“Art textiles have been enjoying a resurgence after decades of being derided, ignored or often referred to as being ‘craft’ or ‘women’s work’: in other words, not real art. The importance of textiles is being reinstated by way of incredible force and ingenuity, and an intelligent dismantling of established art world rules,” says CEO and founder of Fibre Arts Australia Glenys Mann.
Earlier this year the East Gippsland Art Gallery hosted the opening of Fibre Arts Australia’s International Art Textile Biennale 2023. Of the 167 artists who entered from 25 countries, just 35 were selected to be featured in the Biennale. The exhibition showcases the best of contemporary textile art, pushing our perception of the medium with each artist's innovative approach.
“The selected works… [open] a dialogue about what it is to be a textile artist in the 21st century. Now, textile-based art becomes a powerful and accessible medium in the examination of identity, society and politics,” Glenys explains.
“I'm asking for the lake to make the first mark.”
Taking out the major award was Gippsland local Josephine Jakobi with her work The Huntsman and I. “To be among really beautifully made, highly skilful textile work and take out the major prize was just astounding to me,” Josephine says.
Josephine’s small, intricate work pulled you in close. After being struck by its delicate beauty, immediate intrigue followed – what on earth was it made from?
“As I walk in the [Colquhoun State Forest] at my home, I find the huntsman spider egg sacs, white among the brown of the forest floor.” Josephine has been incorporating these “strong, densely woven little packets” in her work for years.
“You pick it up and you know that this is textile – this is a woven fabric.”
Josephine describes the winning work as a “collaboration” with the huntsman. “All of my art practice comes from an awareness of living ina more than human world. The work honours the shared habitat reality of the planet. We are not alone in our textile making; other creatures have been crafting fibre for longer than we can imagine. It was a thrill to me to have that acknowledged in such a way.”
Ecology is deeply embedded in all of Josephine’s work. Among her mixed media endeavours, she has an ongoing practice of immersing linen in the Lake Tyers estuary. She leaves the cloth in the water for a month, allowing time for the estuarine water to leave its impression, setting up camp nearby to keep a watchful eye on it. “It’s a really good excuse to break up the patterns of being at home, to go out and live in the bush for a while.”
Each piece of cloth comes out unique, taking on visible evidence of what is happening in the estuary at that time – whether it be from the mud and algae, or the ducks passing by.
“I am asking for the lake to make the first mark, so then I respond to that.”
These responses often include stitched elements noting the phases of the moon, the seasonal position of the Earth and a map of where in the lake the work was made. “It really is about the lake, not about human activity or me imposing something onto it.”
Josephine’s thoughtful approach to her practice exemplifies the “incredible force and ingenuity” that is leading an exciting textile resurgence.
For more information on the International Art Textile Biennale and to see where it is travelling next visit fibrearts.net.au/biennale. You can view more of Josephine’s work at josephinejakobi.art.