Following the Thread: Canadian Fibre/ Textile Exhitions 2008 - 2012 PDF  | Print |  E-mail

anna Torma in Queens Square 

Anna Torma at the opening of "Encyclopedia Domestica photo By Joe Lewis

On April 12 2011, Anna Torma’s "Encyclopaedia Domestica" at opened at Queen's Square as a solo exhibition,  while across the Square at Design at Riverside, "Selections from the Permanent Collection” was also opened. These two galleries are part of the Cambridge Galleries, which in turn are part of the Cambridge Public Library system with exhibition spaces at Queen's Square, Preston Libraries, and Design at Riverside.  The latter  is situated in the University of Waterloo’s School of Architecture. Opened in 1986 with a policy of collecting contemporary Canadian fibre art to reflect upon Cambridge's historical connection to the textile industry, this collection has been built from pieces acquired from the work they have been showing in their national biannual juried exhibition “Fibreworks”.   While both these shows  received advance PR and were posted as events in facebook, in Akimbo (a national on-line arts event listing service) and were in the local newspaper's -- that is where the coverage ended. There was no follow up coverage and no reviews published in print media. I did post a facebook album entitled "April 2, 2011 at the Cambridge Galleries Anna Torma & Selections as did Anna Torma "Encyclopedia Domsetica"

While Anna Torma has just been inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts  and is recognized as one of Canada's top textile artist with participation in international exhibitions like the Rijswijk Textile Biennial 2011( Museum Rijswijk), in the Netherlands,  the 7th International Triennial of Contemporary Textile Arts of Tournai, in Belgium, the 2010 13th Triennial of Textiles ,in Lodz, Poland, and a national curated exhibition (Paper Doll, Curator: Dr. Anne Kova) which is currently on tour, critical coverage of her work in the mainstream art media is lacking. The Globe and Mail and the National Post Canada's national newspapers seldom cover Textile exhibitions. This complaint is not exclusive to the Textile arena; art in general gets little coverage. While the mainstream media can be excused for ignoring textile centered exhibitions, they are seldom covered by the art press.  While thoughtful informed essays accompany exhibitions and appear in catalogs, these are commissioned writing, and as such are larger and more in depth than the standard 500 word reviews that most print outlets require. Writing 500 words that gets to the point, makes sense and give the essence rather than essentials of an exhibition is not as easy as you may think. 

prayer rug, dhurrie Asia: South Asia, India, Northern India, Rajasthan; cotton; weft-faced; fringed 1930 - 1950;  mid 20th century ID Number T04.24.10 Textile Museum of Canada

Prayer Rug, dhurrie Asia: South Asia, India, Northern India, Rajasthan; cotton; weft-faced; fringed 1930 - 1950; mid 20th century ID Number T04.24.10 

There are a small number of Textile Arts publications worldwide, a limited number of writers with a combination of technical and historical textile knowledge combine with a similar understanding of fine and contemporary art history. The developing of this broader base of knowledge needs to be more supported in  arts education and looked at from arts craft and industrial design perspectives. While it is an uphill battle to track and cover the growing number of international group exhibitions or solo shows of contemporary makers, it is also important to pay attention to exhibitions of historic material from private and museum collections. Exhibitions such as “Portable Mosques: The Sacred Space of the Prayer Rug” curated by Natalia Nekrassova and currently display   at the Textile Museum of Canada (March 3, 2012 - September 3, 2012 ) has been covered by R.M. VAUGHAN in the Globe and Mail, March 23, 2012  The Globe and Mail Friday, Mar. 23 2012 and reviewed by me for Selvedge Issue 46. “Magic Squares: The Patterned Imagination of Muslim Africa in Contemporary Culture,” also at the Textile Museum of Canada May 18, 2011 - November 20, 2011, has been written about in both the Toronto Star by Peter Goddard and in the Globe and Mail by R.M. Vaughan it was also written about by U of T undergraduate  Elizabeth Daicos in “Curatorial Lab” a website for an undergraduate course offered in the Visual Studies curriculum of the University of Toronto. In this show,

Curator Patricia Bentley brings  together contemporary artists Jamelie Hassan, Hamid Kachmar, Alia Toor and Tim Whiten with pieces from the museum’s collection. A number of events were built around this exhibition:

Approaches to the Qur’an in sub-Saharan Africa, 20–21 May 2011, Co-sponsored by The Institute of Ismaili Studies and York University, Toronto (Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies and the Department of Anthropology).

Artists Panel: Magic Squares: The Patterned Imagination of Muslim Africa in Contemporary Culture Friday May 20, 2011;  co-produced with Subtle Technologies and the Institute for Ismaili Studies http://www.iis.ac.uk/home.asp?l=en

Patricia Bentley herself wrote a paper entitled “Magic Squares: An Examination of Their Metaphoric Significance in Muslim West African Visual Cultures”  for  the international and  interdisciplinary conference  'Gender, Material Culture, and Culture Diplomacy',  held on October 7-9, 2010  at  University of Toronto ( publication is forth coming) ; additionally, she  has delivered a version for a few different audiences. I heard it at OCAD University this past November, as part of the Ontario Craft Council’s “Craft Talk Lecture” series.

Alia Toor, 99 Names of Aman, 2004, dust masks with cotton embroidery. Collection of the artist. 

Alia Toor, 99 Names of Aman, 2004, dust masks with cotton embroidery. (Collection of the artist.) photo: Joe Lewis 

It is unusual to have this amount of activity around a textile exhibition but it is evidence of the number of context in which textiles function as a springboard for further conversations. R.M. Vaughan wrote in his review of Magic Squares “it offers us a world view as historically rich and packed with dazzling, even splashy, decorative flair as the dominant Judeo-Christian heritage that surrounds it,” and this holds true in many different ways when looking at any textile in exhibitions. It’s the unpacking of this historically rich material that makes writing about it, reading about it, seeing it, as important as working with it -- and it may well be essential to the continuance of making.

See next page for links to artist, exhibitions and articles mentioned above.

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