I’ll be honest and say I don’t “get” textiles. I like nice clothes, I like shopping, I appreciate the hard work that goes into crafting a beautiful item, but as art I don’t generally get it. What can a piece of cloth tell me about the human condition? Not that long ago I would probably have said the same about a lot of the photography I’ve been studying, so I am sure that there is something underpinning the study of textiles, I just don’t know what it is!
So it was with surprise that I spotted an article on WeAreOCA about a textile artist that interested me (1). Kaarina Kaikkonen works with old clothing, turning it into a form of sculpture. I have only the photographs to go on, but even in a photograph the impact of these sculptures is dramatic. They are aesthetically beautiful; bold or tonal colours, strong lines and shapes. But they are also a comment on consumerism and waste, each item of clothing is a trace of a human life, it has a backstory we do not know, yet it has been discarded.
What particularly struck me was the way the clothing is incorporated into the landscape. In some ways this is like the land art I have been studying, but rather than using natural materials this work is more about the mandmade (both landscape and clothing).
Kaatrina Kaikonnen, “Way”, Helsinki Cathedral, 2000
This is at first glance a pretty standard tourist shot, striking cathedral against bold blue sky, but the jackets spread on the steps provide a sudden shock. They could almost appear as bodies laid out on the steps, prostrate to God (represented by the cathedral)? The work may not be intended to be photographic, but it is a striking photographic image.
For some reason this made me think of placing welly boots in the landscape on one of my walks. I have a weird obsession with welly boots, they featured in one of my exercises for TAOP and I often photograph my feet in boots when I am out walking. I really like the idea of taking a load of old wellies and creating something in the landscape with them. I have no idea why I want to do it or what purpose it would serve but I am going to keep it in mind!
(1) https://weareoca.com/fine-art/looking-artists-kaarina-kaikkonen/ (accessed 20th July 2017)