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Disturbing Political Textiles from Christchurch

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Katharina Jaeger,  Untitled 3, textile and found objects, detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT Katharina Jaeger, Untitled 4, monoprint on textile, detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT Katharina Jaeger, Untitled 1, monoprint on textile and found object, detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT Michael Reed, 'Drapes for real men, Thinking on the Job, screenprint, stencilling & stamps on textile, detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT Michael Reed, Drapes for real men, Money Mob International, screenprint, stencilling & painting on textile, detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT Sandra Thomson, Dirty Linen, screenprint on textile detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT Sandra Thomson, Dirty Linen II, screenprint on textile detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT Sandra Thomson, Dirty Linen IV, screenprint on textilea detail. Image courtesy of COCA and CPIT

Textile's employment here involves an interesting departure from the norm. Huge pieces of linen are draped down gallery walls, from a great height, on which are screen-printed images that engage the viewer in a direct and aggressive political manner. There is some frisson to be had simply by the juxtaposition of a decorative form (curtains/drapes) used for serious political purpose, become banners that could be easily used in a street march.

Hamilton

 

Michael Reed, Katharina Jaeger, Sandra Thomson
Drape: Subversive textile works

 

20 July - 6 August 2010

Ramp Gallery (Wintec Waikato) has built up a reputation for challenging, cutting-edge exhibitions over its short history. It’s therefore a pity that access to the facility is often problematic. Shows like the current Drape, deserve to have a wider audience than those confined to the Polytech environs.

Textile is the medium that all three Christchurch based artists in this show have in common and its employment involves an interesting departure from the norm. Huge pieces of linen are draped down gallery walls, from a great height, on which are screen-printed images that engage the viewer in a direct and aggressive political manner. There is some frisson to be had simply by the juxtaposition of a decorative form (curtains/drapes) used for serious political purpose, become banners that could be easily used in a street march.

Of the three, Swiss born Katharina Jaeger is perhaps the most arresting, certainly the most visually haunting, even though her pieces involve no screen-printed images at all. Half sculpture, half drape-like with a hint of dark flecked paint, these long narrow sack-like constructions hang down off the ceiling and present a disturbing image that conjure up real execution-type hangings. What does it for the viewer is the protrusion from the bottom of these ‘sacks’ of ornate furniture legs that double as feet. Such surreal conjunction of forms brings a direct anthropomorphic quality to the pieces that recall Meret Oppenheim (who herself grew up in Switzerland) whereby the banal is transformed into images of the bizarre and even sometimes of horror.

Michael Reed’s Drapes for Real Men brings to mind all those slightly seedy boys’ bedrooms decorated with violent macho posters. He, with the boldest of nudges, pushes the format directly into the political arena on his pieces of large draped cloth. Comic-like cartoon characters, black-hooded and carrying automatic weapons are given loaded lines like, “If man shoots, does God guide the bullet.” The spoken texts are formatted in speech bubbles that evokes Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein, but these works have a much harder, harsher satirical bite than As I Opened Fire, for example. The motifs Reed uses are repeated like wallpaper patterns but his themes are not pretty. War, death and the collusion of religion and government connected to the arms industry are his target. Art, poster and propaganda jostle for position in these blatant hard-edged prints set against a flat abstract background. If you don’t mind your art being as subtle as a toilet seat, this is the stuff for you.

Sandra Thomson continues in the same vein. She has the church in her sights, particularly the Roman Catholic one. Dirty Linen explores the disturbing issue of child sexual abuse and her banner-like heraldic prints display images associated with church vestments and architectural motifs. These are overlaid with images of underpants and band-aids smudged with dirty fingerprints. Thomson pulls no punches in her exposé. Both shocking and didactic, it is as if the subject itself needed to be treated in such a graphic fashion.

The subtitle of the show, Subversive Textile Works, lives up to its billing, far more so than others who have co-opted such phraseology in connection with textile.

Peter Dornauf

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