Artbomb is not your average exhibition. Artbomb: connect + create brings together local artists, our local community and Hurstville Museum & Gallery in a slow release explosion of creativity and artistic expression. This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to meet and collaborate with artists, as they work within our space. Come in and reconnect.
On Saturday 4 July 2020 between 10.00am – 1.00pm, visitors will be able to watch and chat with artist Helen Amanatiadis as she creates an artwork live in the gallery space at Hurstville Museum & Gallery. We were able to ask Helen a few questions in regard to her artistic practice.
Can you give us an insight into your artistic process? Is your work pre-planned or created intuitively? How long does each work take to complete?
Sometimes the work is planned and other times it develops intuitively. My work The Golden Scroll was partially pre-planned because I knew from the outset that I wanted to make a long 6 – 8m weaving on a scroll to reference Lachesis, one of the three Morai, also known as the Fates, in Greek mythology. Lachesis was the second of the three and determined the length of the thread of life and a person’s fate. Clotho, the first of the three, spun the thread and Atropos, the last of the three, cut the thread at the end of life. However, in the process of weaving, the work progressed intuitively.
The initial section of the weaving, which is concealed in the roll, was a process of experimentation. This section was not successful aesthetically for me, but by the end of that section I had resolved what the remainder of the weaving would look like. It was in the first section of the weaving that the weft threads escaped the warp and twisted back on themselves. In the remainder of the weaving, I decided to intentionally follow this resistance of the threads as a type of glitch or interruption to the controlled space of the weaving. The work was made during an intense period of approximately three months due to an exhibition deadline. I would normally take much longer than that to complete a work like this if there was no deadline. Although, I tend to work better when there is a deadline looming!
Can you explain your technique; how you manipulate the medium?
Weaving is by definition a controlled, ordered and clearly defined space. It is defined by the predetermined number and length of warp threads running the full length of the weaving. The goal of most hand weavers is to maintain a controlled and ordered space, however, in the process of weaving I found myself resisting that space. Through my practice in working with the materials, including using my own hand spun wool as weft, I found that the weft threads wanted to escape the structure of the woven textile to a space outside of it, into a freer, less ordered and somewhat chaotic space.
I intuitively allowed the materials to have their own agency. Rather than forcing the hand spun wool to conform to the weaving grid, I intuitively followed the weft threads in their desire to break out of the defined space of the warp grid. This then developed into a conscious technique of manipulating the weft by allowing it to get tangled and escape the warp grid. I initially selected the builder’s line intuitively as part of a reset in my art practice, however the choice to use hand spun wool in The Golden Scroll was a conscious decision to use a material in opposition to the machine-made synthetic string, albeit in the same colour palette, as an opportunity to explore the tensions and contradictions between the different materials. In doing so, I discovered that the industrial polyester string doesn’t have quite the same materiality as the hand spun wool, which retains the energy of the spinning and twisting process and that allows it to naturally want to escape the rigidity of the warp.
The Golden Scroll, hand spun flouro wool, metallic thread, flouro universal string, various industrial string and cord, laser cut and etched Beech plywood, Tasmanian Oak, brass, Helen Amanatiadis.
Do you keep some kind of ongoing drawing book or diary? Or a collection of images or photographs for inspiration?
I use an A5 size ruled moleskin journal. I use it mainly to note down my thoughts and concepts to think through ideas. I occasionally make rudimentary sketches, mainly when I am working out how to fabricate an element of the work, such as the laser etched scroll ends on the dowel and the laser cut brass brackets. I also tend to use Instagram as a type of journal recording my progress and ideas. Most of my “sketching” process is carried out when I make small samples or test pieces. Sheila Hicks used this process, making one small weaving a day which she thought of as sketch. I don’t see these “sketch” pieces as secondary or inferior works and in my practice, they usually find their way into a larger work. For example, my work Making the World – And the Moon developed as a series of small relief assemblages made with all my small samples, test pieces and leftovers from other works. These small samples and test pieces are very important to the development of larger pieces, particularly due to the process of thinking through my ideas whilst making the samples or assembling them into new compositions.
Who are your favourite artists? Who do you draw inspiration from?
Andy Warhol has always been a favourite artist of mine with his use of repetitive industrial techniques such as screen printing. Joseph Beuys is another favourite with his use of felt, which is a product I am recently exploring as an ‘anti-fabric’. Felt is a matted surface of tangled fibres, in contrast to the structured fabric of weaving which is the intertwining of threads (twisted fibres). Beuys believed that felt had special properties and even (falsely) alleged that it saved his life by keeping him from freezing to death after a plane crash! He associated felt with warmth and insulation, which emphasises an ongoing organic process, the idea of the world as being in a constant state of change, rather than a fixed state. This idea of an ongoing process relates to how we make and shape the world.
A contemporary German artist, Michael Buetler constructs installations that reference industrialisation, in particular his giant hand-built loom that spews enormous quantities of hand-woven carpet, yet the loom is not actually functional, indicating an inactive or dead state of being in processes of industrialisation. These artists’ use of materials and techniques to make political comments on human society inspires my practice. I also recently have been drawing a lot of inspiration on weaving from Anni Albers and Sheila Hicks and some contemporary weaving artists Tonico Lemos Auad (Brazil), Terri Friedman (California) and Teresa Lanceta (Barcelona) who also explore breaking away from the rigid grid space of weaving.
Artbomb will be on display at Hurstville Museum & Gallery from 9 June – 26 July 2020.