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Articles - 30 January 2006

Cultural Strands / Woven Visions

Image of work by Jill Brose Australia's diversity of culture and country kindles many strands of creativity, each strand with its own expression, message and origin. Fibre art and basketry, with practitioners from all points of the compass producing compelling works, generates its innovation from its multiplicity. But the quandary is how to twine those disparate, far-flung strands and compose a fabric that celebrates the best of contemporary fibre art.

Cultural Strands/Woven Visions and the accompanying exhibition, Woven Forms: Contemporary basket making in Australia is an innovative public program exploring the past, present and future of Indigenous and non-Indigenous fibre art and basketry. The program and exhibition is a unique occasion, presenting for the first time a survey of the riches of Australian fibre art and basketry.

FORM Contemporary Craft and Design hosted Cultural Strands/Woven Visions on 3 and 4 February, in Perth. The two-day program presented artists, academics, writers and visionaries, who united distinct strands of fibre art from remote communities, urban communities, with national and international perspectives, into a fabric that was to illuminate, educate, stimulate and motivate.

Cultural Strands/Woven Visions' first day investigated the dazzling originality and diversity of the studio (and 'out bush' studio ) craft movement. A panel of practitioners, researchers and teachers, separated by geography but linked by their imagination, showcased the full range of fibre art's innovation and its links to culture, community and collaboration.

The Cultural Strands/Woven Visions' 17 forum panellists came from the four directions, with Indigenous artists from some of Australia's remotest communities and urban artists from the capital cities presenting alongside curators and academics whose passion is honouring the imaginative flights of our finest fibre artists.

Professor Tony Cunningham, the forum's moderator, brought a global perspective, examining how fibre works sustain cultural livelihoods and contribute to community wellbeing. Presenting alongside him was Dr Dawn Casey, CEO of the Western Australian Museum, highlighting the treasures in the Museum's fibre collection. Three panels, comprised of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists and curators, from communities as diverse as Papulankutja in the Western Desert, Oenpelli in Arnhem Land and Launceston Tasmania, illuminated the forum's themes of the cultural energy, creativity and continuity created by fibre artists and the sustainability it repays.

Image of work bu Emma Davies By presenting Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, the forum explored the partnerships created between individuals, between languages, regions and cultures - the visual expression of these exchanges. Many of the participants waited decades for the opportunity to share their visions and voices. Panallelists, presenters and workshop facilitators included Kantjupayi Benson, Jean and Lizzie Riley, Elaine Lane, Lydia and Josephine Burak, Emma Davies, Wendy Golden, Lola Greeno, Louise Hamby, Todd Israel, Virginia Kaiser, Janine McAulley Bott, Jill Nganjmirra, Andrew Nicholls, Thisbe Purich, Nalda Searles, Joyce Tasma, Vicki West and Diana Wood Conroy.

The second day of the forum - Rhythm Weaves, was a workshop where Australia's most innovative fibre artists and educators and 60 participants shared an interactive weaving workshop. Set in the stunning grounds of Perth's Kings Park, artists led small groups in exploring the innovation and creativity of weaving and basketry. Whether using grasses from the central desert, pandanus from the Top End, the bush nuts from WA or materials like polypropylene, Rhythm Weaves was a unique exchange of stories and techniques.

The inspiration for Cultural Strands/Woven Visions came from the touring exhibition Woven Forms: Contemporary basket making in Australia. This exhibition was developed in partnership with Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design in Sydney.

Woven Forms embodies the originality that grows a community. Australia's artists are moulded by their geography and cultural heritage but are connected by their techniques and vision. Woven Forms celebrates this individual artistry, while presenting a collective creativity; a creativity that makes us think, learn, and examine. Woven Forms embodies the commonality between people across Australia and the many, many, joyous faces of the imagination. With over 100 pieces by 58 artists on show in Woven Forms, the ingenuity and originality of Australian fibre art has never been stronger.

Perth was privileged to host such a stellar celebration of contemporary fibre art talent. With craft and fibre art finding greater national recognition and more events planned in 2006 the profile of fibre art is growing fast. The exchanges, education and inspiration of Cultural Strands/Woven Visions and Woven Forms are an exciting beginning.

Carly Davenport Acker
Cultural Relations Manager
FORM Contemporary Craft and Design
February 2006

Papers presented at Cultural Strands/Woven Visions will be published by FORM Contemporary Craft and Design.

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    FORM is a member of the Australian Craft Design Centres (ACDC) network. Craft Australia supports and actively promotes exhibitions, projects and conferences presented by ACDC.