Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hearts, Lungs, Lace
I love it when you think you know even just a tiny bit about someone and then you are surprised to discover a whole other side to them that you never knew existed. That happened to me last week when I visited my friends, Rudolf and Robyne at PUG Design Store here in Christchurch and came face-to-face with a cabinet full of exquisitely-crafted works by Jennifer Hay, who I have always known to be an arts curator and writer, not an actual maker-of-things herself.
Jennifer calls herself a textile crafter rather than an artist but to me, her miniature stitched treasures have all the attention to detail, all the deft craftsmanship, all the beauty and originality of any ‘artwork’ I’ve seen lately. The cabinet installation is called Quacksalver and the tiny embroidered and beaded purses, bags, brooches and pendants are all made of silk printed with Victorian anatomical drawings sourced from Gray’s and Quain’s Anatomy text books. A Quacksalver explains Jennifer, is a charlatan, someone who invents medicines and cures and boasts about their efficacy. She’s chosen both anatomical drawings and Victorian advertisements for medicines and cure-alls as the starting point for her works; and she’s then meticulously stitched, embroidered and beaded the finishing touches. Her interest in anatomy started when she came across an old medical book in a second-hand shop. “I was fascinated by the shapes and colours and the intimacy of the human body reflected in the illustrations,” she said. “It wasn’t until I was some way into the work that I remembered my brother actually has a PhD in anatomy.”
Jennifer has been working with textiles for the last two years, predominantly silk but she’s now exploring other fabrics too – and the three dimensional possibilities and the creative manipulation of fabric to create a wider range of work. “Dr Tibbald’s Collar” (green folds; above) and “Mrs Tibbald’s Collar” (cream and white folds) hint strongly at new directions influenced by Jennifer’s current interest in the Japanese aesthetic principle of wabi-sabi – often described as “a beauty that is imperfect, impermanent, incomplete.” Like many things Japanese, wabi-sabi is an enigmatic concept but for a simple understanding think asymmetry, modesty, imperfection, simplicity and natural processes and you might get half way to understanding what it means. In the meantime, if you haven’t been along to PUG to see Jennifer’s ‘small perfections,’ I suggest you get there before the end of October. It's a visual pleasure. www.pugdesign.co.nz