Laura Gascoigne: Tangled Web – September 2017

“Why is there so much sewing?” demanded The

Art Newspaper’s Christina Ruiz after visiting Christine Macel’s exhibition at this year’s Venice Biennale. “I get it: domestic work, women’s work, is important and undervalued. But is it in itself art? No it is not.”

There was a time when so-called textile arts were prized above all others; when first unveiled google_ad_height = 90; in 1519, google_ad_width = 970; Raphael’s tapestries for the Sistine Chapel threatened to google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; eclipse the fame of Michelangelo’s ceiling. But in

the 18th century tapestry began to feel fusty as audiences warmed to the immediacy of paint. A work’s value no longer resided in src="//"> the price of the wool, the skill of //--> the src="//"> weavers, the total hours spent in production and associated cost, but in google_ad_height = 90; the artist’s touch, the signature of

authenticity that connected audiences with the creator of the work, usually male.

In the 1980s, when Rozsika Parker wrote The Subversive


Stitch, she pinpointed “the separation //--> of the craft of embroidery from the fine arts” as “a major force in the marginalisation of women’s work”. But on the coattails of conceptualism, ‘women’s work’ has come back from the margins. Since the personal signature of the pen or brush fell under suspicion the needle has returned,

an exhibition of young Los Angelino artists at the Mona Bismarck American Centre in Paris last year. More ambitiously, at the Minories Gallery, Colchester in 2015 Clare Sams’s installation Knitting Fever recreated the devastation caused by the 2009 floods when a wool shop of that name in Cockermouth spilled its guts through the Cumbrian google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; town. The gallery complimented the artist on using a process “stereotypically viewed as a feminine past-time [sic]” to represent “cataclysmic forces not normally associated with the practice”.

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Sams’ ‘total knitted environment’ looked
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a little twee for a cataclysm – acts of God produce more dramatic results

the prison wagon and trained 300 prisoners in 20 gaols to spend their lock-up time productively embroidering cushion covers. There’s precious little bunce in it for the lags,

Process Overview:

but more job satisfaction than stitching mailbags.

It’s no discovery that men are nimble-fingered (not a lot of people know this, but the


young Malevich upset his father with his unhealthy aptitude for Ukrainian cross-stitch). The danger for women of challenging gender stereotypes around google_ad_slot = "6023194682"; textiles is that male artists will seize the initiative. Not content with getting tapestries woven to their designs, brothers are /* xin-1 */ doing it for themselves.
Art Now at Tate Britain


in /* 9-970x90 */ 2010 Andy Holden showed The Pyramid Piece, a 10ft-high knitted replica of a chip off the Great Pyramid of Cheops that he had illegally smuggled home from a family holiday to Egypt at the age of 12. Along with its benefits for cognitive development, knitting is obviously a good way of google_ad_client = "ca-pub-3967079123942817"; assuaging guilt.

The main drawback of needlework, for unreconstructed individualists, is its inflexibility as

a means of expression,
which is why most attempts to employ it as one, Tracey Emin’s included, have been sew-so. The notable exception is Mr and Mrs Pope, Knitted, Shrunk and Hung

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(2012), a truly heart-wringing piece

of work that google_ad_width = 970; – sorry girls! /* xin2 */ – was created by a male sculptor,

Nicholas Pope, with his own fair hands.

Laura Gascoigne
The Jackdaw Sept/Oct