An exhibition by Filament Fibre Artists At Airfield
Filament Fibre Artists mounted an innovative exhibition with associated workshops at Airfield, Dundrum, Co. Dublin, from 19th May- 19th June 2011, to coincide with the Year of Craft. Airfield is a dynamic community resource and a hub for visual arts in Dun Laoghhaire-Rathdown, with access to a wide public, of both existing and new audiences. The Filament exhibition was a central part of the Summer Arts Programme for 2011. Our opening on the 19th May was a huge success with between 200 and 250 people viewing the work throughout the evening. The response to the work was very positive “Very enjoyable and inspiring” “Exciting and beautiful” “Great location for this imaginative exhibition”.
Choosing Airfield as a venue for our work gave us access to a very varied audience including a large number of students and family groups. During the month of the exhibition 4,500 people visited Airfield not including the visitors to the café/restaurant on site.
A programme of events was organised to coincide with the exhibition which involved the community in related workshops and collaborative activities, as a means of expanding our core audience and sharing the excitement of Fibre Art. This included workshops associated with the Bealtaine Festival, National Drawing Day and Airfield’s own ‘Family Sundays’.
As part of this programme tours were organised which guided the public around the exhibition and all these activities ensured that we reached new audiences for fabric art and indeed new visitors were drawn to Airfield through our exhibition and related activities.
The members of Filament visited Airfield and engaged with the Staff and discussed with them the aims and objectives of the exhibition and how best to achieve a positive outcome for all involved. We produced a diverse and varied range of site specific work for both outdoor and indoor spaces at Airfield. We feel this work was both exciting and contemporary and made the most of the venue’s possibilities. A brochure, catalogue and map were produced to promote the work.
This exhibition had a huge impact on our practice both as individuals and as a working group. We were all pushed to work in new ways, embracing the difficulties of working with textiles that would be exposed to the elements over a period of weeks. We had to look at materials in different ways using our various skills and techniques to produce work for an outdoor environment. Adapting and combining traditional and contemporary skills and materials to cope with the challenging environment of Airfield was very exciting and stimulating. We learned a huge amount about organizing what turned out to be a very ambitious exhibition. We embraced the opportunity to work in this large scale, relishing the opportunity to make the site specific work for the exhibition which changed the perception of fibre art for many. Textiles were seen as conceptual art, perhaps for the first time for some of our visitors.
The excitement of ‘making’ was evident in the participants at our workshops. The staff at Airfield were delighted that all eight artists engaged with Airfield’s past and present to produce relevant site specific work rather than arriving with a fully formed or previously curated exhibition.
The living history of Airfield inspired a varied response in the artists, resulting in eight very different outdoor installations. Each artist had to meet the challenge of creating work to a bigger scale, using textile materials that could endure outdoors for a month.
Airfield’s connection with the Overend family was the starting point for some of the works. In Red Cross, Caroline Schofield uses table linen with traditional hand stitching, to recall the civilising role played by the Overend sisters in receiving wounded soldiers during the brutality of the First World War. Hand stitched flags spread on a lawn invoke both picnics and military cemeteries. Displayed in Perspex cases, Schofield’s How to Throw a Heart 1, 2 & 3, show sculpted hearts/grenades existing at that tipping point between health and injury, between life and death.
Lucinda Jacob celebrates the Overend sisters’ enthusiasm for their home and farm in Married to the Place, a giant bridal veil, its lace made from plastic and rope, dramatically spread over an ancient cedar tree.
The landscape and farming activities of Airfield inspired Formation, sketches of animals, fields and nearby roads, machine embroidered on felt and woven into a hazel and willow arabesque, the work of Sheila Jordan. Airfield has a strong and enduring identity and sense of social purpose.
Surrounding Airfield is the landscape of Celtic Tiger Ireland. Mary Heffernan invokes the traps over-development set for innocent young house buyers in Temptation, embroidered apples hanging from a tree, each one bearing some of the weasel words used to sell over-priced properties.
Jean McKenna’s Fractured Light, great richly coloured forms, inspired by the colours of the stained glass hall windows, made from many cells of wrapped wire, hang from the branches of a giant cedar tree, balancing beautifully in the breeze.
Sarah Dawson and Hilary Bell both interpret personal responses to the space and gardens of Airfield. In As Transitory as the Clouds, Sarah Dawson fills the spaces between the branches of a gnarled old apple tree with cloud-like forms, machine embroidered with meandering map marks and emotions, all connected in a web of threads. Hilary Bell, using hardened felt, in Rock Solid, shapes a collection of hollow stones, through which air and sight may pass unhindered as they lie in clusters between huge trees.
Many thanks to all who supported us in the making and production of the Latitudes exhibition in particular the staff at Airfield and those in the Dunlaoghaire Rathdown County Council and the Crafts Council of Ireland.