Opening of Momentum Exhibition at the Jam Factory, Adelaide, Friday 29th October 2010


Above: Lucille Martin “Lace Tree”

Exhibition opening Speaker: Valerie Kirk 

Welcome everyone to the OPENING of MOMENTUM in Adelaide, the 9th venue of a national tour program and the final presentation of the 18th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial.  As well as the OPENING here at the Jam Factory, it is also the CLOSING of the 2 year travelling show and the end of the series of 18 Biennials. Next year there will be a new beginning with the first Tamworth Textile Triennial.

The Tamworth Regional Gallery has presented and collected contemporary Australian Fibre Art since 1975, through a biennial exhibition, catalogues and national tours.  This focus has grown from grass-roots, jute and sisal, macramé and off loom weaving enthusiasm through the dedication of textile practitioners committed to putting textiles on the art map. Each biennial has developed a distinctive character through the selection process, the work exhibited and particular directions/concerns/issues of the time. It has never been static and its strength has been its ability to move and change with the times.

“Momentum” the title of the exhibition and theme of the show draws on the history of textiles as a dynamic and ever-changing field with complex parallel streams, variations and cultural differences.  Material and technological developments have lead to the present range of new ideas, to experimental approaches and applications in contemporary textiles.

“MOMENTUM” means – to increase, grow stronger, develop or move forward at an ever-growing pace…… and indeed since the election MOVING FORWARD has taken on new meaning, used as Julia Gillard’s campaign slogan.

She defended , MOVING FORWARD, insisting that the catchphrase captured the spirit of the nation. MOMENTUM has a bit more excitement about it – not a dreary plodding pace but something that picks up speed, gets greater and greater, something with energy, drive, thrust, impetus and force behind it. Maybe Julia should have used MOMENTUM as her last campaign slogan, or next time she should employ a textile artist to give her a more creative solution.

The curatorial format for this exhibition was given a great deal of consideration and it was decided, by a small reference group, that an open entry process would be trialled for the 18th Biennial. This was widely advertised, calling for expressions of interest and as the curator, I also approached artists and actively sought out work, which related to the theme.

Over 300 people submitted expressions of interest and this translated into over 100 full submissions. All states of Australia were represented, with the majority from the southern states and concentrated around the centres of university teaching and larger populations. The range of techniques and approaches to textiles was diverse, but common themes emerged relating to environment, culture and heritage, respect for textile traditions and use of new technologies in an integrated way, only where appropriate. Australian artists working with textiles have embraced current ideas and issues, moved in edgy ways between mainstream art movements and specific disciplines and demonstrated a growing interest in hand production and the tactile qualities of textiles.  

This has come about as a reaction to the changing scene over the last century. The popular Crafts fought with the Arts for recognition, funding and status while the market was flooded with a new wave of technologies and more desirable consumer goods. Just when it seemed that valuing the handmade was about to be wiped out by flat screens, mobile phones and portable media players at the end of the 1900s, there was a complete turnaround and swell of involvement in making. Amateurs through to professionals stitched, wielded knitting needles and quilted by day and night. Shop girls, accountants, actresses and politicians became engrossed in craft for their own personal satisfaction and to produce things they could share with others. They re-discovered the things that cannot be made by machines, the one-offs, the quirky, imaginative products of hands and a creative part of the brain that is not switched on by computers or earphones. The reaction against technology in effect propelled hand made textiles forward.

Artists re-discovered the pleasures of working by hand and the public are again fascinated by the hand made.  While industry now takes care of manufacturing textiles for the majority of our requirements, the 21st century textile maker is liberated from the apron strings of the domestic and utilitarian. More people have free time and available income to engage creatively in textiles and a new egalitarian approach distances the precious, upper class Morris Movement and the tedious long-standing Art v Craft debate. Making by hand in 2010 is a positive and personal choice, valuing creativity and providing an alternative to mass production. It is increasing in popularity, building an environment that is open and receptive to the development of experimental artistic forms. Small businesses or MICRO PRODUCTION is growing and looking on the web at ETSY there is a whole new world of creative textile products available online, anywhere in the world. I loved the BIKE COSY – like a fabric jewellery roll bag, but made to neatly hold all your bicycle tools in smart black and white Houndstooth cotton.

Textile artists work inventively because of the rapidly changing context of their world, pushing the boundaries and communicating through their original expressive forms. They challenge our preconceptions and move forward into unknown territories.  The strength of this work comes from the artists’ ability to respect their tradition and history while engaging with the momentum of progress.

Through developments in the textiles industry, new tools and technologies are available to textile artists: a palette of computerised jacquard weaving, digital printing and sophisticated dye and chemical technologies. Artists such as Jill Kinnear, Cecillia Heffer and Annie Trevillian are in a position to choose if and how to access high-tech materials and processes to enhance their work, using them appropriately and where relevant in their work.

Artists deal with contemporary ideas and issues reflecting back to the population and projecting forward, provoking critical thinking and debate. With the ever-increasing rate of change in the world, they question and seek solutions. Environmental concerns linked to mining are explored in Hilary Green’s work and Melissa Hirsch makes beautiful coral shaped forms with dyed monofilament or fishing line  –  the very material that causes such destruction in our oceans –  and in Robyn Glade-Wright’s sheer textiles, the wreath symbolises the loss of plant species due to extinction.

Penny Malone’s fabric and fashion fans engage us with consumerism and notions of future custom, on-demand apparel.

Place and identity are embodied in the KUMADJ ( DILLY BAG) and the MANDJABU (FISH TRAP) images in the Babbara Designs artworks and Elisa Markes-Young’s work references memory and Polish origins,

Our relationship to nature and the constructed world is a theme in Mandy Gunn’s BURN OUT SERIES which plays with the black bitumen of roads leading to all parts of Australia and the burnt out tyres left behind even in the most remote areas,

Social issues are addressed in Liz Jeneid’s TEA PARTY which alludes to the important social role of sharing tea and the world’s problems with friends and a cup of tea and Rodney Love’s SIX DEGREES OF SEPERATION links communities together through tightly woven human hair.  

There is an exciting flow of ideas, dialogue and skills resulting in shared visions and hybrid artworks. Ainslie Murray commented, “the current momentum of art practice appears to be inclusive and encouraging of new connections between disciplines and techniques”.

Textile artists work inventively because of the rapidly changing context of their world, pushing the boundaries and communicating through their original expressive forms. They challenge our preconceptions and move forward into unknown territories.  The strength of this work comes from the artists’ ability to respect their tradition and history while engaging with the momentum of progress.

Momentum, the 18th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial 2008, demonstrates the vibrancy of contemporary Australian textiles, exploring the forces that drive our most innovative and accomplished practitioners. It identifies the artists on the move, reflecting on our histories, embracing the current time and projecting into the future with works that surprise, inspire and delight us.

The Tamworth Textile exhibitions are extremely important in Australia for raising the profile of textiles. They further public interest and awareness and set high standards parallel to the peak exhibitions in other art fields. Long may the tradition continue in its new triennial form from next year.

Valerie Kirk, Artist, Head of Textiles ANU and curator of the 18th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial.

Penny Malone “Gum Blossom and Fashion Fan” detail 2007


5 responses to “Opening of Momentum Exhibition at the Jam Factory, Adelaide, Friday 29th October 2010

  1. really helpfull blog, thanks

  2. Thank you Valerie, for all your hard work in making this come together, and thank you too to all the other artists in the show. I was never able, having taken a job in the US, to participate in the openings, but I was always there in spirit! It was a pleasure and a privilege to be included, and I hope to continue my contribution to contemporary Australian textiles.
    Best wishes to everyone,
    Jill Kinnear

  3. Being involved in this show has been such a pleasure – great work, great people and a great concept. Being from a jewellery background with a genuine interest in textiles (and in fact tertiatry training in textiles) it was really great to have the opportunity to exhibit work outside my normal area of discipline. It is a credit to you Valerie that you looked outside the box and infact included two jewellers, so thank you for this opportunity.

    I really enjoyed the seminar day in Canberra and having the chance to meet others in the textile field (and some of the other exhibitors) and hear a variety of talks. This forum broadened out the show I thought to encompass others as well as give those of us participating a chance to talk in a more formal setting about our practice more generally.

    Thank you Valerie, its been such a great project to be a part of.
    My best to you and everyone involved – happy making!

    Vicki Mason

  4. This has been a fantastic to show to be in-great to have work shown in so many venues and to make contact with other textile artists. The several times I saw the show in different venues it looked wonderful.
    At one of the talks I gave I had a huge appreciative audience of all ages who were incredibly interested and excited about the many forms of textiles and the methods artists had used in their work.
    Congratulations to you Valerie on all your hard work and travels, the way you have promoted textiles and the way you have kept us all in the loop.
    I would also like to add that the initial public advertising of the show and the invitation to artists to submit proposals was a welcome change from previous Tamworths.

  5. Thanks for posting your speech from Momentum’s last opening Valerie. I would have liked to have been there so it was great to read and to be reminded of the themes and variety of approaches to working with textiles, Momentum exhibits. I like your comments on making by hand in 2010 -it’s nice to be reminded of what it’s all about and why we do it!

    I felt proud to be a part of Momentum – I appreciate it’s no small feat to tour a show that size to nine venues over two years! So thank you and thank you to Sandra, Sarah and the Tamworth Regional Gallery for all the hard work in putting it together and sending it around the country.

    The highlight for me was meeting the other artists at the opening weekend. I found the talks and seminars really enlightening and felt privileged to have the opportunity for your feedback and to engage with the other artists. All the best to you and all the artists involved (what Vicki said!) and I look forward to coming across their work again in the future.

    Best wishes

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