Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Within Landscape

My wife and I have just been to an exhibition at the Otago Art Society's Gallery in the Railway Station. It was put on by a group called NOTUS, (which doesn't stand for North Otago against the United States, as the person opening the exhibition suggested it might - it seems to have been named after the mythological word for the South Wind). The exhibition's theme was Within Landscape, and required the participants to produce hanging works that were two or three metres long and about a metre wide. How they interpreted the theme was up to them.

The members of NOTUS are all women who work mostly in textiles. This exhibition is a prime example of the high level of talent amongst these women.

We were invited by a friend who's one of the members of the group. She had two works in it, one consisting of a vibrant material that changed hue every time you (or it) moved; on this she'd embroidered some words by John O'Donohue, a Catholic spiritual writer. The other work consisted of four joined panels depicting in a somewhat abstract way the journey of a river near where she grew up.

There were some other interesting approaches to the theme: one consisted of hundreds of used teabags (without the tea) sewn on lengths of cotton and hanging in a great cascade from near the ceiling down to the floor. The work is so fragile it's unlikely to survive being removed from where it's presently situated. (My wife made a joke to some of the women standing around looking at the work: she wondered why these used teabags hadn't been sent to overseas missionaries. The joke didn't go - you have to have been amongst the sort of people who thought that sending used teabags to missionaries was a humorous - and ironic - idea.)

Another work used plastic bags and some other detritus - the plastic bags were hung in macrame, and then gradually spilled onto the floor.

Two works by a woman whose first name was Di Lightfoot consisted in each case of four panels clipped together. One work had begun as sketches of various members of the group and other friends done in a continuous line - these were then sewn over on a machine, and textured background added in. Very time-consuming. The other was all vibrant colour on one side and the kind of 'shadow' colour on the other. (That was a feature of all these works: you could walk around both sides and get a totally different impression.) These were very appealing: they were all domestic scenes, though in only one case was there an actual human presence: two feet slung up on a desk protuded into the picture. (This was the best of the four on this panel, in my opinion.) Again everything was sewn, and in addition a wide variety of fabrics were included in the panels.

I won't go into detail about the other hangings, although there were some fine works there. As at any exhibition, only certain items stay with you clearly, or aspects of them: such as the frog leaping after the dragonfly on one hanging (duplicated entirely on the other side in the same colours), or the bright white Greek monastery (?) at the very top of a panel, or the three lovely hangings by Lenore Whyte (I remember her name because she used to be a customer of mine) with dozens of words taken from the letters of 'landscape' printed in some way onto them.

The panoramic view of the Dunedin Railway is by Antilived.

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