Saturday, 29 June 2013

Tapa Barkcloth Workshop @ IKON with Rosanna Raymond

As a visitor assistant working at IKON Gallery in Birmingham it was a pleasure and a privilege to assist again in one of their regular Saturday workshops which this time was held in conjunction with and as a response to the current Tapa Barkcloth Paintings from the Pacific exhibition. The workshop was given by Rosanna Raymond,  a performance and installation artist, writer and poet from New Zealand whose work centres around and is influenced by the traditions and culture of the islands of the Pacific inparticular the amazing painted  barkcloths. Rosanna brought along a selection of barkcloths from her extensive collection some of which are traditional and some contemporary.  I especially loved a pair of jeans she had made from the cloth.

Before work commenced Rosanna took participants on a tour of the exhibition stopping at each barkcloth and explaining in detail the culture and traditions and what life was like for the women islanders, for it was indeed the women, not the men, from each of the villages of the Pacific Islands that would produce the cloth in great reams.

What I did not realise was what a feminist tradition the whole process was and how it was considered very prestigious and an honour for women islanders to get involved in producing the cloth often from an early age and as a rites of passage. It was very much a communal way of life for the women who would gather together, often all working on one huge barkcloth, chanting to the beat of the pounding of the bark.

Rosanna and Jo hidden behind one of the barkcloths 

Here you can get an idea of just how voluminous some of the barkcloths are as Rosanna drapes one round Jo in cermemonial fashion. 

Rosanna also gave a presentation of slides showing typical examples of how the barkcloth was worn and used.

Typical ceremonial barkcloth dress

Example of how the barkcloth can be used in contemporary fashion

Frockcoat made from Barkcloth

Close up of one of Rosanna's barkcloths

On then to the nitty gritty of printing and painting on to fabric when everyone started to literally get their hands dirty, having taken their inspiration from the designs and motifs seen in the exhibition. You can see below stencils cut from banana leaves which was one of the traditional methods used for printing, dating back to the late 19th century.

Below are the fruits of everyone's labour displayed in our makeshift gallery. 

A very productive workshop with some really very fine work.  For anyone who hasn't yet seen the splendid Tapa Barkcloth exhibition, there is still two more weeks to go so but make sure you get in a visit soon as it finishes on the 14th July and I can highly recommend it.   


Thursday, 20 June 2013

BCU Birmingham Institute of Art & Design Degree Show 2013

Always enjoy going to see the Birmingham Institute of Art & Design Degree Show at Margaret Street. Thought the work was of a really high standard this year. Here are some of my favourite artworks:


This student had created an installation out of tea bags using natural dyes.

The soaked  teabags had been left on paper which resulted in this interesting effect. 

Sam Pooley a student and artist from Shrewsbury had created a wallpaper by photographing the breasts of 1,000 women.  “I wish to create an artwork that celebrates breasts and in the process enables women to feel liberated by the experience and have their self-confidence boosted.”

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tapa Barkcloth Paintings & Francois Morellet @ IKON Gallery

As a textile artist and also a visitor assistant working at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham I am always pleased when the artworks are textile based so am particularly loving the current exhibiton Tapa: Barkcloth Paintings from the Pacific.  Dating from the 19th century until the present day the cloths come from Papua New Guinea, the Soloman Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands and are on loan from the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at Cambridge University (MAA) which numbers almost 2000 in their collection.
Niue, 1880s

Made from the inner bark of the Mulberry tree the women islanders would gather together in groups to soak and beat the bark into metres of cloth which would then be painted using natural plant dyes and made into everyday clothing, mats, blankets, ceremonial dress for weddings and funerals or wealth objects which would be offered to visiting clans from other islands.  

Cook Islands, Aitutaki, Late 19th Century

Abstract and geometric designs and motifs were painted onto the cloth to symbolise the islanders' traditional ways of life and culture. The cloth above from the Cook Islands and which dates back to the late 19th Century is decorated with canoe motifs .

Samoa, Early 20th Century

Papua New Guinea, Early 20th Century
The tradition is still being kept alive and in Papua New Guinea a group of women are adapting the ancient tradition to create contemporary artworks such as the one below where the artist has used a traditonal tattoo design to decorate the barkcloth.

Papua New Guinea, Omie (by Dapeni Jonevari) 2011

Tapa images are courtesy of the Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, University Of Cambridge 

Also at Ikon in the 2nd Floor Galleries is an exhibition by acclaimed French artist Francois Morellet (b.1926) comprising of a selection of paintings made originally in 2006 for an exhibition in Paris called Blow-Up, Quand j’etais petit je ne faisais pas grand and so called as they are replicas of his work from an exhibition dating back to 1952 but scaled up to 4:1.

Morellet is a self-taught artist who turned to abstract art in the 1950s using systems, rules and geometric forms which were influenced by his love of the tapa barkcloths.

The elements and motifs from the Tapa are ones I am hoping to use in my own textile and mixed-media work as the designs will lend themselves perfectly to printing and painting onto fabric and I am looking forward to producing a body of work as a direct response to the Tapa Barkcloths.

I can highly recommend a visit to both the Tapa and Francois Morellet exhibitions which run till 14th July.