Thursday, October 6, 2011


Andrea called me wondering if I would like to hang a textile exhibition at Refinery Art Space. It was the Nelson Marlborough Buller Area Exhibition of Creative Fibre, (read: regional exhibition of the national guild organization.) I didn't know about this exhibition because I'm not a member of Creative Fibre this year, but the host, Richmond group was looking for someone to oversee the installation.

Of course I wanted to do this. I've only ever been the top dog of an exhibition once, for my miniature exhibition, and though I voice plenty of unsolicited opinions, I've only assisted Lloyd Hardwood and Arts Council Nelson with their shows.  I wanted to see if I had learned anything.
As you enter the building, this is what you see.  Coincidentally those red and gray pieces in the foreground are my merchandise in the shop sitting in the usual place.  Because the red leads into the exhibition, and in particular the exhibition's overall winning piece, the red and black scarf, I felt it was OK to leave them there.
The front room, especially the right half, is a dark, small space, which means we have greater control of lighting, and in person, the white lace-knit pieces take one's breath away.  The catalogue numbers, certificates and "Do Not Touch" signs were put up by Richmond Group; I might have negotiated the placements of these, but I didn't think of it until I revisited the exhibition to take photos on Wednesday. 
And now the left of the front gallery. Straight ahead are bags of sample fibers you are allowed to touch.
That skinny plinth is not crooked, but the floor so is.  When we discovered the electric drill for holes in concrete had been put away, Ben looked for holes we could recycle to hang three pieces meant for other parts of the gallery. The placement of the large piece on the left in particular was a happy accident, as the entrance looks warmer because of it.
Moving slightly to the right, the blue piece was one of the only two pieces taking advantage of the height.  The wall on the right, under my direction, looked boring, and was totally reworked by everybody else to a great result.
Turning further right, you see there is a wee corridor. Suspending the kete (woven flax baskets) was Duncan's idea and was well-received by the maker. 
Turning further to the right, we transition to what is usually perceived as the main wall.  The garment at the far end is suspended from the top of the partition wall.  We took great care in taking advantage of the height of the gallery for this piece, completely reworking the hanging at one point, but this was the one piece the maker lodged a complaint to Richmond group.

One aspect I'm pleased about is when I went back on Wednesday, the normally ever-so prominent main wall did not look more important than other walls. For this, I give credit to the helpers who created clusters of submitted work at the beginning, and then assigned walls and areas to each.
The corridor.  The big box in the corner is a permanent fixture.
As you came out of the back of the corridor, you are hit by a splash of colors.  (The shadow you see in the left edge of the photo is the blue suspended piece.)  This is from a traveling suitcase with an unfortunate title of "Sock it to You", not part of the Area Exhibition proper.  I was informed it is a suitcase, and did not plan on it taking up a quarter of the big gallery.  I was not involved in this section.

Work submitted by Marlborough Weavers can be seen here.

Even though I was on my feet for 12 hours, I had a blast. Three goals surfaced, goals I probably started formulating when I spoke to Andrea, and which I could put into words only as Ben and I staggered into the car. 

1) The exhibition should aim to look like an art exhibition, not a display by a Women's Institute (not my words, surprisingly,) an old-fashioned art society, or at an Agriculture Show/State Fair; it must look attractive to people outside Creative Fibre.

2) The exhibition should invite Creative Fibre members look at their work and the exhibition as a whole with a new perspective; the exhibition must demonstrate that each piece (or as many pieces as possible) is worthy of scrutiny. I wanted my helpers, the Richmond group, and all area Creative Fibre members to feel they own the exhibition. 

3) Everybody who take part in the installation should have a say, and I must be open to different aesthetics. 

I think I achieved 2) observing the visitors Wednesday morning, and hopefully 3) as I left many/most decisions to the helpers.  As regards 1), I believe fantastic things can be done with a bit of innovative, out-of-the-box thinking, (not my forte, though,) and without necessarily an extravagant budget. My taste is more on sparse/sterile, but I know it's not to everybody's liking; instead of making an entire exhibition look minimalist, I will learn more by studying negative spaces in exhibitions.  An advantage in this venture was my intimate knowledge of the gallery, its space, its staff and its workings. In future, I shall look at exhibitions from the installation point of view more often and more closely.

* * * * *

The day we hung this exhibition was five months away from 2012 National Exhibition paperwork due date, and a year away from the planned opening of Group R's "Beginnings" exhibition.

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