Textile design has come a long way since the mention of the word conjured up images of tables clothes, patterns, sheets, dress material and even American quilts. The Rijswijk Textile Biennial yet again established that there is a lot more to textiles than you would perhaps think and cloth in all forms has become as valid a means of artistic expression as oil paint or marble.
The artists have used every sort of textile material under the sun – thread, sacking, wool, cotton, polyester, you name it. There are monumental, tightly woven sheets by Chilean artist Josefina Concha, reminiscent of the slices of birch-bark that early Sanskrit documents were written on.
On a smaller scale Higi Jung has recreated the cat she once lost in St. Petersburg – whether it was a live animal or a stuffed toy is not clear. Her animals are sewn out of coarse hemp often used as funeral cloths. Their rather crude material and execution make them look like a child’s much-loved toy that has been through the wars but their gaze has such pathos that they incite real empathy in the spectator. All the animals have names, such as Sissel, a small dog, portrayed at the end of his life, sitting for his last few hours on Earth on his favourite cloth and cushion.
A very moving group of works, Relations and Family Portrait, are by British artist, Nigel Cheney. He has recorded war time memories in the form of uniforms which might have been included in the body bags of dead soldiers, sailors or airmen being returned home. They uniforms are charged with portraits of young men in uniforms, photographs of war-time sweet-hearts and handwritten notes from the battle front.
The largest works come from Australian Paul Yore. In a similar style to the great Grayson Perry, these are colourful social comment tableaux – everything from Britney Spears songs to Queer Liberation and everything between. In the piece entitled, Deny Everything, the enraged Pope, aggressively gesticulating with a Trump-like facial expression, dressed in his white robe inscribed ‘White Nationalism’, making him seem more like the KKK than the Holy Father of the Catholic Church. The small squares and rectangles forming the border to this piece are equally witty and are exquisitely woven and stitched.
And there is much more. This is once again an excellent exhibition by the Museum Rijswijk and well worth the trip to the centre of this delightful little town situated between Delft and Den Haag. Highly recommended. Astrid Burchardt 13th August 2019
Rijswijk Textile Biennial continues until 6th October and is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue.