As a survey of textile artwork, FIBRE does not baulk at the profusion of its themes. The exhibition of loaned and Holmes à Court Collection artworks dives into process, tradition and community, inviting analogies to ‘threads’ of culture. “We talk about social fibre and moral fibre,” begins exhibition manager Laetitia Wilson, “and fibres hold meaning across time and space, whether in an old shirt or the bark of an ancient tree.” With almost 20 Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australian artists represented, each work provides a dense, personal testimony encrypted into fibre or thread.
The materials at play provide a sense of locality. Western Australian artist Olga Cironis sourced stiff grey military blankets from Rottnest Island, a former colonial prison. In Deep River, Holly Story steamed Karri branches against wool, where they left ghostly fawn silhouettes. Human hair makes several visceral appearances: felted into a poetry banner by Nalda Searles, woven into mystic cords by Curtis Taylor and shaped into downy cocoons by Anisa Hirte.
Eschewing the bright, machine-spun threads offered at warehouse stores, the artists of FIBRE work with materials grown, harvested and processed in small batches. The exhibition palette is determined by qualities like tannin concentration, hair colour, sun fading, fleece oils and tree sap. “The show has an earthiness and rawness about it,” says Wilson. “Holly Story says that in her art she tries to do what nature does effortlessly, and this is echoed in the other works.”
Gallerist Janet Holmes à Court’s acquisition process foregrounds personal engagement; visiting studios, consulting with curators and following artists through their careers.
Work is not bought to tell predetermined histories; rather, collection exhibitions are formed from naturally occurring themes therein. “We found a strong sensibility towards the natural world, but the real surprise was the strength of the community of makers,” Wilson explains. “Fibre and textile practice is booming and that enthusiasm and dialogue is increasingly reflected in the collection.”