Seven Figures, Elliott Bryce Foulkes (Wellington St Projects)
Opening 27th June till 8th July 2018
I come from a family of sewers…sew-ers. My dad is an upholsterer, always in his garage whipping something up. The sound of his industrial sewing machine and staple gun providing a constant backyard staccato. My dad is the original McGuyver. When we couldn't afford to go on holidays he doctored and extended an old windowless army tent. When we couldn't afford sleeping bags he made some from scratchie leftover beige upholstery linen. And when I wanted to get out of the school sport carnival, by becoming the cheer squad mascot, he helped create huge foam creatures for me to hide in.
My mum's a sewer too. Every school uniform, musical production, party and high school formal dress was cleverly designed and stitched by her. School holidays involved standing in your socks and undies while she pinned paper templates to you. Taking measurements, making alterations all the while barking instructions to wiggly kids through a mouthful of pins.
Then there was Nanna. Every chilly season we would be supplied with homemade cardigans and jumpers. Often made from leftover bundles of wool, clashing colour combinations that would rival the ugliest 70’s wallpaper. She would experiment with new patterns and stitches, keeping her hands busy and staying up late. The repetitive click and clack of the needles seducing her into a thready trance.
Because of this the Wellington St Projects and Gallery Pompom’s latest opening filled me with retrospective tactile pleasure. After navigating the tight streets of Chippo I finally found a park and trudged out into the rain. It was just after 6.30pm and even before I had gotten close to the Wellington St gallery I could hear the hubbub of people, this place was packed. Bracing for the ensuing claustrophobia I squeezed into the space.
By god it was busy, so packed and full of the darkly clad art set you could hardly get near the artwork. Being a shorty I ducked and weaved unseen, ever alert for an unannounced backward swung elbow or a reversing pointy heel. It was almost like swimming at an indoor European wave pool, more people than water.
Diving down at the front entrance, resurfacing near the bar, taking an alcohol aspirated breath, ducking down and completing a side stroke along the walls. Occasionally releasing expelled air in the form of an ‘excuse me’. The crowd was so intense that I felt like I might get swept off my feet at any moment. Resurfacing for a quick peck on the cheek with an old friend, diving down deep as the crowd thickened and swayed.
Once in position, with my nose just cm away, I familiarised myself with Elliott Bryce Foulkes, Seven Figures. Perfectly stitched and pressed geometric patterns, reminiscent of patch work samplers or flag semaphore. Not a pucker or over stretched seam in sight. Some made with bright contrasting colours, others with muted jewel tones and shapes. There were plenty of little sticker dots under most of the pieces and by the end of the night there was all but one left. It seems others thought them as confident, well executed and attractive as I.
Having had enough of the heavy population and with Gallery Pompom just a stone's throw away, I moved on. This space was also teaming with visitors and again I had to mindfully jostle my way in. There was a lot on show but I happily settled in the front room to enjoy Sarah Edmondson’s, According to Chance.
According to Chance, Sarah Edmondson (Galerie Pompom)
27th June - 22 July 2018
Here hung bright bold tapestries with even purposeful stitches, reminding me of a disjointed Kings Cross Coke-a-Cola sign. The artist had rendered segmented text with thick woollen thread and I thoroughly enjoyed the labour intensive tapestries which explored an accidental computer glitch, a dysfunction in reproduction. I could see the precision and exaction she had put into these pieces and imagined log hours with sore stiff split fingers. In some cases the artist had left areas bare, including the webbed support material as part of the image, breaking with the hierarchical rules of this specific craft. I’m not sure my nanna would have approved but I did. I wanted to remove the tapestries from behind the glass with the option to run my fingers through the nubbed surface. They called to be touched, caressed, folded and used.
While most of our interactions with fabric and sewing come in the form of mass produced clothing it was a pleasure to see these well executed precise colourful fractal like fabrications. I often forget to include textile art in my scope but these sophisticated experiments in cloth really caught my eye. Both artists drew with thread, drawing in timely stitches, creating form from repetitive, rhythmic practice. I imagined the frustrated moments in their studio, just like my parents when a seam faulted or the ‘fit’ wasn’t quite right. Forced to unravel, unpick and start again, constantly learning from crinkled mistakes.
The mechanical symmetrical stitches of Elliott Bryce Foulkes and the rhythmic hand pulled tuff of Sarah Edmondson reminded me that pattern making is a mathematical formula. Where needle and thread take no prisoners, showing any imperfections and fault lines. Leaving the artists held to ransom by their own choice of medium. I’ll have ‘those ones’ plus the artist's inexhaustible fortitude, just think what I could accomplish.
Wellington St Projects,
19-23 Wellington St, Chippendale, Sydney.
11-5pm, Fri- Sun
Galerie Pompom ,
2/27-39 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale, Sydney.
Wed - Sat 11am - 5pm
Sun 1 - 5pm