my textile career from 1975
His show Spicks & Specks is about rock music, although occasionally his opera singer wife features, and the tone is elevated accordingly, though not pompously.
Tonight the show participants played a game where they had to match the rock singer and his phobia. There is actually a rock singer who is disturbed by antique furniture. I went to bed not understanding the concept, but as I unlocked the front door things became clear. When I retire for the night my 1929 wooden screen door allows the night air into my bedroom. It and its twin are exquisite examples of depression art, classic motifs of the diamond at the top of the rectangular shape, one third of the whole, resting on a pair of horizontals enclosing a series of small verticals, thence a pair of verticals that reach the floor. The paintwork is cracked, the effect unassuming, plain, homemade.
It is Australian arte povera; a gay couple of friends ran a south Newtown antiques shop, and shared a magnificent Victorian mansion in Enmore, literally a palace of art, until the younger guy died recently of liver failure from an infection he suffered in Morocco years ago. They collected extraordinary examples of depression art, rugs woven from worn out lingerie etc; these they donated to the Powerhouse Museum as part of the history of the Australian people. The screen doors on our 1929 brick bungalow belong to that phenomenon.
As to the phobia: my Bosnian neighbour, who lives across the road in a 1960′s raw brick house, had her house wrapped, windows and doors, in a series of garage aluminium roller doors; unscrupulous companies have spruiked these unsightly items as a solution to the elderly woman’s fear of suburban home invasion. When we got to know each other she soon began a campaign of attacking our screen doors as ugly, lowering the tone etc. I realised tonight that her phobia was that of antique furniture.
Her childhood in Bosnia must have been spent against a backdrop of old, tattered furniture and architecture. Arriving in Australia presented her with an opportunity to start afresh. Like members of many other ethnic groups in Sydney, her furniture is pseudo-sophistocated, baroquely complex woodwork, the sofas upholstered with industrial bargello patterns, most of the time still covered in the original plastic and never removed. Her rooms always smelled of an excess of disinfectant; nevertheless, she is a loveable thing, especially when you understand how the worldview was formed.
Now, how to explain the rock singer’s phobia?
A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,
I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins:A, black velvety jacket of brilliant flieswhich buzz around cruel smells,
Gulfs of shadow; E, whiteness of vapours and of tents,lances of proud glaciers, white kings, shivers of cow-parsley;I, purples, spat blood, smile of beautiful lipsin anger or in the raptures of penitence;
U, waves, divine shudderings of viridian seas,the peace of pastures dotted with animals, the peace of the furrowswhich alchemy prints on broad studious foreheads;
O, sublime Trumpet full of strange piercing sounds,silences crossed by [Worlds and by Angels]:–O the Omega! the violet ray of [His] Eyes!
. . .
A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu: voyelles,
Golfes d’ombre; E, candeurs des vapeurs et des tentes,
U, cycles, vibrements divins des mers virides,
O, suprême Clairon plein des strideurs étranges,
I studied Arthur Rimbaud’s poem, The Colours of Vowels at university.
It reminds me of my current weaving exercise, another effort to evoke the world of the diatoms, the simple cellular structures of the ocean; in contriving a world where the viewer won’t have to TOO violently suspend their disbelief, I need to create a world that is equally wet and luminous. This excites me as an activity; it distracts me from the world of industrial medecine, in which I am daily immersed, the world where the wonderfully gutsy and fragile Chrissie Amphlett died recently of disgusting things; a world she described as consisting of waiting, in beds, behind curtains, on your knees, praying for recovery. See how easy it is to return there.
I praise and applaud the heroic angels who dispense healing, without judgement or attitude.
So, back to my loom. The water in which these simple structures float and dance, the Justin Biebers of the oceans, is constructed of a slightly boucle Japanese yarn; made of silk, it contains equal amounts of midnight blue and black and white intertwined. A two stranded yarn, strong enough to be unstranded, I’ve halved it and added black cotton and bottle green linen, to establish a fundamental principle for the work, a four stranded weft. Onwards, Christian soldiers, on with the march, this is it. Towards harmony, happiness and health.
I adjoin a prototype of the sea cells; also a previous attempt to conjure their world; however, as the girl band Clouds sing, it requires the correct words to be chanted, the divine shudderings of viridian seas. Wish me success.
And after all that, it’s a gay love poem. RAPTURE!!!
A recent, highly intelligent book on ornament contains a photo of ornamentation by the Ainu [the indigenous people of Japan, now living in the northern island of Hokkaido]. It might easily be of an artwork from Canada or Alaska. When I visited the museum complex next to Vienna’s Kunst Historisches, I saw a map of the northern countries constructed as an east west circuit of places reachable by sled over ice. It was a novel though entirely logical world view; here were cultures in contact with each other, their travel unimpeded by ice and snow. Thus the similarity of cultural modes of expression that resulted.
In Australia, various artistic individuals of European background, though born and raised on this continent, have attempted to make contact with the cultural modes of indigenous peoples; currently this is seen as imperialism; this consciousness of elitism must surely be dispelled, since the reverse is accepted, there is no barrier to indigenous artists appropriating European art-speech. This is definitely an area where a new Waiata needs to be sung.
On TV last night I heard a Melbourne Maltese chef reciting the mantra of deconstruction; cute as that was, I look forward to the concept of hybridity being more widely embrased; in Australian cheffing, its equivalent is fusion, the melding or interpolating of mediterranean and asian elements; to my mind hybridity more adequately covers the field and adds an element of abstraction; in fact South East Asia was the scene of some spectacular cultural melting pots; it seems to me high time to recognise that the field of artistic endeavour does not privilege one group over another, except perhaps painters; by all means place obstacles in their path.
Woven tapestry, 18 cms H X 14 cms W, cotton warp, 8 pr inch, wefts of wool, linen, cotton, polyester.
Part way through a mixed media project. Somewhere I heard/ read that Hugo Chavez was being unofficially beatified by the indigenous peoples of Venezuela, as an expression of gratitude for the loyalty Chaves showed them while he was in power. A gay communist friend, when I fervently criticised Castro for interning gays, lesbians and sexually indeterminate folk, as depicted by Armistead Maupin in his Tales of the City novels, retorted: “At least he kept control of his country’s means of production”. Very witty of you, John.
Don’t please anyone reply that Chavez was equally homophobic; I hope he was not.
Like the indigenous Venezuelans, I was raised catholic, though today I do not care for its dogged historical ritual; I am curious about the process whereby these Chavez followers are creating a mythical legend about their great leader, using the authoritarian religious ritual of their colonial past to create a rich symbolism of APOTHEOSIS.
Sorry, what idiot can’t google “Hugo Chavez homophobic” to find his party colleagues using expressions like “fascist faggots”. Ouch! Backward. Where’s Pier Paolo Pasolini when he’s needed?
To the basic woven portrait I added a colour spectrum on the left vertical. top to bottom, continuing along the bottom of the image, so it suggested a colour continuity. To the portrait was added his ears in buttons [the shell-like], and irridescent fragments continuing the forehead, right and left cheeks, and neck. These shells are considered currency in some culture and the material of celebratory mosaic in others. My contribution to a revised apotheosis is as above. Please enjoy.
1950 BC, symmetrically equal to my birthdate AD, is the tomb of Meketra.
Ancient Egyptian depictions of textile workshops, whether in the form of tomb models or wall paintings, fit in well with what we can deduce about textile production from the finds of equipment and actual textiles. For example, in the best preserved of the models, that from the tomb of Meketra (early Twelfth Dynasty, about 1950 BC, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) we see three young women or girls crouching behind platforms, presumably preparing roves by splicing, and in front of them three more women are spinning, each with two spindles. Also included in this scene are two ground looms, that furthest away in the photograph with two women weavers, and that nearest to us with two weavers and an additional female figure crouched at the far end of the loom. Finally, two women unload two spindles by transferring the yarn onto a group of three pegs set into the wall.
Miniature carnation, developed as a textile motif during Ottoman times, was used as decoration on the original Singer sewing machine, currently features in Slovenian folk costume ornament.
The gold background is Japanese silk thread mixed with 2 others, there are burgundy polyester threads in the dark areas; lots of the green areas are DMC embroidery cottons, most of the other colours are mixes including linen threads; each colour area is a narrative.
Polyester: green & pale blue in the centre of the top flower; yellow in the background mix, pink in the lighter petals.
Linen: dark red & purple in the darker petal areas; dark green in the stems.
8 warps per inch; 31.5 cms H X 22 cms W.
Someone recently praised Picasso’s late “versions” or imitations of Velasquez and Manet etc; I think they are trite; what the man proves is that the great moments in an artist’s life do not necessarily arrive as the culmination of a life’s work. The gr8 B&W war work Guernica will live on, also the first African-inspired work, such as the portrait of Gertrude Stein; the Demoiselles d’Avignon will be judged as a monument of Picasso’s aversion to women; not for nothing does Spain have a high incidence of violence against women.
As a gay man, it can be said of me that such statements are easily made; allow me to speak then, of my own kind. In a hundred years time, when contemporary society’s attitude to gays will be judged as bizarre and aberrant as colonial European enslavement of third world people, the art world will necessarily make a much harsher assessment of some gay artists. It is not simply good enough to plead that we are the products of an ignorant, bigoted culture that refused even to speak our name, much less allow us lebensraum. In that time Andy Warhol and Francis Bacon will be seen as the sociopaths that they were. There is a pervert/voyeur component to contemporary art appreciation that conveniently overlooks the psychotic violence of Bacon’s world. I accompanied an Australian/English mate and his two friends to see the Bacon show. One of the friends was shocked at my reaction; frankly I was traumatised by the Bacon visuals; here was a “bad gay” who made me ashamed that a fellow lover of males could end up so sociopathic; yes, the spectacles were powerful, but so what. My justifiable retort at her reaction might have been: how can you blithely enjoy such brutality.
Art simply cannot divorce itself from human, ethical concerns. Andy Warhol set up a Factory, literally, a silver-lined environment populated with unpaid artists, motivated by lots of sex & drugs to complete the designer’s designs. When one of them, high as a kite, and convinced he could behave like one, opened a fifth floor window and floated out to his death, Warhol’s reaction was that he wished he had been able to film the event. This is not the reaction of a soundly ethical human being.
Our art has to reflect our concerns with our fellow humans [portraiture] and the environment [landscape]. The fact that our mercenary culture does not recognise the validity of our endeavours and reimburse our work does not validate sociopathic or childish art attitudes.
To the person who complained that my blogs are boring because they do not contain videos, I say: go, take a selfie. Or, in the words of a pre-digital, pre-virtual person: go, take a long hard look at yourself.
I first saw a major exhibition of the textile works of Magdalena Abakanowicz at the Art Gallery of NSW; what to make of rows of headless squatting people? Eastern Europe, the experience of totalitarianism, concentration camps. The impact was undeniable. This work is titled The Unrecognized ones. What intrigues me about this work today is their congruity with a recent experience of mine. I visited the National Museum in Bangkok; necessarily much of the sculpture was damaged, often headless. There is a meeting of lack of identity between Abakanowicz’s anonymous work and historically damaged pieces.
translate slovenian embroidery of miniature carnations;
my relation with mum was always translation: languages n culture.
Dona nobis pacem: always had a connection with the passed over;
incident in spiritualist church, house in warrenball ave, mum’s death.
Theosophists believe addressing those who have died disturbs their rest;
hope this does not happen. DNP.
Research phrases about the heart.
Mixed green yarn for stem; separate colours for flowers;
graph paper needed?
Carnation a motif from ottoman times.
Pacem: news at the moment packed with unsettling events n incidents;
women by contrast work the connection with mother earth; twine spiritual and material.