Tamworth Fibre Textile Collection 1975- 2010

Opening Speech

Tamworth Fibre Textile Collection 1975- 2010

At Tamworth Regional Gallery

Catrina Vignando

 This inaugural survey exhibition is drawn from the Fibre and Textiles Biennial exhibitions that the Gallery has been conducting since the 1970s. This exhibition also marks an important transition for the Fibre Textiles Biennial as it will be moving to a new triennial format. Our past is our future; celebrating 35 years Tamworth fibre textile collection 1975- 2010 Tonight we are here to celebrate 35 years of the Tamworth Regional Gallery textile collection. This inaugural survey exhibition is drawn from the Fibre and Textiles Biennial exhibitions that the Gallery has been conducting since the 1970s. This exhibition also marks an important transition for the Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial as it will be moving to a new triennial format. The first Fibre Textiles Triennial will be exhibited in September 2011 and will be curated by textile artist and lecturer Patrick Snelling. The Triennial exhibition will continue to draw on the tremendous strength of Australian fibre and textile practice, presenting the work of outstanding Australian artists as craftspeople.. I am pleased to be here with you this evening celebrating this inaugural survey exhibition of fibre and textiles. It is exciting to see the boldness and robustness of 35 years of Australian textile practice presented by this unique collection. As we reflect on this history, I am reminded of the Roman god Janus who could see the past and the future simultaneously. His attributes having inspired the naming of month of January, the beginning of the year where we celebrate the year that has just gone and anticipate the year to come. Similarly this exhibition looks back to the history of the Tamworth Fibre and Textiles Biennial while at the same time anticipating its future as a triennial exhibition. How do we recognize the value of this collection how do we measure its success? For me the significant qualities that mark this collection as unique are the many stories that can be told through this work. The artistic legacy Significantly it is the stories told by the artists that have participated in the Biennials over its long trajectory that adds to the uniqueness of the collection. The exhibitions have attracted artists from all states and territories in Australia. Many of Australia’s leading practitioners are represented through this collection. They have inspired us with the stories they present in their work. The richness of these stories was reflected in the Artists’ symposium that was presented today prior to the opening of the exhibition. Many of the artists have shared their technical knowledge about the making of their work. Many are now teachers that hold senior academic positions passing on their skills to the next generation of makers and influencing new Australian creative practice. The historical legacy This survey exhibition represents 35 years of Australian textile history. The keeping of this story is unique to the Tamworth Regional Gallery. No other regional gallery has consistently presented and collected Australian contemporary fibre and textiles in the same way. Having evolved from the first Tamworth fibre exhibitions in the 1970s, the Fibre and Textiles Biennial exhibitions have pioneered the showcasing of Australian pre eminent textile artists. This survey exhibition documents the evolution of the Fibre Textile Collection from 1975 through to 2010 establishing a historical benchmark for future artists and researchers. This history of contemporary textiles practice now forms part of our cultural lexicon. At Craft Australia we are also playing a part in making sure the pieces of our craft history jigsaw puzzle don’t disappear with time. This year we have been celebrating 40 years of the Australia studio craft movement. Since the 1970s many pieces of cultural infrastructure in this country came to be as a result of government support through funding from the Australia Council of the Arts. The story of the Tamworth Fibre and Textile collection is one of many stories that we have highlighted as part of this 40 year overview. A key feature of this 40 year celebration at Craft Australia has been the digitsiation of slides from the Craft Australia historical collection. Craft Australia has over 20,000 slides in its collection that date back to the early 1970s. Amongst these images are the slides that document the early Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial exhibitions. The slides were produced by Craft Australia and distributed as information kits to schools and libraries around the country to inform and educate the public about developments in contemporary Australian textile practice. Many of the slides documenting the Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial exhibitions have been digitized and are available online at Tamworth fibre textile on FLIKR. These images are drawing attention for people who are interested in Australian cultural history. As these works become accessible online, they are drawing attention from all over the world. People are looking for our unique Australian stories. The collection held by the Tamworth Regional Gallery represents a very unique national and international perspective on contemporary textile and fibre practice.

The story of the people of Tamworth Both the Fibre and textiles Biennial Exhibitions and the Fibre Textile collection are a testament of the vision of the people of Tamworth. People like Fran West, Ruth Blakely and others who inspired the community with their vision and who would not take no for an answer when council wavered with their support. This collection is also a legacy to the vision of the Friends of the Tamworth Regional Gallery and the Gallery Board who have regularly made funds available for the purchase of works that have added to the collection of the Tamworth Gallery. This collection is a story about the directors of the Gallery: James Giddey, Michael Rolf, Brian Langer, Elizabeth Macintosh, and now Sandra McMahon.

They ensured the vision of the exhibition continued by securing the relevant funding and creative partnerships. Over the time of their tenure they have brought new directions to the Biennial that have continued to make it a relevant showcase for Australian contemporary textile art. This has included the production of a high quality catalogue to accompany the exhibitions, creating a document that can be appreciated long after the exhibition has ended; the engagement of a dedicated curator for each show to ensure a cohesive dialogue is created through the exhibitions. These aspects continue as hallmarks of the Biennial. The Fibre and Textiles Biennial exhibitions have attracted funding from the federal government through the Visions of Australia program. They have toured nationally to major regional and urban centers of Australia. This federal investment has been augmented by the funding made available by the Tamworth Regional Council with the support of the local community. I congratulate Meredith Hinchliffe for her excellent work curating this 35 year survey exhibition and the tremendous research that has gone in to the catalogue. Meredith has drawn on her extensive knowledge of Australian contemporary studio craft practice. She has also undertaking a good deal of research of historical records and interviewed many of the people connected with the Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial exhibitions to present this cohesive and concise overview. Such a record is of immense importance to future generations and will be of great value to future researchers and artists who want on draw on this collection for inspiration. I applaud Sandra McMahon and her team at the Tamworth Regional Gallery for bringing this project to fruition. It is a significant and ambitious undertaking. It is not simply a matter of bringing out a few pieces from storage. Unearthing data from computer formats that are now incompatible with all our modern systems is a task of near godly proportions. To their credit this been achieved so that mere mortals may now continue the task of research without such obstacles. New artists will be inspired by the work that the artists in this collection have developed and researchers have significant information from which to continue to tell the story of Australian textiles. Our past is our future, so like Janus let us celebrate the legacy of this collection so that we may look forward with new enthusiasm to the future of Tamworth Fibre Textile Triennials.

Catrina Vignando General Manager Craft Australia November 2010

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