Napier, Part 2: Clare Plug and "Look South"


"Polar Dreams 2"


Sample Pieces

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.


Cate Rose said...

Meg, I'm SO envious of your seeing Clare's work -- she is one of my absolute favorite art quilters!! How can I get a copy of the catalog? WOW, is all I can say. Her work is incomparable.

Meg said...

Connie, I thought you'd like her work, but I'm reminded time and time again Clare is better known overseas!

I know you've heard from her, but for everybody else, in the US, Studio Art Quilt Associates bookstore, www.saqa.com/aboutus/SAQA_StoreThumbnails.aspx will stock the "Look South" catalog. The cost is US$20 + shipping.

Clare adds, "I should warn you it is not just a series of images of every work in the show, rather includes 3 substantial essays, historical & modern antarctic related photos as well as of course some of the artworks.:-)"
And I add, they are interesting articles which, like the quilts, stand repeat reading.

HBMAG can be contacted for sales to New Zealand and Australia. Anybody else, I'm checking now, but HBMAG should know in due course, I'm sure.

Anonymous said...

your photos of her work - and this is the first time I have seen it - prompts me to think of shrouds. Of leaving bodies behind on the ice.

Just a first look reaction combined with your mention of the sound installation element. Reminds me of being kid on vast frozen lakes at night.

All of this prompts me to search for more of her work.

thanks for the inspiration!

Meg said...

Which connects with something I've been thinking since around Christmas. The Shroud of Turin seems to be the only well-known "wrapper" in history, at least in Western history. I've been thinking of an exhibition based on just wrappers. Like the invisible treasures... I could go on once again on how silk wrapper for imperial treasures in Japan get an occasional mention.... but interesting how different triggers sometimes lead different minds to similar points.

Glad to know there's yet another potential Clare fan, Lynne.

Parrish said...

So delighted to see her exciting work - I've been a fan of hers (and Arie, too, for that matter) for years. You go, girl! Good on ya'!!

Meg said...

Hello, Parrish. Have you seen the latest Listener article on Clare's exhibition?

Josh Swenson said...

That quilt art is beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing. I wish that I could go to that exhibition!


Lynne Brotman said...

What beautiful work and a beautiful venue to show it off. Thanks for adding the photo.

Meg said...

Lynne, am I right to assume you live in/near RI? If so, it won't help, but her exhibition is opening in Christchurch, NZ, this week, (or next.)