Linda Colsh interview: Narrative textile art
Her colors are restful, but her imagery is not. Linda Colsh’s work mostly stays within a limited palette of browns, blacks, and whites…Her images repeat, fading in and out of the background as if seen through the mist. Figures are mysterious, seemingly glimpsed from a distance…The viewer has to work to decipher the messages implied in Colsh’s imagery, but the resultant sense of a deeper understanding is worth the effort.
Martha Sielman, Masters: Art Quilts, Lark Books, 2008
Linda Colsh is an American artist who creates narrative textile art. She currently lives in Everberg, Belgium. She has two degrees in Art History and her work has been exhibited worldwide in exhibitions including Fiber Philadelphia’s Inside/Outside the Box, the 4th Riga International Textile & Fibre Art Triennial, her Strassen Szenen solo show in Freiburg, Germany, and 3 Artists at Galerie Holtop, Tilburg, the Netherlands. She has also won numerous awards including the European Quilt Triennial first prize, Nihon Vogue’s Quilts Japan Prize at Visions 2012 and top prize of the Fabric of Legacies Exhibition in Colorado.
Part one of our interview with this intriguing artist explored her journey to working with textiles and her current processes. Here we find out more about what currently inspires her and Linda also gives some top tips to aspiring artists and shares her best-loved resources.
Intense and moving experiences
What currently inspires you and which other artists do you admire and why?
After 25 years, I have returned to working with ink, but instead of on paper, I am painting ink on fabric with very large brushes. A return to the stroke-work and forms of the oriental calligraphy I studied while living in Korea have rekindled my interest in gestural work, but now abstracted from meaning and on a much larger scale.
I admire so many artists; studying art history at university and continuing to stay aware of both current art forms and learning about past artists and movements mean any list of artists I turn to for inspiration would be lengthy and constantly changing. I think a number of artists’ influences are clearly evident in my work, yet many other, more subtle art influences inform my work too.
Tell us about a piece of work you have fond memories of and why?
Usually my newest piece is the one I find most interesting or, sometimes, that I worry most about. I could mention a couple of older pieces that call to mind some really moving experiences: Jubilation & Dread which recalls the high emotions of being in the midst of China’s 1989 demonstrations or Brittle Silence, my first piece to feature an elderly character.
However, my trips to Sarajevo make the characters I work with from there the most interesting recent subjects. Defiant and The Long Run are the first of several finished and planned art quilts about this city and the people who live there. My most powerful memories of places and people, and thus the art I make about them, are better described not as “fond” but as intense and moving.
Transition to a neutral palette
How has your work developed since you began and how do you see it evolving in the future?
Visually, the biggest departures in my work occurred with my transition to a neutral palette; my decision to focus on the elderly and issues of aging; and my development of a method of making & layering screens to create my own unique look. Within that context, I’ve worked with single and multiple poses; and I have transitioned from works heavy in imagery and piecing to work with large scale, gestural imagery comprised of a few very large pieces or even wholecloth.
Currently, I am making a few very new pieces with no character imagery at all – these works are still narrative, but based on characters who “got away,” that is, people who figure strongly in my imagination and workbooks, but whom, for one reason or another, I do not have photos of from which to develop screens. The new direction will complement and not supplant my current way of working, involving similar motivation and abstracted content and imagery that is ultimately narrative-based.
Advice and resources
What advice would you give to an aspiring textile artist?
Give yourself an exploratory beginning time to try techniques and materials, but recognize when the time comes to settle into mastery of the form or process in which you want to invest yourself. At that point, focus, go into the studio, learn and explore every detail and characteristic of your materials, tools, process and content – by doing. Be sure your design work is solid. Make your art your own.
Which books have you found inspirational as an artist?
Ann Johnston’s Color by Accident & her Color by Design (and taking the time to work through each from front to back) as well as the out-of-print Design Book by David A. Lauer and Steve Aimone’s Design!
What other resources do you use?
I am always looking. What I see on the streets is my most prized resource. When I have time, I have a long list of bookmarked blogs and websites, all kinds of art sites. I have e-newsletters like The Textile Blog, theartblog and Art Daily delivered to my inbox and I subscribe to a number of art magazines. I am so happy to see Art & Antiques featuring art quilts with recent articles by Suzanne Arney and Barbara Wysocki.
I’ve subscribed to Art News and Art in America for longer than I can remember – both invaluable resources. Also, when Fiberarts magazine was discontinued, Fiber Art Now stepped in – that magazine just keeps getting better and better. Surface, the Surface Design Association’s journal, is and always has been excellent.
What piece of equipment or tool could you not live without?
I have to fudge this answer because 1 tool would never be enough (brushes, dyes, paints, inks, silkscreens, needle and thread, scissors and cutter, sewing machine…); so, imagining that I am running from a burning house or stranded on a desert island, I’d grab a brush. Even with just water and a surface, so long as I have a brush, I can make my mark – it may be as ephemeral as the water calligraphy made by the sidewalk calligraphers in China, but it’s the making that feeds the soul.
Seeing Linda’s work
Do you give talks or run workshops or classes? If so where can readers find information about these?
I lecture and teach classes and workshops, but the scope of moving from Europe to America next Spring means a halt in my teaching schedule. I hope to pick up again on the other side, but am not making commitments until we are settled again and I have house and studio up and running.
How do you go about choosing where to show your work?
I seek places (exhibitions, museums, galleries) that take textiles seriously and regard fiber and surface design as art.
Where can readers see your work this year ?
The Carrefour Européen du Patchwork in Alsace invited me to put together a solo retrospective exhibition this September.
A number of my pieces are traveling currently in other shows including: several traveling exhibitions by Studio Art Quilt Associates. The Weather in Her Head will travel the coming year in the Carrefour Européen du Patchwork’s Concours and my juror’s piece Defiant is displayed at Quilt National 2013. Right now is quieter than usual with fewer pieces out because of our pending move from Belgium to the US.
My artwork can be seen on my website www.lindacolsh.com and several small pieces on Galleribba (http://galleribba.com/). Googling my name or doing an image search will lead to number of other websites where my work can be seen. My work has been acquired by the Collection of John M. Walsh III, Thomas Contemporary Quilt Collection, the Brakensiek Collection of Contemporary Quilts, Poland’s Gdynia Museum, and Germany’s Nordwolle Textile Museum, in addition to private and corporate collections.
If you’ve enjoyed our interview with Linda check out part one or share the piece on Facebook or Twitter using the buttons below.