Feeling blue? The bright work of Jenny Ford opposite might just revive you. This relates to a question asked by a student yesterday, – why is so much contemporary textile art colourless and drab? Why is it assumed the better you get, the more neutral your work will become? Note they were referring to textile art specifically, not functional textile design. Is that statement true I wondered and if so why? Certainly looking around at the work of artists at the Development Weekend I attended recently (previous post) the majority of the artist’s work, if not actually colourless or neutral was subdued, even faded looking, apart from some strong black tones. I suspect several reasons; colour is often the first thing that strikes the eye, much more obvious than texture or even shape. After a while, as one studies form more closely, the subtleties start to emerge, the textures that aren’t seen on first inspection, and so one starts to concentrate on these aspects more closely. There has to be an element of fashionable here as well, as there is in any visual format. The more well known textile artists take a while to emerge, so maybe (and this is merely a suggestion) they echo the mores of a few years back, when minimalism was in and neutrals were strong?
Looking at interior decor and fashion at the moment, colour abounds, so maybe its just a matter of waiting for textile art to catch up? Maybe there’s an element of wanting to look serious about our work as well; does colour have overtones of frivolity or lay too close to the something suspiciously decorative and lightweight? Actually, I think a more colourful trend has already started, it may even run alongside the other – look at some of the examples here. Also, some textile artists, such as Alice Kettle and Michael Brennand-Wood have always used a lot of colour in their work. In neither case does it feel superfluous; colour gives their work an energetic quality, in Kettle’s case, adding to the line as a means of almost visceral expression.
Tilleke Schwarz always manages to use colour in a playful way, but that very quality of colourfulness has meaning within it. Schwarz references graffiti art and children’d drawings in her work, alongside some serious and poignant observations about life. Colour, often bold and childlike, is used in her work to reinforce those very connections.
I would certainly call all the textile art mentioned here “serious” in that the work has meaningful content (click on the photo left to read Schwarz’s interesting thoughts). Perhaps an innate expressive connection between the word “serious” and certain colours (black, grey?) works on us unconsciously so we feel the opposite ought to be true? In any case, I will leave you with a link to the following colour related website – Colour Scheme Designer – designed by a graphic artist, it allows you to create the exact complimentary for any given colour plus loads of other permutations and play for hours on a wet day.