand dyed cotton and machine Stitched
Fopr Sale $900 US
This quilt is inspired by the masrabeja windows of the region, the colours of a Syrian horse blanket I purchased in Damascus, and a hand printed indigo motif on a fragment of Roman cloth I encountered in the Museum in Damascus

All the Sweet Perfumes of Arabia
On Exhibit in the US

Assurbanipal's Horse Blanket
50 cm wide x 140 cm long
Hand dyed silk , machine stitched.
For Sale $800US
In my studies on Syria I came across a picture of the Assyrian king Assurbanipal astride his horse carved in a stone relief( now in the British Museum) dating from the 8th century BC. The Assyrians prided themselves on riding without saddle and when you look at the carved stone relief you will see that there is a horseblanket on the kings horse- to whcich the sculptor has given remarkable detail- Is this the first depiction of a quilt? I have tried to refashion the horse blanket using the patterning as carved


Anonymous said...

Brilliant exhibition, wish I saw it 'in the flesh' and most inspiring thoughts to prefix it.
I have actually worked artistically for the first time in absolutly months today...looks like 2009 WILL be a good year for all of us.
thank you Fiona

Joanne in Canada said...

Thanks for this, Dijanne. It is a real gift. I think that you are an artist. I'm particularly struck by All the Sweet Perfumes of Arabia. It may be pattern and decoration, but it's also a distillation of your experience of the Middle East for those who can respond to it. The colours of all of them are so wonderful; I wish you would give an internet course on dyeing.
Happy New Year? I hope that it will be an easier one for you.

Jackie said...

I too am a great devotee of pattern and decoration. I sometimes think it would be good for me to try minimalism but I just can't leave things alone. If it hasn't got pattern ornament decoartion on it, it isn't finished. But I must also bring texture into it which in my case is certain fabrics against one another making their very own patterns.

Anonymous said...

This is a rich collection of work. I am looking forward to seeing the Caravanserai exhibition in Melbourne.

Anonymous said...

The work is a spectacular collection, and I'm very happy to see that much of it is sold, as you deserve success in all its forms. I love the Goldin quote. I've never seen it put quite so well, without involving the words "craft" or trying to create separate definitions for art and craft.
Happy new year to you, Dijanne.

The Idaho Beauty said...

Amazing work. Thanks for collecting it all in one post here. I am continually impressed by what appears to be your fearlessness regarding stitch. It is what sets your work apart and whether it is done by hand or by machine, it is always rich, fascinating and exquisite.

Unknown said...

The travelers blanket is absolutely stunning. you must have one very happy customer with that sale.

happy new Year