Casselle Mountford, Convolution 2014, detail, pith cane, variable dimensions
Anaheke Metua, Enmeshed 2014, Palm inflorescence, approx. 101x800x500cm
Redland Art Gallery – 6 July – 17 August
Throughout time, weaving has taken form in the humblest of materials as well as the most refined wools and silks, and has helped to create hearth and home, or to conjure up empire, power and desire. When presented in a contemporary gallery context, as in Convolution: A Woven Sculptural Installation, the act of weaving – like all art making and artwork – can be considered as having become politicized by the very nature of making art for an open public forum. In the work of Anaheke Metua and Casselle Mountford, the ‘political’ has to do with creating in terms of community and interconnection with regard to all the choices they have made throughout their creative process.
Both Metua and Mountford have long worked with the discipline of weaving as their preferred medium, and have presented this installation in association with Lines in the Sand 2014, the annual ephemeral environmental arts festival held on North Stradbroke Island. They were greatly assisted curatorially by Pat Zuber, who has worked closely with Lines in the Sand as one of its founding organizers.
Convolution, installation images, photos courtesy Redland Gallery
As one of the most ancient of human technologies, weaving’s legacy of winding, twisting and interlacing lines of filament to create objects connects weaving to drawing. The foundations for Metua’s and Mountford’s weaving are the line and the hand. When looking at their work, one is reminded of the rhythm of artists’ hands, working and repeating the movements to build the piece from line, to plane, to volume, and the particular magic inherent in slowly transforming a simple, linear material into three-dimensional sculpture loaded with metaphor and meaning. Much like cross-hatching marks or contour lines in drawing, weaving – in the hands of these artists – is a medium at once honest, evident and direct while also mysterious in its ability to create the most amazingly inventive three-dimensional forms.
Both artists work with natural, plant-based materials like pith cane, palm inflorescence, spinifex, pandanus, wool, cotton and coconut fibre. Metua experiments with dismantled candy-coloured, plastic-coated copper wire in some pieces, but throughout the exhibition, a viewer is struck by the overwhelming sense of the organic in terms of both shape and colour. It’s not often that one enters a gallery and the words ‘soothing’, ‘calming’, ‘elegant’, and ‘beautiful’ come to mind with such speed and overall effect.
Casselle Mountford, Hufflepuff 2014, Pith cane, 168×77 (diameter) cm
Casselle Mountford, Brown Cloud 2014, pith cane and wire, 45x40x40 cm
As Mountford has written, “My sculptures Hufflepuff, Hexapod, Infinity knot and Convolution could belong to the vegetal, plant or animal worlds… and convey a sense of mystery through their presence.” Hufflepuff 2014, airily suspended from the ceiling, through scale and shape evokes the body, yet its transparency and lightness coupled with the ephemerality of pith cane also invites thoughts of the transcendence of the body through formal abstraction. All of Mountford’s works in Convolution are minimal, essential and given to a discussion of symmetry and controlled flow. Another hanging sculpture, Brown Cloud Form 2014, is more solid in its presentation, but, like its title implies, is a further questioning of where solidity ends and the ethereal begins. This, in itself, is at the crux of Mountford’s aesthetic. Her constant balancing act between the solid and the flexible, the ephemeral and the statically stable — the evanescence and rebirth of endless cycles that work toward coalescence — mirrors all timeless natural processes here on Earth and throughout the cosmos.
Anaheke Metua, Curlicue 2014, Palm inflorescence, nude and turmeric coloured raffia, variable dimensions.
Anaheke Metua, Curlicue 2014, detail
Anaheke Metua, Swallow 2013, palm inflorescence, recycled wire frame, raffia and banana bark, 40x55cm
Anaheke Metua, Serpentine 2014, detail
In her artist’s statement Metua writes, “The art of weaving facilitates a deep and sentient stillness within me…” With her sculptures in Convolution, Metua has transformed that interconnected, immersive sentience into an investigation of many sculptural forms and materials, finding release in the restless joy and immediacy of play and experiment. Her exuberant sculpture, Curlicue, hugs the flat plane of the wall, curling back and forth with the bound, compressed energy plants use to grow through obstacles like bitumen and concrete. Her use of the curlicue echoes age-old decorative tropes that over time have been carved into marble, set in plaster and woven into gold. Yet in Metua’s sculpture, her use of plant fibres connects her to Nature, to the land, and to the teachers she says, “have shared their insight, understanding and relationship to the natural world through the rhythm of patterns that form by their hands.”
To offer some historical and political contrast, think of a medieval woven work such as The Apocalypse Tapestry from 15th century France. Without a doubt, the Tapestry is a far cry from Convolutions – but that’s my point. Both are produced through weaving and its ancient associations with community are at the core of bringing people together in shared association, either for the fabrication of the work, as in the Tapestry, or in a weaving circle as Metua and Mountford allude to in their sculptures. Yet each use of weaving and its effects are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of why the weaving is happening, and the same goes for the emotional and psychic impact of the finished work.
The Tapestry of the Apocalypse, Angers France
The Tapestry of the Apocalypse, detail
The Tapestry evokes power and fear (power’s constant companion) — as well as awe in the beauty of richly portrayed, overwhelming religious imagery deeply embedded in Western cultural stories that deem material wealth as reward, and suffering and death as punishment. Convolution speaks to other aspects of humanity and other cultures’ stories. Call these deep traditions Indigenous, natural, organic, ecology-minded, intuitive, life-affirming – the words in themselves signify only the beginning of what is so strongly communicated and embedded in Metua and Mountford’s work. And these words are surprisingly political these days.
“Tapisserie de l’apocalypse” by Kimon Berlin, user:Gribeco – Own work. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tapisserie_de_l%27apocalypse.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Tapisserie_de_l%27apocalypse.jpg