No Home, No Hope

We went to Manchester and the Whitworth Gallery. I wanted to see an exhibition there - Art_Textiles. This explores the 'borderland' between art and craft and the part that textiles play in this issue. Since I had the opportunity a few years ago to try my hand at work with textiles in many forms, I have pondered this ambivalent status of textiles as an art medium. When does craft become art?

More specifically the exhibition explores the traditional association of textiles with domestic crafts and women, and the impact this has on such art being taken seriously. Gender issues become deeply implicated in the medium and many of the pieces in the exhibition illustrate this. The question that is often asked - Why have there been so few great women artists? - is partly answered here with the display of some exquisite, finely embroidered samplers from the past. Women's work done in a domestic setting, but what amazing work - art or craft? Or more accurately - were women with such skills imprisoned in the home and some wonderful artists lost to the world?
I was fascinated by how different artists have used traditional skills, such as crochet and embroidery, to tell a powerful story. For example, here is a section from the piece by Michele Walker, a textile artist I have long admired. She uses quilting, sewing and other 'domestic' crafts to engage with social, political and environmental issues. The materials she has used here, hessian, plastics and newspaper torn from the property pages of the local press 'deliberately subvert notions of comfort and warmth, rest and reassurance generally associated with cloth and the quilt medium in particular.'
I love the newly extended Whitworth. The extra picture was taken looking across from the exhibition into the cafe, where reflections of the outside mingle with the diners.
Turned into a reasonably bright day, so we called in at Morecambe on the way back and had a walk by the sea. Too early for a sunset or fish and chips, so we came home!

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