Fibreworks in Cambridge Review: Karen Darricades

Fibreworks in Cambridge Review: Karen Darricades

Fibreworks is a biennial juried exhibition featuring the work of Canadian artists working in the fibre art medium. The work is selected by authorities in the field, including curators, artists, and others knowledgeable about current developments in the medium. This year, Stuart Reid, director/curator at the Rodman Hall Art Centre in St Catharines, and Toronto artist, Hazel Meyer made the selections.

This review was written by Karen Darricades, an artist, writer and community activist living and working in Toronto, Canada.

An amazing display of works

Fibreworks is a biennial juried exhibition of Canadian fiber art that takes place in Cambridge, Ontario, that ran September 12 – November 2 in 2014. This was my first time visiting this important annual exhibit and I will definitely make it every year I can in the future as it was perhaps the best show I saw in 2014.

An amazing display of works large and small that run the gamut of what contemporary fiber arts has to offer and at times pushed the boundaries of the practice with its innovative techniques and use of materials. Of the 36 works exhibited, belonging to 24 artists, here are a few of the highlights:

Anouk Desloges – Knots Bouquet

Knots Bouquet, 2013 . Anouk Desloges textile embroidery through plexiglass, latex and iron. paint 38 x 27 inches. Image courtesy of the artist

Anouk Desloges’ intriguing, almost perplexing, use of materials, involving embroidery on plexiglass, achieves what the artist explains as an “attempt to express what is mysterious and secretive.”

Desloges’ work uses knots to explore themes of intimacy. The form she presents in Knots Bouquet, created by connecting multiple knots, resembles a brain in its intricate circuitry, or a lone planet in deep space, or  even a web of interconnectedness with no discernible beginning or end.

Untitled (Stay), 2013. Steven Beckley

Untitled (Stay), 2013. Steven Beckley. Denim shirts, hangers, steel rod, fishing wire. Dimensions vary. Image courtesy of the artist

Interested in the process of coupling “the complexities of relationships, closeness, intimacy and sexuality,” Untitled (Stay) was installed on a clothing rack and behind a half-wall within the larger exhibit, further contributing to its simultaneous occupation of the private and public realms.

The garments seemed to be pulling each other closer in a conscious effort to dissolve lines of individuality. Transforming objects of possession into subjects, the work evoked familiar love song lyrics, such as, “You belong to me, I belong to you.” This felt reminiscent to how partners wear each others’ clothing or even begin to resemble one another physically.

Respect for the artist’s patient hand

4763 French Knots (thinking of you), 2013

4763 French Knots (thinking of you), 2013. Kate Jackson. Hand embroidery on paper towel. 76 x 30cm.
Image courtesy of the artist.

French Knots (thinking of you) is one of Kate Jackson’s works of hand embroidered paper towels and is the delicate expression of her “grief ritual,” as she describes it. It is also the product of her confronting ideas of impermanence.

The work demands respect for the artist’s patient hand, baffling the viewer with its defiance of the impossible. How did she achieve this without tearing the paper?

It further inspires a belief in the resilience of an individual’s strength in the face of loss, reminding us that vulnerability and a steady hand can co-exist.

Hair Brooches: Blonde, Blach and Red.  2012. Karin Jones. Synthetic hair extensions, stainless steel, sterling silver, nickel, gold-plate. Diameter 2.5 cm/ each. Image courtesy of the artist

Hair Brooches: Blonde, Blach and Red. 2012. Karin Jones. Synthetic hair extensions, stainless steel, sterling silver, nickel, gold-plate. Diameter 2.5 cm/ each. Image courtesy of the artist

Karin Jones’ Hair Brooches: Blonde, Black and Red uses synthetic hair weaves and Victorian hair jewelry-making traditions to raise questions concerning beauty and identity within the cultural context of race and whiteness. She uses “simple braids to reference Afrocentric hairstyles directly and combine them with images of European power.”

These small but stunning brooches have a powerful presence. This work was also acquired by the Cambridge Gallery for their Permanent Collection of Contemporary Canadian Fibre Based Work.

Stagnation causes pain

Soreness II, 2013. Li Chai

Soreness II, 2013. Li Chai. Polyester thread, fishing line, acupuncture needles, wire. 11 x 10 x 9 cm Image credit: Scott Lee

Li Chai’s Soreness II is a fuzzy yet threatening looking soft sculpture that seems like an invitation and a warning at the same time. Chai’s artist statement explains that “according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, stagnation causes pain/soreness.” Chai’s work is represented in Cambridge’s Permanent Collection of Contemporary Canadian Textile Work.

Julie René de Cortet and Elinor Whidden, Buffalo, 2013

Julie René de Cortet and Elinor Whidden, Buffalo, 2013. Reconfigured loveseat. 95 x 180 x 90cm. Photo credit: Scott Lee

Perhaps my favorite among the works exhibited was Julie René de Cotret and Elinor Widden’s reconfigured loveseat titled Buffalo.

Its fascinating reworking of an everyday useful object into a useless but brilliant hump of design and upholstery had me circling it a number of times. A collaboration between the two artists occurred during a VSVSVS Summer Residency in 2013, where they “came together to explore the possibilities offered by a four piece living room furniture set.”

The work is at once elusive and familiar, unnatural and everyday, mutated and mundane, connecting “the extinction of the buffalo and that of the manufacturing sector in Ontario (and of course Canada).”

Buffalo was appropriately placed on its own in the gallery entrance hallway, ultimately separated from the herd and impossible to rest on.

Learn more about Karen Darricades by visiting

Which piece that we featured here from Fibreworks did you find most intriguing?  Let us know in the comments below.

FREE E-BOOK: How my journey into textile art began, a fascinating insight into the work of textile artist Sue Stone
Sunday 22nd, October 2017 / 13:35

About the author

Joseph Pitcher is the son of textile artist Sue Stone. He is an actor and voice-over artist and has worked at the RSC, the National Theatre, West End theatres and several other leading regional venues across the UK. Find Joe on Google

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