Saturday, August 25, 2012

On Comtemporary Art Writing - An Example

In May last year when we had "really big ideas" about our exhibition, one of the things I aspired to do was to advertise our exhibition in a proper art magazine. I volunteered for the task, but I was still surprised when Art News New Zealand accepted our submission. Their spring issue came out and I thought you might be interested in how my drab original was edited to read "contemporary" and suitable for the magazine.

This is my original effort, (I didn't even have a title):
Water, earth, dead birds, skulls, maps and cardiograms were some of the starting points for the works in Beginnings, a joint exhibition by Nelson-based textile artists group, Strands.

Maria Julkunen Dalton, Jo Kinross, Ronnie Martin, Meg Nakagawa and Pat Spitz make up Strands. They came from Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and USA. And they make textile art using different techniques including but not restricted to: pattern and garment making, eco and Ikat dying, stitching, felting, painting, and tapestry and cloth weaving. Social and environmental concerns, personal expressions, or a simple desire to “see if I can make something pretty” drive them.

Members brought varying depths and lengths of practices, along with a mixed bag of “real” life experiences as a teacher, a translator, a counselor, a pharmaceutical executive, and a sail maker.

So what made them sit in one room long enough to start a group? A desire to share their passion (obsession?) for textile art, swap links and techniques, but most of all to celebrate and commiserate together their work and their lives. And to create more satisfying work.

So, to say Strands members’ vision, approaches or work vary is an understatement. Best parts of their first meetings 18 months ago were spent defining, discussing and expressing feelings about a word or a phrase. Still, they persisted. A concept for a joint exhibition took shape. The members met monthly to report progress, critique, challenge each other to extend themselves, and bring to life artworks representing their interpretations of beginnings.

Strands is now ready to go public.

Beginnings is from 2 to 26 October; Refinery ArtSpace Gallery, Nelson.
This is what appeared in the magazine, which Publisher Dan Chappell kindly allowed me to copy.
Collective satisfaction
A Nelson textile collective aims to share expertise and push conceptual boundaries.

Water, earth, dead birds, skulls, maps and cardiograms were some of the starting points for the works in Beginnings, a joint exhibition by Nelson-based textile artists group, Strands.

Members Maria Julkunen Dalton, Jo Kinross, Ronnie Martin, Meg Nakagawa and Pat Spitz make up Strands, and come from a variety of nations, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States. Their textile art techniques are equally diverse - pattern and garment making, eco and Ikat dying, stitching, felting, painting, and tapestry and cloth weaving. They're also driven by different creative urges (italics mine) - social and environmental concerns, personal expressions, or a simple desire to “see if I can make something artistic (Italics mine)”.

The members of this collective have had different life experiences - there's a teacher, a translator, a counselor, a pharmaceutical executive, and a sail maker. Initially they came together to share their passion for textile art and to compare techniques, but mostly they enjoy the collective satisfaction of creating art from fabric, fibre and felt.

The concept of a joint exhibition came from their first meeting 18 months ago, and slowly this inaugural show has taken shape. The group met monthly to extend their practices, and to bring to life artworks representing the idea of beginnings.

Beginnings, 2-26 October 2012; Refinery ArtSpace Gallery, 3 Halifax Street, Nelson. For more information visit www.refinerygallery.org.
©Art News New Zealand
Before I wrote my draft, I read more than enough similar pieces in the past issues. Dan told me not to make it "too arty-farty, if you'll excuse my jargon," which, to me apparently means homey. I tried to make it sound personal and different. I took out, (and personally dislike overindulging in,) words in vogue like "contemporary", "conceptual" and "boundaries", which were amply thrown around during group Strands' discussions, and they're back in.  The group concluded some of us in the group did not set out to "push conceptual boundaries". As well, felt as material was never mentioned and I'm not sure if anyone is using it. And I took pains not in call this "inaugural" because we don't know if there is to be a second.

I gave Dan free rein to edit. The only part I regret having had edited was "see if I can make something artistic artistic” which was originally "pretty"; I don't do conceptual and I felt it showed the diversity of motives in our engagement with textiles, and on Monday the group agreed.

As a piece, though, this sounds edgy and new, fits the tone of the magazine and the group was pleased. And, oh, "urge" I was most pleased with; that's not part of my writing vocabulary, and I normally consider "drive" (sounds too aggressive) or "need" (too needy) but adding "urge" seems to soften the mood and yet express, very accurately, our itching to get our tools and material out and continue making.

The piece was accompanied by photos of close-ups of one piece by Jo Kinross and another by Pat Spitz.

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