Curated by brilliant and whimsical Australian sculptor Anita Larkin, the recent exhibition Feltportation (14th August – 12th September 2013) which accompanied The 12th Southern Hemisphere Feltmakers Convergence is one of soft textures, bright and earthy colours, and deeply strange objects. Held in the University of Wollongong’s Faculty of Creative Arts Gallery, this intriguing show brought together 13 contemporary artists – each working with felt and its warm, furry qualities of a certain intimate or comforting nature in vastly disparate conceptual and aesthetic ways.
As Anita Larkin elucidates, “Felt is a material that has been used in nomadic cultures across the Eurasian Steppes for centuries, and has been instrumental in the flow of people across these lands. Feltportation provides a platform for an exchange of ideas about the use of felt as a medium for contemporary artmaking, and it is exciting to see the wide range of works made for this exhibition, they are all testimony to how profoundly felt can speak about our humanity, and the transference of objects, words, sound, and energy between us all”. *
As a medium with an ancient history and various production processes, the 13 artists in this quirky show created felt works which take the durable yet gentle material out of its traditional realm of covering, clothing, or protecting utility, and wield the fabric into contemporary art objects; objects that hybridise with vastly disparate materials, objects that almost breathe with a wild, beastly presence, objects of multi-sensory experience, objects of near monstrous and miniature proportions – that serve no purpose at all, and nightmarish objects that disturb and parody the familiar.
As discussed in the exhibition’s media release, “the making of felt is currently going through a revival. This is due, in part, to felt’s unique tactile allure and the quiet, sensory experience of its making. There is a surge of innovation within this craft, and practitioners are finding new ways of making felt forms, combining it with new technologies and skills from other disciplines, as well as bringing felt into an art context.” *
This was a delightfully surprising, endearingly weird and conceptually strong show that really demonstrated the contemporary and artistic possibilities of such a historical, hand-made material.
* Reference: http://lha.uow.edu.au/crearts/fcagallery/UOW155347.html