Say the word ‘art,’ and the first image that jumps to mind for most is likely a paintbrush or length of charcoal, or a sketchbook with scribbled pencil drawings capturing images to be elaborated on later. But wool, cotton and silk can also be used to create works of art that are as beautiful as they are intricate.
Starting today, the Fibre Art Network (FAN) and the Community Arts Council of the Saanich Peninsula (CACSP) are combining the allure of fabric creations with an exploration of the nature of Canada into Canadiana, a travelling exhibit that showcases works from 30 FAN artists from Western Canada and the Yukon.
The show first debuted in Palmerston North, New Zealand in January, and today’s opening at the Tulista Park Gallery kicks off the first stop in a two-year tour of Canada, says Dale MacEwan, a local member of FAN who brought the show to Sidney.
Equal parts painting, collage, quilt and tapestry, the pieces in Canadiana are the products of hours of labour, and true works of art.
“A lot of us started out as quilters,” says MacEwan. But a quilt conjures up an image of laying it across the foot of a bed, and that’s not what they’re meant for, she adds, emphasizing the amount of work that goes into each piece.
“It’s a slower art. Often there’s a lot of surface design,” says MacEwan. “Stamping fabric, painting, dying the fabrics. There’s a blending of textures and printing.”
Photos can be printed onto fabric and layered or used individually as well, and the whole thing is often stitched with intricate designs to add yet another dimension to the piece.
It’s similar to a painter creating her own canvas before even touching a brush to it.
The labour-intensive process is borne of a love of the different textures, she says.
“I love the feel of it, touching it. It’s the texture, the quality of the fabric.”
Cotton, silk, organza and wool felting can all be used in creating the pieces, and inspiration can come from any corner.
MacEwan herself is inspired by the photos she takes. Never without a camera in hand, she captures the lines of stones, tree branches, and frost-edged leaves and transforms them into fabric reflections of nature, subtle in design yet totally engaging.
One of her latest pieces, and one she’s including in Canadiana, Island Time melds the soft greys and blues of stone, carved over centuries into striated curves, beneath the angled corners of tree branches. The effect is reminiscent of a shadow lying over still water, though MacEwan actually used two layered photos to create the effect.
Many of the other pieces in the show are also inspired by nature, celebrating the wide variety of natural landscapes across the country.
All the pieces in the show will be for sale, but inquiries must be made directly through the artist, and pieces can be collected once the two-year tour is over.
Canadiana opens today at the Tulista Art Centre, 9565 Fifth Street in Sidney. The show is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Free admission and free parking.
For more information, visit fibreartnetwork.com or cacsp.com.