Much of the fibre art I see when I go to museums falls into the category of Conceptualism, and viewing it helps me to understand a bit more about my own aesthetic. In other words, sometimes we can define our work by what it is not, as much as by what it is.
Here are two thought-provoking pieces I saw today at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec.
At right is Knitwork, by Vancouver artist Germaine Koh. The work was begun in 1992, when the artist unravelled a knit garment and re-knit the salvaged wool, using very large needles which can be seen in the foreground. Constantly expanding, Knitwork now is composed of dozens of recycled garments, and lengthens with each new performance by Koh at various presentations. At this point, more than 400 pounds of wool have been incorporated into the piece.
The piece was acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
At left is Fashion Plaza Nights, by Montreal artist Patrick Bernatchez. The work is composed of musical scores, a sound track, digital files, yarn, reels, a rotating platform, loudspeakers and photographs. It has been produced with financial assistance of the MNBAQ.
Here is the protocol that Bernatchez used to produce his work: "Once a month for a year, from nightfall until morning, Bernatchez took snapshots of the Fashion Plaza building of Montreal, where his studio is located.... He then transformed the photographs into musical scores. Bernatchez has imported here reels of yarn, which wraps itself around the loudspeakers playing these musical compositions. A cocoon will thus slowly form, covering a life to be born again."
My art reflects a preoccupation with form, composition and colour. I want my work to be appreciated for its visual qualities, which I would like to think of as timeless. At the same time, I am aware of the tradition of women's needlework, and its history as a vehicle for women's self-expression. I enjoy being a participant in the contemporary embodiment of this tradition. There is, at least, a kind of irony in using the traditional form of quilting to make modern urban landscapes. Does this make my work conceptual in any sense?
Not according to Wikipedia's definition of Conceptual Art:
Conceptual art, sometimes simply called Conceptualism, is art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence over traditional aesthetic and material concerns. Many works of conceptual art, sometimes called installations, may be constructed by anyone simply by following a set of written instructions.