A recent theme on the Contemporary Quilt group's discussion list has been political quilts - those dealing with current affairs and with injustices and conflicts in today's world. Never mind that the UK is now - again, so soon - in the run-up to yet another election, which puts my head in the sand as I retreat to a media-free zone.
My own work is very unlikely to include any political theme - it's process and materials that interest me: stitching as drawing, the cloth-ness of fabric, that sort of up-in-the-air thing. But I feel strongly that textile artists and contemporary quilters need to be aware not just of the different varieties of quilts being made, but of what's going on in the world.
|"For those in peril on the sea" (via)|
Hans Haacke, John Keane, George Grosz, Sigmar Polke, Banksy, Yinka Shonibare - some I know a bit about already, others I've looked up and will watch out for.
Maggie Hambling may have done work about Syria and climate change [though an environmental message in the Wall of Water series was not a conscious plan]; Gerhard Richter (those Baader-Meinhof paintings come to mind), Anselm Kiefer (German history) - but what about Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, what political themes have they used [flags? the commentary inherent in appropriated images?]; and there are many African & East European artists who are prepared to challenge the status quo.
When it comes to textiles, very few will tackle such issues, said one contributor, but among them are Cas Holmes [connection with nature; sustainable practice], Sandra Meech [arctic meltdown]
|"The last silence" (via)|
Helen Conway [street art as fractured communication], Leah Higgins [ruins], Rozanne Hawksley [isolation; war; misuse of power], Sara Impey [lettering that comments on social issues] -
|"Tickbox Culture" (via)|
Her work is part of the Conflict Textiles collection, as is work by Eileen Harrison -
|"Her pillow, the earth" (via)|
"Politics is about so much I am wondering how it is possible to actually avoid being political" said another contributor to the discussion.
So ... if I did a textile work on a political theme, it might be about climate change, or biodiversity, or disappearing languages, or illiteracy, or food waste, or over-use of antibiotics, or the disappearance of art/design from school curriculums.
Or the NHS - its death by a thousand cuts. Ditto for libraries.
Suddenly there seems a lot to do ...
Maybe the common core is the idea of things disappearing through neglect, a neglect that comes from taking them for granted. Perhaps this arises to some extent from a feeling a personal powerlessness.
Address it through art, yes ... but then my "favourite" question arises: Why a quilt? Why cloth, why stitch; why this medium. Would another medium be more appropriate, more telling, more impactful (or quicker, or easier... or reach a wider audience)?