Hard Twist, the Gladstone’s signature juried exhibition of contemporary textile and fibre art is back! This year’s theme Entwined explores the cultural spaces of Canada. Works in the exhibition address many themes, including geography, politics, consent, relationships, race, trauma, cultural symbols, gender issues, capitalism, belonging, the land, and, of course, the iconic feature of our climate – snow. The materials and techniques are as varied as the ideas behind the works!
We asked Esther Imm and Misha Gingerich, two participating artists from this year’s Hard Twist exhibition about their practice, their experience preparing for the show and what they hope viewers take away from their work!
Esther, your new work uses traditional Korean quilting techniques. Are there specific artists from that tradition who have influenced your latest work? What about their work has inspired you?
Esther: I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve yet to learn or employ the traditional Korean technique of Pogabi (Korean patchwork)! I actually learned my technique through the local community here (Toronto) and did not see the obvious visual connection to Pogabi until years into my practice. Although I don’t use Korean techniques, I do have a similar visual aesthetic for colour and geometry. I love to think that there is a connection there and that I have unintentionally picked it up through invisible influences. Interestingly enough, I learned of the traditional Korean style through observing contemporary American quilters such as Adam Pogue and Meg Callahan. When it comes to Korean influences, it’s all folk art from thousands of years ago. Apparently what looks modern and new in my eyes actually existed 2000+ years ago, much longer than western style quilting. Celebrating Pogabi, celebrates the nameless folk art quilter!
Misha, you use a very traditional medium to create a very contemporary art form of the graphic novel – how and why did connect these two? Which graphic novels have inspired you? Do you currently have a favourite author?
Misha: Honestly, I didn’t set out to make a graphic novel with embroidery. I planned to tell my story through drawing. I tried different styles, different tools, different techniques, but nothing I drew looked right. I’ve embroidered for fifteen years, so eventually I turned to that and found it fits. Not only do I like the look of the embroidered panels, but also my work is therapeutic for me, and the tactile nature of textile work and the repetitive action of embroidery are conducive to that. I am particularly drawn to autobiographical graphic novels, like Guy Delisle’s stories, and work that seems to be the author’s way of working through something, like Lynda Barry’s “One! Hundred! Demons!”. Another of my current favourite authors is Brecht Evens, whose images are breathtaking.
Esther, how does your work in Urban Design influence your textile practice?
Esther: I didn’t think there was a lot of crossover between my Urban Planning background and quilting, but I live in Toronto and every piece seems to be centred around a prominent grid, so I’m probably wrong. Each quilt is likely a subconscious ode to a neighbourhood or street I’ve walked along. A few people have commented that one of my more recent quilts reminds them of the OCAD building!
Misha, are there any other traditions, mediums, or artists that have influenced your work throughout the process of embroidering your novel?
Misha: My cultural background is Amish-Mennonite, and though I wasn’t raised in that religious tradition, I think my work is influenced by the cultural characteristics that have been passed down to me. My grandmothers quilted and embroidered, and I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I find myself most drawn to textile artwork. One of my favourite pieces is an embroidery started by my grandmother and completed by me, which hangs in a prominent place in my home.
I try to tell my story plainly, avoiding exaggeration, embellishment or overly complicated language, and I see this attempt at simplicity as part of my cultural heritage, also.
How do you hope viewers of Hard Twist will be inspired by your work? Is there one overarching idea or feeling that you hope they’ll take away from engaging with your work?
Esther: I think textile art can go overlooked sometimes, but I’m very proud to work in fabric. I love that a piece can sit in a frame or keep you warm when you’re reading a book. I want viewers of hard twist to touch my quilts, and I want the owners of my work to feel just as comfortable hanging it up or using it in their homes. My most recent pieces are left unfinished without binding (the border around the quilt). I hope to finish these pieces with input from its new owners and I encourage participation through contribution of fabric (ie an old shirt or blanket or curtains that may have some significance to them) or selection of colour. My work is meant to feel familiar and I want people to feel comfortable with it and let it bridge that space in art that sometimes feels stiff and pretentious.
Misha: My work is the story of how my life hasn’t turned out exactly how I thought it would, and how I’ve had to adjust my expectations. I think that’s a feeling that many people can relate to. Sharing our stories with one another can be comforting and encourage empathy, and I hope that’s what people take away from my work.
Be sure to check out Hardtwist 14: Entwined in our 3rd and 4th floor galleries, on from September 5 2019 – January 5 2020.