This is the second of two posts I’m making to feature exhibitions by artists at Select 2013 in the beautiful Cotswold town of Stroud. From the home of Stroud International Textiles Select 2013 is the major UK contemporary textile event of the year and this year’s programme is outstanding. In my first post I wrote a short essay on Hillu Liebelt’s Still Moments show when this touring exhibition visited Bankfield Museum in Halifax. My essay on Seiko Kinoshita benefitted from a visit to her Sheffield studio as she started work on her SIT commissioned installation The Colour of Summer.
For all Seiko Kinoshita’s diffidence about describing her work and her inspiration, in conversation she is rarely lost for a vivid verbal image. Sometimes it’s like listening to a translation of Kanji characters, those Chinese elements of Japanese containing only content words (nouns) and stems of verbs and adjectives, missing out the usual prepositions and conjunctions. As you hear her speak you fill in the gaps, and that’s fine. This suggests that she has not changed her (Japanese) way of thinking about the essential nature of things seen. Nature predominates: sky, field, tree, flower. There’s also a directness about colour: blue, red, green, yellow. She seems less concerned with qualities of difference than the directness of sensory impact. So when she begins to describe plans for her installation in the foyer of Stroud Museum this directness and simplicity of description provides instant images. Green and Yellow: that rich green of grass in a meadow; the vibrant yellow of a field of rape. That’s it. But wait. What you have to add to this is movement of textile in 3D space. Imagine suspended fragments of woven paper yarn direct-dyed in these two colours, not as in her autumnal One Sunny Day (2010) a blaze of orange and red woven leafs revolving in a perpendicular structure, but resting in curvatured swathes of yellow then green, yellow then green, so when seen from a distance (from the Museum courtyard?) a summer landscape of colour appears. Her initial sketches seem to add something new to her existing body of site-specific work, textile forms that may sway and ripple across and within a rectangular space.
The past ten years have seen Seiko produce a series of multi-dimensional assemblages of woven material that take radically different forms in response to differing spaces. For example, a stairwell linking Sheffield’s Central Library with the Graves Art Gallery is transformed by floating shapes of blue birds, dyed woven lengths of paper yarn manpulated in a loose origami-like fashion to resemble more a bird’s flight, that turn and twist presenting to the eye both colour and shadow, than the shape of the bird itself. Her solo show Rain Rain (2005) has an exuberant repertoire of sculptural forms in which woven textile and direct dye, along with hand-dyed paper, Perspex and quite experimental structural devices in wood and metal come together. Her later walk-through installation Walk in the Rain (2010) wonderfully demonstrates the Japanese take on ikat known as kasuri where sections from bundles of paper yarn are finely resisted by plastic wrapping and then dyed.
Behind such bold presentation of constructed textiles in 3D space there is an almost disarming simplicity. Looking at the samples in her workshop the weave structures are so finely woven in one of the most difficult yarns to use on a loom. The yarn itself is not what is commonly associated with traditional Japanese methods of production in which ribbons of paper from the plants such as kozo, mitsumala and gampi produce a soft, warm, delicately sheened outcome. Seiko uses a paper yarn that appears to be corded and rolled in the European fashion rather than the softly folded shifu. The outcome when woven is that of a crisp, matt-like finish that holds firmly to different spacings in the beaten weft, and most important, when off the loom, responds well to sculptural origami-like folding.
And if the visual aspect of weave alone is not enough Seiko is in company with other weavers in being captivated by the sounds of the weaving process. Think of Jilly Edwards 2011 show Sense of Place show at Dartington. In a collaboration with Dennis Tuckermann she’ll be presenting at Stroud The Sound of Weaving. This features recorded sounds of weaving, ranging from a traditional hand loom to factory machines, both in the U.K and Japan. Each field recording is accompanied by the sounds of weavers and workers themselves mimicking the noise of a weaving loom – a mix of both sources provides for a unique and unusual sonic experience.
I was struck by the final words on her video contribution to The Shape of Things project where four artists of different nationalities showed the contribution they make to the intercultural nature of British society. ‘I don’t want to make a big shock ,’ she says, ‘just something away from normal life. That’s my aim I think.’ Perhaps The Colour of Summer will help us open our eyes to something we take for granted as ‘out there’ , but all too often neglect to stand still and stare at . . . for the marvel that it is.