Joana Vasconcelos caught the attention of the international art world in 2005 at the Venice Biennale. Her sculptural work is that which often marries highly intelligent concepts with playful execution.
Her work will be immediately recognisable to some of you for the volume and dexterity of crochet work. However she makes important sculptural pieces which pull upon a great range of influences, materials and disciplines. Her output is prolific, having it's roots in sculpture it has grown in scale and detail, range and focus. From outdoor installations to video, ceramic, fabric, and hair, from feminism, identity, globalisation to alcoholism, themes of intellect and kitsch.
Vasconcelos has remarked that a man she met in Turkey made it quite clear that it has further significance. In this man's culture, the tampon is frowned upon, seen as something that causes infection and destroys a woman's virginity.
The 'community of women' is frequently conveyed by images of domesticity, of repression or sexual subversion. In Vasconcelos' work I feel there is a more broadly feminine and more universal way of prompting thought about what it is to be a woman, not simply from whichever is specific to our own culture. My feeling is that her work is huge on first appearance, but it begs you to come and study the detail, learn more about it's complexity, contradictions, surprises or mundanity and draw your own conclusions. Perhaps that's an appropriate analogy for womanhood?
Using crochet, a method of craft which has obviously been used throughout the history of most cultures, enables her to connect with women of any nationality. However the skill obviously has different implications to each nation, as with the tampons.
It is interesting that women are fascinated with the doily, the beautiful intricate art of crochet and lace-making have undying appeal. Vasconcelos highlights our feminine instincts to clothe, covet, smother and suffocate by using them on an almost gargantuan scale. However these images are so frequently perceived merely as 'beautiful' and 'pretty' as the skill of the hand work is of course something so rarely seen on such a scale in a public arena. But it is refreshing to see the craft moving into the arena of 'art' in a revered way, gathering mass appreciation.
link to her website and research her incredible work for yourself.
I discovered her work via someone who sent me an email last year but unfortunately I no longer have their contact details.. sorry.
With thanks to Joana Vasconcelos for kindly allowing me to use her images.