Sunday, June 14, 2009
Napier, Part 2: Clare Plug and "Look South"
Undoubtedly the best part of my weekend in Napier was meeting Clare Plug and seeing her "Look South" exhibition at Hawke's Bay Museum and Art Gallery.
Clare is a Napier textile artist and her technique of choice is quilting, although she does a lot of dyeing and known for discharge work as well. She was one of the Artists in Antarctica in 2006, a two-week residency sponsored by Creative New Zealand and Antarctica New Zealand, and this exhibition, 30 months in the making, is the fruit of that experience.
What I loved about her work is, at first glance they are clear, clean, predominantly monochrome pieces which appear simple and straight forward, but can stand repeated, longer viewing. For example, the three-dimensional, crinkled appearance of her dye work was so real I almost reached out to touch. Instead, I looked at them from the sides to find they are indeed flat. The perception of depth/three-dimensionality is enhanced by up to five or six colors of stitching, and in the first instance, the eyes follow wherever Clare leads us. This is why I had to return again and again to see what else were in each work.
Clare's work is not a new style, multi-media textile/fiber art, (nothing wrong with them, but we know I can't bring myself to make them,) but fall within what I know to be the definition of traditional quilting, the only possibly disputable point being that they are machine-stitched. Each piece is well-thought-out, not only in the technical planning, but every piece is loaded with her thoughts, emotions and meaning. Soon after I walked into the gallery for the first time, I sensed the presence of these things which differentiate art from ordinary craft, however we define these.
The experience was further enhanced by husband Arie Plug’s subtle but somewhat “other worldly” compilation of sound clips Clare gathered during her stay. Because of the unobtrusive in between long periods of absence of sounds, the viewer is nudged towards silence, to reflect, or make room to soak in Clare’s work effortlessly.
There is a beautiful catalog produced in conjunction with the exhibition, in which HBMAG curator Lucy Hammonds writes fluently about Clare’s art as contemporary art and the climate of craft.
I spent hours pouring over Clare's work, soaking up her creative energy and feeling encouraged to stay on course and trying to pursue cloth that is art, instead of diverting towards what I think is the more popular textile/fiber art. Or, as Clare told me, "Follow your 'ara'."
"Look South" is held at the Hawke's Bay Museum and Art Gallery in Napier until the start of November, and then it travels to Palmerston North & Christchurch and possibly other venues.
For Google Image search result for Clare, click here. For another review of “Look South”, click here.
Photographs and text posted with help and permission from Clare Plug.