Porcelain and sound waves: challenging the parameters of textiles


Porcelain and sound waves do not immediately come to mind when thinking about textiles, yet these are the materials used by artists Janet Fieldhouse and Akira Akira to produce their textile-based work. Casting a wide net for Pliable Planes, co-curators Karen Hall and Catherine Woolley specifically looked for artists whose practice expanded the creative parameters of contemporary textiles.

“The 12 artists we have chosen don’t always use fabric, but they are working with the processes of textiles, like weaving,” says Woolley. “We are really interested in approaches that challenge what people think textiles look like.” Seven artists were commissioned to create new work for the exhibition, including Anne-Marie May, Kate Scardifield, Lucia Dohrmann, Paul Knight and Katie West. In addition is further work from Mikala Dwyer, Teelah George and Sarah Contos.

John Nixon and Jacqueline Stojanović, Untitled, 2019. Wool and enamel on wood, on metal mesh. Private Collection. Courtesy of the Estate of John Nixon and Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney. Photography by Sarah Cottier Gallery, Sydney.

A commissioned collaboration between the late painter John Nixon and Melbourne-based artist Jacqueline Stojanović looks at the formal connections between abstract painting and loom weaving. Using rulers and wool to create the central visual elements, Nixon and Stojanović each completed a portion of the work before handing it back to the other. Nixon completed his part before he passed away in late 2020. “Without context it doesn’t look like a textile work at all, it’s using the parquetry of rulers,” says Hall. “They were thinking about the significance of the ruler in geometric abstraction as Jacqueline often uses the ruler as a stand-in for the loom.”

For Woolley and Hall, textiles touch nearly all aspects of our lives and their presence in art making is keenly felt. “It’s a practice that is part of our everyday life,” says Woolley. “It nourishes us, sustains us and clothes us—it has an interesting history we are following up on.”

Pliable Planes
Ballarat Art Gallery
Until 30 April 2023

This article was originally published in the May/June 2022 print edition of Art Guide Australia.

Preview Words by Briony Downes