'Returning to the Material Object'
Written by Cos Ahmet, Tapestry Weaver Issue 16
I would describe my relationship with woven tapestry as ‘flirting’ with the other media that occupies an extent of my practice. Prominent as a chosen medium in my early career, my work consisted of abstract, tactile and organic objects making references to the ‘body and self’, the attributes acting as a metaphor for the figure. The body would later become more visible as a feature in its representation, becoming consumed by the processes of printmaking and collage, forming a substantial core of my repertoire. On the odd occasion, tapestry and the three-dimensional would come into view, tying these processes together for a fleeting moment, and never staying for very long.
I did begin to wonder, whether I would revert to making objects, or ever be able to harness this demanding, labour intensive, yet versatile discipline again? So, it makes perfect sense that my current preoccupation has been concerned with my return to the ‘material object’, with tapestry taking centre stage. Delighted to be embracing these rudiments, I see how vital and important they are for my work to evolve.
In 2014, I began experimenting, during which I noticed that I would delve into unrealised or unfinished projects, that had either been shelved or archived, hoping they would be forgotten, or in this case, awaiting their resurrection – I liken it to an ‘archaeology of the self’. This reunion with my past works signified my need for the material object more than ever, - not only subverting, reworking and inserting these into my current ideas, but also, pushing this ancient medium. My experiments resulted in what I see as an ongoing series of objects. Under the title ’Collecting Gestures’ – later presenting a small selection of these, together with a wall based piece called ‘Mutatis Mutandis’ in the BTG’s ‘Woven Art 14’ exhibitions.
‘Collecting Gestures’ display a set of citations, alluding to the figure, form and self. Subtle, abstracted, distorted and symbolic in their translation, they have become organic systems that communicate a new type of ‘body dialogue’ - a continuous thread manifest in my work, which has developed and shifted from my ‘immediate’ dealing with the figure in subsequent works. In complete contrast, ‘Mutatis Mutandis’ makes full use of the figure as a sacred object, where the woven tapestry treatment acts as an embellishment or adornment as the gesture. Although these two works are from different periods, and adopt different approaches, they are intrinsically connected to each other.
Apart from being woven in tapestry, new structures that have emerged since making Collecting Gestures, make use of other materials and techniques, such as feltmaking, binding or wrapping. Many appear blank or bound, showing as a pale silhouette. The very fact that the colours in my work are restrained signifies going back to the beginning of my creative process, a blank canvas as it were. New works echo the neutral tones, textures and surfaces from these early forms, taking them out of their original context, paying ‘homage’ to them.
This restraint in colour has posed a challenge in the way they are presented. Originally wanting the objects on white plinths or platforms, they would just disappear or lose their intention on the clinical surface. By introducing and placing my work on natural rusting slates in ‘Collecting Gestures’ for example, brought them alive, enhancing and connecting their pure appearance, the slate itself becoming part of the material object. Following this idea, other works such as ‘Bound Objects’, and the intricate lace-like tapestries, were placed on wooden surfaces, defining and impacting their presence through the ‘woods’ distinctive grain. Enthused by the success of this, I shall continue to pursue this idea further, either creating unique platforms, or placing tapestries on alternative surfaces rather than relying on the mundane plinth that many of use, falling victim to the ‘default setting gallery prop’!
So, what does the future hold in my ongoing exploration in my reunion with the material object? My current work is developing and growing from a renewed interest and a fresh enquiry into the ‘physicality’ of tapestry and from the activity of weaving and its eventual manipulation. Intertwined with the other mediums outside of textiles, with thoughts as to how I go about combining them in new ways is starting to change. The objects I am making seem to be taking on temporary body spaces through their physical and tactile presence, assembling a subjective archive of bodily and emotional projections. The scale of my work, and its placement within ‘space’ is an aspect that I am also starting to address. The body may well be absent, at least for the time being. However, there is no doubt that its reintroduction in a new or other guise, will be restored before too long, uniting the ‘material object’ with the ‘material body’.