|Machiko Agano, Untitled; fishing wire,
steel wire, handmade paper; 13.25 by 19.75 by 11.5 feet.
Photo: Toshiharu Kawabe.
If you happened to enter the arched doorway of
Brighton-based Fabrica's deconsecrated church gallery last
summer, you would have been met by the spectacle of a vast
woven web of fiber form, extending the length of the gallery
space. In the underlit ambience of the room, the gentle organic
curves and waves of Machiko Agano's unfolding netting became
apparent, along with the work's still, calm, sculptural combination
of fishing wire, steel wire, and handmade paper--an apt echo
for its location.
Agano's site-specific piece stands out in the
current "Textural Space" exhibition, which toured across Britain
until November. The exhibition highlighted some of Japan's
outstanding contemporary textile artists as part of a year-long
series of Japanese events happening in the U.K. In so doing,
it brought to the attention of British arts, design, and crafts
a tradition with simply no parallels in the host country.
The cutting edge of British textile practitioners'
concerns relates to a critical, almost issues-based sensibility
about the medium in present-day life. Environmentalism, gender,
and the full de- (and re-) construction of textile materials
as themes all represent attempts to engage with this cultural
zeitgeist within textural practice. Japanese aesthetics, however,
so completely at odds with this world, have long been focused
on the qualities of things, which in textiles are embodied
in a subtle awareness of the relationship of the textural
objects to the space they inhabit. This latter search for
the dynamics of spatial harmony, exploring not only space
but light, texture, and materials, was at the core of what
curator Lesley Millar wanted to bring to Britain--hence the
exhibition's title. The Japanese perspective is also not bound
to textile practitioners, but spills over into design, architecture,
and the arts--a traditional, though thoroughly convincing
mixing of media. This is wholly timely in the current emergent
flux of the Western art scene.
|Asako Ishizaki, Field; linen, silk, bamboo;
10 by 10 feet. Photo: Toshiharu Kawabe.
That said, this exhibition's pieces remain resolutely
from a different world. Asako Ishizaki's delicate circular
fan or Agano's wispy intricate microworlds suggest the continuing
importance of hand skills and a meditational calm needed to
bring these pieces to fruition. The largest pieces, such as
Naomi and Masakazu Kobayashi's Installation, were just
that, contemporary installations, but installations that are
aware of their relation to space and place. A flurry of steel
bamboo rods set in careful proximity to a circular paper sphere,
the latter growing out of a hundred miniature boxes, the Kobayashis'
piece sat exquisitely below five woven boards. For all the
consummate sense of peace and stillness that this floating
world instilled, and the inspirational sense it initiated,
it could just as easily be public art or be shown in architectural
as well as gallery spaces, bringing home, evocatively, that
in textiles, as in so many other media, there is much to learn
Oliver Lowenstein writes and teaches on interdisciplinary
arts and media and runs Fourth Door Review, an interdisciplinary
green cultural, new media, contemporary arts, and architecture
review magazine from Sussex, Britain.