October 8, 2005 - January 15, 2006
This exhibition is an overview of the work of two textile artists, Peter Harris, a tapestry weaver, and Ellen Adams, a quilt maker. They shared their life together for fifteen years, until Adams death in 2001, living for the most part in an old farm house just south of Ayton in Wellington County. The two artists worked in close proximity, shared similar values and occasionally intersected their projects, yet each pursued different directions of artistic inquiry.
Weaving is not the first medium that comes to mind when considering an art making practice, and yet for Harris this medium is well suited to his character. His extensive knowledge about the traditions of weaving, both Western and Eastern, fuels his inquiry into form, pattern and colour. It also enables him to challenge existing preconceptions by pushing the expectations of the woven surface. In the piece entitled Stuffing, gleaming organs and entrails challenge the weavers craft and also the viewers expectations, by juxtaposing the nature of textile and the imagery of slimy gleaming viscera.
In other pieces Harris uses digital technology and the breaking down of images into pixilated bits. Harris plays photo imagery off more painterly landscapes. The piece Senderista is constructed to replicate a newspaper photo of a guerrilla fighter in the mountains. By emulating other forms he finds greater freedom to explore the possibilities of the figure in the landscape.
Adams’ work, influenced by the esoteric aesthetics she found in her travels to Japan, includes epics from her elevator door series, an inquiry into the art deco styling of the elevator doors in some prestigious American skyscrapers, such as the Chrysler Building in New York. The doors were made of different metal alloys, generally monochromatic, but Adams has taken license to explore the original motifs through an extravagant interpretation of lush texture and colour in keeping with the sensual styling of the art deco period.
There is a depth of intellectual inquiry to Adams work that is delightful in its execution. The quilt Joycean Textile comprises a repetition of text in various type faces, rendered with small glass. The initial type is depicted as the original handwriting of James Joyce with the opening sentence from his master piece Ulysses: ‘Stately, plump Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed.’ The imagery accompanying the text continues the mock gesticulation as indicated in the first page of this book in a reiteration of the sensual, the prosaic and the prophetic.
- Tony Massett