Ariadne’s Thread installation

Kath Fries, Ariadne's thread, 2009

My installation for Le fil (the thread), group exhibition at Gaffa Gallery, Surry Hills, was created out of numerous meters of recycled fabric woven into a rope, which then leads the viewer around the nocks and crannies of the gallery space. Titled Ariadne’s Thread the work refers to the ancient Greek myth of the Cretan Labyrinth navigated using a spool of thread. 

Kath Fries, Ariadne's thread, 2009

I would like to thank Jodi Altona, Kate Clive, Chrissie Ianssen, Eleanor James, Anneke Jaspers, Olivia Kloosterman, Nina Marisol Prado, Anton Pulvirenti, Elsa Pulvirenti, Megan Robson and Elise Routledge for their weaving and braiding assistance with this project.
All the artists who responded enthusiastically to my concept and generously contributed  their works to this exhibition: Hannah Bertram, Kath Fries, Michelle Heldon, Chrissie Ianssen, Jade Pegler, Melinda Young, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Michele Morcos, Linden Braye, Megan Yeo, Shannon Johnson and Sophia Egarchos. And Jane Llewellyn for writing the accompanying exhibition text.

Le Fil (the thread) - exhibition text

At first glance one might assume that the artists in the exhibition, Le Fil (the thread), are exploring the techniques of craft. However, they are using traditional craft techniques and combining them with contemporary media like video, sound and installation aesthetics, sparking the age old debate about where, and if, craft ends and art begins. By using traditional techniques the artists give their works the authenticity of being hand made – something which is becoming increasingly valued in our society – and delivery through contemporary media makes the works and their meanings more accessible.

Blurring the boundaries between craft and art is paramount for the twelve artists in this exhibition: Hannah Bertram, Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Michelle Heldon, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos, Jade Pegler, Megan Yeo and Melinda Young. These artists work across a diverse range of media, dispelling the idea that craft and art exist as separate genres.

For a few of these artists (Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos and Megan Yeo) it isn’t the first time they have come together to explore the ideas of reinterpretation of craft and the reassembling of found objects. In 2008 they were part of the group exhibition through the eye of the needle in which (as Megan Robson says in her exhibition essay) the artists similarly aimed to “...investigate the methods, ideology and forms associated with mass manufactured textile and domestic goods. Utilising the tools, techniques and structure associated with textile and domestic objects...”

In Le Fil (the thread) several artists directly reference traditional craft practices, such as Shannon Johnson who has used embroidery to recreate a giant 5-cent piece and Michele Morcos who creates an artistic meditation in her works, the needle and thread reflecting how “life can be broken down to the simplest of acts”. Sophia Egarchos’s focus is on sewing techniques such as pleating and shirring. When applied to her paintings (she shirrs the canvas), Egarchos transforms flat two dimensional works into tactile three dimensional pieces. Chrissie Ianssen on the other hand composes her paintings using elements of traditional Norwegian knitting patterns. She uses them to striking effect, some may say harking back to a past that is no longer relevant in contemporary Norway. Megan Yeo uses the traditional British craft of embroidery as a quaint and pleasant façade to mask the internal terrorist threat that lurks under the surface of modern Britain.

While the exhibition title, Le Fil (the thread), might suggest that artworks in the exhibition hang together precariously – that the connection is flimsy and delicate – it is used as a metaphor to reflect the fragility of the connections we create in our society which can break or fade away at any moment. As our world continues to advance at a lightning pace, and communication becomes key we question how strong these bonds actually are.

Much more than just a thread holds together the work of these artists, as they deconstruct and rebuild ancient and modern materials and processes, exploring the thread both in its simplest form and the more complicated web it weaves. In Kath Fries’ artwork she creates a literal web using woven strips of recycled fabric forming a rope which is woven through the nooks and crannies of the gallery. Based on an ancient Greek myth, Fries takes us on a journey through the labyrinth which reflects the web of life.

Whether it is the video work of Iranian born Sahar Hosseinabadi, Hannah Bertram’s site-specific installation, or even the wearable jewellery pieces by Melinda Young, these artists are connected by a conceptual thread that runs through the works addressing ideas on how we value fabrics.

This concept is further explored through the notion that we are constantly consuming and discarding large quantities of textiles. It’s not surprising then that the artists explore the renewal and recycling of found objects. These objects are embedded with history which when brought to the new work adds immense value. The cycle of discard followed by renewal highlights the object’s continual value and links the past to the present.

Jade Pegler plays with this notion, creating a future history with her “curiosities” crafted from everyday materials. Linden Braye takes materials with little value from urban or natural environments and creates constructions which reference "the natural world through the built one". Michelle Heldon is also inspired by nature and works with found objects focusing on how the different materials feel and react with each other. The tactility of the surfaces are of particular interest as Heldon explores the relationship between form, colour, texture and shape.

Le Fil (the thread) presents a selection of artworks that are pushing the boundaries between art and craft, a debate which is intrinsically based on value. Is craft a skill and is art an inborn talent? As we are entering a technologically advanced world and visual artists are working across several different types of medium, quite often in the one artwork, such categorisations no longer seem valid.

Jane Llewellyn
Jane Llewellyn is a free-lance arts writer and arts consultant, currently based in Sydney, she has previously worked as the sub-editor for Australian Art Collector Magazine

Le Fil (the thread): 31 July - 7 August 2009
Artists: Hannah Bertram, Linden Braye, Sophia Egarchos, Kath Fries, Michelle Heldon, Sahar Hosseinabadi, Chrissie Ianssen, Shannon Johnson, Michele Morcos, Jade Pegler, Megan Yeo and Melinda Young.
Gaffa Gallery: 1/7 Randle St, Surry Hills NSW 2010