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  • Writer's pictureSuzy Costello, workbooks

MFA, May 17-23 2021

Formative crit, Talk with Shannon, Preparing for Artist Talk, Completing Blog for portfolio hand in.


Breena, Belinda and I set up our artworks for crit in room 10A18. It's a complex room to install in given its basement-like feel, lack of natural lighting, changes in ceiling height, and two central poles. Breena selected the far left corner to hang her artworks and Belinda's large tonal painting was hung in the right-hand corner. Both artworks strengthened each other, offering a slightly surreal, gothic-like atmosphere. The strong dynamics in Belinda's tonal painting were further enhanced by its anchored position in the corner alongside the emptiness of the adjacent white wall. My works were hung on the near and adjacent walls as you enter the room.

The Space That Binds Us

The works were installed on the left wall closest to the door. My original desire to suspend the works from the ceiling had to be simplified due to time constraints.

This installation marks the progress of an autumnal sunset; from blue sky and golden sun, through to scattered colours of blues, greens, ochres and pinks, then purple and finally indigo.

The non-periodic pattern of a grid with axis of prime numbers begins simply with works 1 and 2, then fragments into figure-ground shifts in works 3 and 4. The final work sees a new pattern emerge (one axis is now an even number). In this work, the needle remains in the paper where a portion of the stitching has been left unfinished, speaking to the notion that we are running out of time to correct the degradation of the Earth's atmosphere.

Work 1: Blue Sky

Work 2: Sun

Work 3: Twilight

Work 4: Dusk

Work 5: Night

Indigo Shibori Quilt

The indigo dyed shibori quilt was hung on the opposing wall to illustrate the inspiration for the tissue paper stitching project. These are fabrics I purchased from a traditional fabric shop in Nozawa, Japan when travelling last year. They are very special fabrics; some are 100 years old, the threads hand woven on small looms in homes, some dyed prior to weaving (eg. the mosquito pattern which is very delicate and precise) and others dyed after weaving using a wax process.

Shibori stitches are formed from a horizontal running stitch which differs from the diagonal running stitches used in the tissue paper works.

I began assembling the quilt this year. A lot of time was spent deciding placement of the pieces with respect to their heritage. It became a beautiful exercise in fine arts - placement of patterns, tones and shapes with a continuous line drawn over the top. The line was largely dictated by the need to secure the fabrics together but where possible I tried to deconstruct the notion of the rectangle inherent in the fabrics' shape. Holes in the fabric at the bottom of the quilt were treated in the traditional style of placing a piece of fabric over the hole and stitching it on. These I placed on the front of the quilt rather than hiding them behind. I allowed myself two places to do boro stitching where the fabric needed strengthening, otherwise I tried to honour the heritage of the fabric and do as little as possible so as not to detract from the makers' efforts and the history of wear described on the fabric pieces.

Once hung on the cold white walls, the quilt seemed out of place and forlorn to me, as if it no longer held true to its purpose of offering warmth to human bodies. Maybe if I had draped it more naturally and allowed it to hang over a structure it might have been more sympathetic.

These are the comments from my formative critique -

  • curious, odd, queer, ludicrous stitching onto tissue paper which has a less-than, preparatory quality showing where it has been handled

  • raw, fragile vellum skin-like quality

  • transparent, stitching holding it together

  • speaks of narrative i.e. no threads to a tangle of threads; linear process of unravelling

  • tangles artificially induced?

  • order to chaos

  • slowly slipping out, knots not contrived, were they untangled? knots sculptural

  • are knots accidental as code of an oops?

  • tangles, patterns, stitching out of turn

  • don't see unravelling, undo or patterns

  • similiar discussion about the back side as Winona's work

  • tangles are entangled with paprer

  • pattern emerging and thread tangled

  • feminine

  • linear process? seems middle one was made last and talks o quilt on other wall

  • narratives of colour (dusk), patterns in nature, human hand unravelling, needle remains in last work

  • sound makes pattern with vibration, (simatics) mandalas

  • things to move forward with: lighting not good for this need something more subtle, pinning on wall - backside? look for other ways to look at space eg space with dehumidifer paper more ripply, sunlight brittle, paper crack, relationships between thread and paper

  • experiment with surface of paper, tension of thread, surface being more than a support, tangled together, multiple papers overlapping

  • patterns - kanta indian stitching where each has its own story

  • narrative maths, codes and programming, numbers

  • narrative - a purposeful sequence ... what if no purposeful sequence, how could I resist this pattterning as we are hardwired to find it; what about breaking patterns eg numbers back to front, side to side etc


When speaking with Shannon afterwards he commented on how there were elements of misappropriation in both works from other cultures' art practices - the quilt was Japanese and the threaded works too similar to Maori tukutuku panels and their motif of twilight, dawn and the darkness of night. He suggested I could explore colour in a more respectful manner.

We discussed my Celtic heritage and the history of the spiral and he felt this would be a more honest approach to exploring symbolism and pattern making and help to understand what binds cultures together.

When I asked him about the appropriateness of using rocks and natural materials from my environment in my artwork he suggested it would be respectful to ask my local tangata when for permission and explained the timing of the process might be slow and not fit neatly into the semester framework, but that the building of relationships would be important.

I shared my whakapapa and spoke of my distress at understanding that my ancestor came to New Zealand as a soldier in the 65th Regiment. Its an awakening that has been long overdue.



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