Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Textile Museum of Canada

Hmong Story Cloth, Ban Vinai refugee camp, Thailand

Last week I visited the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, where I saw several intriguing exhibits.

"Telling Stories" features sixteen pieces from the museum's permanent collection, representing a number of world cultures. The exhibition overview reads, in part,

"Whether through the illustration of a myth or legend, or the recitation of an epic poem or song, cultures have devised inventive and elaborate methods of recording and depicting their rich histories through the centuries."

Some of the pieces on display dealt with contemporary issues, like the high rate of traffic fatalities in India, nuclear proliferation, the value of beekeeping and the management of fisheries.

Iranian hanging, cotton, block-printed and painted
Embroidered silk tapestry, Bangladesh
Embroidered silk tapestry, Bangladesh (detail)
A second exhibit, "Fictions and Legends", showcases the work of Jérôme Havre, whose nine grotesque, stuffed figures were suspended from the ceiling of a small room. 

The walls were painted with organic shapes in strong, vibrant colours, acting to partially camouflage the imaginary beings. A soundtrack of forest or jungle sounds completed the effect. 

Both shows run until April 13. A third exhibit was titled "From Geisha to Diva: The Kimonos of Ichimaru". Ichimaru (1906-1997) was trained as a geisha, but left that world in the 1930's to become an internationally-known recording artist and entertainer. On display are artifacts from her career and perhaps thirty beautiful kimonos, scarves and jackets.

This purple kimono is a semi-formal style, suitable for parties and banquets. Its asymmetrical, overall decoration is a technical tour-de-force known as "majolica" for the intricate polychromatic variations created through the yuzen (paste-resist) dyeing process.

Other garments featured intricate embroidery on woven silk.

If you look carefully at the shadows cast by the lower hem of this jacket, made of machined-lace, you can get a sense of its transparency.

This exhibition continues until May 25. 

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