Choose two internationally known textile artists whose work you find particularly inspiring.
- Describe their work, in terms of materials, scale, colour, technique, and imagery.
- Consider how the artist has used any of the elements listed above to express the concepts behind their work.
The first artist I have chosen to look at is Michael Brennand-Wood, an artist from the UK who describes himself as “an artist with a sustained interest in textiles” (Ideas in the Making, Maker of the Month) .
Image: 12 Dreams Within the Here and Now
One of the inspiring aspects of Michael’s work is his combination of two materials that are traditionally divided in their use between the sexes – wood and thread, and his studying and use of embroidery from a male point of view at a time when it was a very female dominated activity. The base framework is often wood, using skills he picked up from his grandfather and Michael’s early grounding from his grandmother was how to knit and sew. He pursued this by studying embroidery at university and since then has combined the areas of wood and embroidery in his artistic work. These materials have been added to with lace, paint, glass and collage.
Most of Michael’s earlier work is around 1 metre in each dimension, with the interior packed full of small detailed work. Later works become larger particularly for commissioned pieces. The colour palette varies depending on the theme, with many works in his recent floral theme reflecting the vibrant, bright colours of flowers with lots of contrast and interplay between light and dark.
In the mid to late 1990s he produced a number of black and white works, contrasting with strong reds. this coincides with his phase of working with lace so the designs are very open and thread-like. As a lace maker myself I find his interpretations of lace fascinating, particularly his inclusion of non traditional motifs into lace work that from a distance looks very traditional but in fact is not even made of thread. For example Lace The Final Frontier is made of wood and includes images of aeroplanes, propellers and skulls.
Image: Lace the Final Frontier
Michaels says about this work “My intention is to construct a ‘military lace’ emblematic of conflict and the annexing of resources and territory. Imagery for the roundels is drawn from three sources; lace, weaponry, and the Rorschach test. The visual field of the work echoes the instructional, pricked, diagrammatic papers on which bobbin laces are constructed – in this case a fusion of Islamic and Western geometry”. (Lost in Lace).
I could not find a reference for the choice of red as the colour but it does have military connotations with the reference of being blood-red. The choice of a lace based design, although seemingly contrasting with the military theme, actually provides a good basis for showing the annexing that Michael refers to and the connections made and broken between the different cultures.
Michael’s 21 century work has seen a move into more 3 dimensional textiles and an exploration of a floral theme interpreted through machine embroidery. He is inspired by patterns in historical textiles and interprets those in a modern way.
Image: Flower Head- Narcissistic Butterfly
Flower Head is a very detailed piece of work, combining many brightly coloured elements that float above a more subdued base. This is a move away from the 2 dimensional pieces that were produced in his earlier work as Michael becomes more interested in 3-dimensional forms and the impact of space. In an interview on Ideas in the Making, Maker of the Month, Michael says:
“I think one of the strongest characteristics of my work is the illusion of space. I’m interested in exploring the space between the second and third dimension”.
A new project for 2015 is to extend his floral work into an outdoor project that combines planting and artwork. This is planned to take place in the Abbey gardens in Bury St Edmond and funding for this is being sought through crowdfunding platforms.
As well as being a working artist, Michael is a respected curator. For the exhibition he curated in 2014 at the Blue Coat Display Centre he said ‘Anyone who knows or has spent time with me is probably waiting for the moment where I career from Art making into Music making in all its diversity and sonic excitement. I’m convinced that there’s a soundtrack to most people’s lives, a song, title, lyric that inspires. I’ve never made anything when I haven’t been listening to music. It fuels my work, drives a process and allows me access to the experience of others, whether sound, rhythm, title or lyrical snapshot.
This passion for music can be found in the way Michael describes some of his work. In his artists statement for Transition and Influence, Michael describes his works as colourful, dramatic and rhythmic; words that would equally be at home describing an operatic work. There is a fascinating article on West Dean Visual Arts website which details some of the influences in Michael’s work and the strong musical references within the pieces. This comes through in repeated and rhythmic motifs through his works with interlinking strands or themes, also referencing his interest in lace.
Image: Random precision