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Articles - 30 May 2006

Blurring the Boundaries: Fashion Design Innovation in Contemporary Knitting

Image of work by artist Meiko AsadaBlurring the Boundaries:Fashion Design Innovation in Contemporary Knitting is a cutting edge exhibition, a showcase of work by thirty artists who explore the art of knitting and whose work blurs the boundaries between art, fashion, craft, design and technology. They have embraced these hybrid practices and created a new language of clothes. This is a unique exhibition evoking the eternal debate of what constitute the art of dress. It sets a new precedent in the art of knitting.

Fairfield City Museum and Gallery, a centre of excellence in contemporary textiles and fibre arts is proud to present this innovative exhibition. Blurring the Boundaries celebrates the work of artists who have distinguished themselves in textiles, fashion, visual arts, jewellery, and metal work. Many have achieved international acclaim and their work is highly sought after by museums and galleries.

The work exhibited is as diverse as there makers. Artists in this exhibition create a new synthesis between art and fashion through their unique approach, and in doing so manage to blur the distinction between art and fashion. Each one has developed a visual vocabulary to communicate the world around them. They tread uncharted terrains and play with the vocabulary of fashion.

Image of work by artist Arline FischArline Fisch is an internationally recognised leader in American contemporary jewellery and a pioneer of textile techniques using weaving, knitting, crochet and braiding to make metal perform like cloth. Her Pink and Silver Circles necklace is a delicate, inventive piece of jewellery with dense but soft ruff made from sections of machine knitted tubes attached to circles of silver wire. Alana Clifton-Cunningham's Second Skin, a hand knitted body wrap made from wool, semi-precious stones, glass beads and Tasmanian oak timber veneer, explores the concept of comfort, protection, beauty and aesthetics. It challenges the art of knitting within the fashion context.

Perfect Hurts by Sandra Backlund is a big and bold collage hand knitted mini-dress comprising forty-four hand knitted pieces. For Sandra, handicraft process and the hand made are significant factors in her work.

Image of work by artist Jan DineenAdrienne Kneebone's Remote Country Dress: 30 sec block = $0.25 cents, made from telecom wire and dilly bag stitch, is an emotive commentary on the financial hardship of living with a reliance on Telstra for remote mobile communication.

Corinne Colbert's Carnivale is about female aesthetics. It is a quirky, whimsical, hand knitted collar made from recycled materials including mosquito net, onion bags, fishing line, builders tape and bricklayers line.

Espiritus Gossypium I, II, III by Margaret Barnett is a collection of body wraps. She uses the ancient technique of Shibori, hand dyeing, silk threads, sequins, feathers and beads to make a fashion statement. Rather than the fashion Margaret has fashioned fabric - moulding it with Shibori techniques to shape flat fabric that can be regarded as garments.

Zoe MacDonell's translucent and skeletal Imagining the Body is a dress constructed from recycled knitted fabrics with silk, layering and printing to create a kind of second skin. The knitted elements float in an imaginary space between layers of silk. This work is reminiscent of photomicrography of the human body and botanic cellular tissues.

Image of work by artist Kiyoko SakurabayashiZlatka Sirakova's Vixen, a lacy machine knitted leotard is a stunning, cutting edge garment made from Catouchauc (rubber) and polyester yarn. These serve as the primary materials to open up new possibilities to experience intimacy with cloth. Wrapped in Country by Fiona Gavino is a hand dyed ochre coloured garment made from livistona humilis, haemodorum coccineum fresh water pearls, and hand rolled string and dilly bag stitch. The garment is a haunting social commentary about colonialism and dispossession.

Kiyoko Sakurabayashi's hand knitted wire and wool cobweb corset, from the Courtesan collection, is about feminism and the human spirit. Francoise Dupre presents an installation context based video here and there, french knitting, Brixton. It evokes the meditative quality of knitting, its performative nature and body connections.

Jan Dineen's Tiger is a hauntingly evocative machine knitted multi-layered ensemble inspired by her reaction to the recent auction of a Thylacine rug which was made up of eight pelts, sewn together as a buggy rug. Lacebark by India Flint is an eco-printed, hand knitted body hugging dress made from ripped and shredded silk, serge off-cuts and second hand clothing. Lacebark is about enveloping the body, deconstruction and refashioning.

Image of work by artist Erika LeitnerLegendary innovator and jewellery designer Erika Leitner, one of the first graduates in Austria to be part of the modern jewellery movement, creates Harmony between Wire and Sheet a beautiful bracelet using sterling silver - forged, drawn and fabricated with inserted knitted sections.

Marlene Little's Resurgence responds to the prediction of trends in traditional textile craft processes. She uses heat sensitive yarns and transfer press finishing process grafted on to hand manipulation machine knitting technique. This has resulted in a beautiful multifunctional piece of knitted lace designed to encase the body.

Liz Gemmell uses silk, stainless steel yarn and wool to create Steel Silk, a gossamer like hand knitted garment reminiscent of Botticelli's diaphanous transparency. Catherine Thomson employs Shetland lace knitting to create a bold and dramatic lace fantasy Ole evoking the fluidity of Spanish shawls and swaying fringes.

Image of work by artist Francine HaywoodVikki Haffenden's Big on detail, stems from her practice based research into custom made, fully fashioned weft knitting related to the individual body shape of larger women, relying on knitting inherent stretch to accommodate shape. Francine Haywood's collection Scattered Seeds, Seedlings and Inflorescence is a tiny, delicate series of brooches made from text, paper craft, sterling silver, stainless steel pins and antique linen thread. They are exquisite little square gardens interlacing memories of childhood games, tiny seedlings and lacy flowers.

Some artist's work reflects their personal journeys; other artists touch on broader social issues such as environment, feminism and ecology. They are masters of their craft and they bring with them their own special brand of magic. By tapping into the current resurgence of the art of knitting they have transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary. They have created innovative and experimental work in which they combine the old traditions with new technologies and set a precedent in the way the body is dressed.

Blurring the Boundaries is about experimentation, the diversity of knitted structures, finishes and meaning. It's about reinventing the classics and the way two and three dimensional forms shape, wrap, conceal, cocoon and transform the body.

This exhibition pays homage to the art of knitting and celebrates the work of artists who have transformed this domestic craft into the most exciting textile medium, capable of stunning diversity. Visitors will have the opportunity to participate in interactive activities and view work which is beautiful, ethereal, beguiling, quirky, whimsical, sensual, radical, provocative, small and exquisite and big and bold.

Vishna Collins
May 2006

Vishna Collins is a Sydney based freelance curator, arts writer and wearable art designer who specialises in Art Knits. She holds a Bachelor of Education in Visual Arts and is currently studying for her Master of Museum Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney.

Blurring the Boundaries: Fashion Design Innovation in Contemporary Knitting is presented by the Fairfield City Museum and Gallery in association with the Knitters Guild NSW and is supported by Craft Australia. The exhibition was curated by Vishna Collins and runs from 24 June to 13 August, 2006.