Thursday, 24 April 2008

mark newport (knit)

Much of the knitting I have blogged about has been created by women so some of it has inevitably focused on issues of comfort, home, domesticity and nurturing. Mark Newport makes knitted art that considers these same themes whilst additionally mulling over generally perceived and his own notions of what it is to be a man.

argyleman - 2007

Here we see the comforting, soft material of wool crafted into a protective super-hero costume ready to be worn by a big muscular macho man. But isn't it generally the stereo-typical wimp that wears knitted tank-tops and cosy jumpers..? And isn't it normally the woman (who does the knitting) that is providing the comfort, protection and love for the child the knitting will clothe..? Or are these out-dated notions of gender which are continuously evolving?

The contrast between the costumes when worn and the limp, empty garments that hang on the wall is marked. Once the muscle and the energy have gone they become strange looking pelts - the masks lend an eerie mystery but essentially whilst in that state they are skillfully crafted, limpid knitwear. Maybe fetishistic in appearance, as they hang in galleries they have more of the deflated morning after than the night before, more middle-aged spread than Clark Kent or Reed Richards.

patriot - 2004

These pieces are of course a product of age and context. Newport was a comic book consumer as a boy. Having been born in the 1960's, the heroes he would have read about and the stories he would have hungrily consumed were stereotypical and omnipresent. Television at that time churned out such series as Batman & Robin, Superman and Spiderman where again and again big strong men saved helpless women and children.

patriot - 2004

As a boy, super-heroes are statuesque, strong and powerful, honest and good. Is this how young boys perceive manhood? How they imagine the ideal father? As an adult male, that role of super-hero changes enormously and many men must question every day what is it that is required of them and what is it to be male. What makes a man incredible. What is it that enables a man to protect and save.

fantastic four - 2003

As a father the super-hero themes are there in any normal life (as he slips his imaginary superman pants over his trousers) - to teach children to be honest and good and be a hero in their eyes. Here I see a parallel with the empty costumes on the wall - like seeing one's super-hero father in a dressing gown or pyjama's when you awaken him to help you with a nightmare. Of course it is precisely then, at a groggy 4am that he most inhabits his super-hero role and is a brilliant Dad.

There is irony in the consideration of how much protection a knitted super-hero costume could actually offer. Would it shrink in the rain, or stretch...? Would it shrink in the washer or dryer? Or snag on bushes...? Questions I am sure Newport must have pondered whilst painstakingly knitting the pieces. Of course in undertaking the knitting himself, Newport has taken on the traditional role of the woman as he sees it. He is raising his own personal questions around gender which are specific to his background and generation.

sweaterman 2005

Today however, the majority of women don't knit items for their families. This can be seen as a luxury since time is a valuable commodity. It is not strange now to see men at fashionable knitting groups. Comic books have increasing numbers of super-women and normal women go out to work, protect and provide for their families. So it will be interesting to see if this crossover of skills, roles and deeply personal questions will continue to change and homogenise or if artists like Newport will continue to push it further.

dell stewart (knit)

dell stewart at we are sleep club

I love this rainbow
I love that it's knitted
I love that it's like an upside down smile
I love the colours
I love the smile I had when I first saw it
I love that it's a great graphic image
...and that it's succinct

Here's a statement from Dell which gives more background to the piece and may encourage you to do a hop, skip and a jump over to her site and find out more.

"Recently I have been knitting. Partly a long Berlin winter, partly a need to be always making something. The process of knitting everyday objects is awkward, like a landscape rendered in extra large pixels, the resolution is pretty low. A clumsy representation, appealing in its naive simplicity. Despite graceless appearances it's sophisticated to envision and create in three-dimensions from a piece of string... So these ungainly creations have an innate wisdom passed from generation to generation, a tangible link to early human innovation.

I have an ongoing interest in the connections made with people and things through the processes of making and presenting art. Actively engaging and interacting with people and surroundings and keeping an interested eye on everyone in the art of living.

So the knitted rainbow is appealing in an iconic bright childish way. It has the sad imperfect qualities of a handmade item, started with such perfect hope, yet realized in a pleasingly limp way."

Sunday, 6 April 2008

written afterwards (knit)

The written afterwards website shows an exciting and challenging body of work created by yoshikazu yamagata and kentaro tamai using fashion as a versatile tool for communication.
The well-known 'my town in my home' knitted houses were created in collaboration with textile artist mafuyu. This stimulating collaboration confronts what we expect from craft and fashion. Here we see the house as an item of clothing - that which defines us, a huge building softened and reduced, becoming something to play with or within, as we might have done as children....
Of course, they are intended to be used as fashion or as toys and were featured in the children's book elaelaopa. This is a considered approach to fashion as identity... but also as play, escape, warmth and comfort.Working in collaboration with other artists prompts the creation of work that is refreshingly wide-ranging.
In contrast to the knitted houses, here we see a deceptively complex piece of craftsmanship in an ethereal and delicate, intricately worked lace panel.
Using the panel in the forms of art, installation and fashion is testament to the imagination and adaptability of the item. Crossover is of course what so many artists do, be it illustration, film, photography, craft and so on - why not allow the pieces themselves to be multi-faceted.
Their brave approach to collaboration leads to an impressive adaptability across their many ideas and applications.
The clothing items they have produced are equally well constructed, challenging and considered.
'the everyone's new clothes' (pictured below) was a piece of work based on Hans Christian Andersen's the Emperor's New Clothes. Here they work ever-playfully with notions of fashion and beauty, turning the gaze back on the viewer by using industry players as the models.
Showing first in London in 2005, yoshikazu yamagata, took prominent fashion personalities and imagined what they might wear under their clothes. Then he presented them with their alter-egos on the catwalk.
The piece was later shown (above) to the Hinohara kindergarten in a Tokyo village, performed by dance troupe the bambiest.

I first came across 'my town in my home' via selvedge. It was also recently featured on bloesem.