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MICHAEL BRENNAND-WOOD

Forever Changes


Forever Changes


MICHAEL BRENNAND-WOOD


Underwater Moonlight 1997

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Seed of Memory 1995

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Study for You Are Here 1995

Contents

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Forever Changes June Hill / Philip Hughes

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Distinctive and Rebellious Peter Murray

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A Heroic Transformer and His Catalogue of Enquiry Ian Wilson

41

Archive June Hill

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Portfolio Michael Brennand-Wood

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A Little Way to a Long Way June Hill

153

Inside Information Michael Brennand-Wood

173

Tracks and Traces Michael Brennand-Wood

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Unrestricted Dreams Paul Harper

185

Biography

192

Bibliography

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List of Illustrations

201

Acknowledgements


Art of the Stitch 2008

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Pretty Deadly 2011

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left Michael in his studio, 2012 below Flight Path 2010

Forever Changes June Hill / Philip Hughes

Forever Changes traces the work of Michael Brennand-Wood from

‘Michael came to us... very much his own person. From the start,

his student days at Manchester Polytechnic to his current international

he impressed with his intellect, focus and articulation, but most of

practice. It was never going to be an easy task to capture four

all, his natural curiosity. He was alive with ideas, and possessed the

decades of prodigious activity by a unique talent who has long been

energy to pursue the majority of them. In discussions (which were

a controversial figure. That his work should enter a new phase during

a delight) some current thought or theme would be pursued, throwing

the gestation period of the project only emphasised the difficulties

open countless new directions, connections and possibilities for

of encapsulating a career which refuses to be contained by the

future investigation. Materials, methods and processes were likewise

boundaries of expectation.

all similarly considered, and each “What if?” factor gleefully pounced upon and examined.

The artist was clear from the outset that Forever Changes should be a biography of the work rather than the man: the focus on ideas

‘A realization that the thread marks on the back portion of a worked

explored and the development of a visual language, rather than

hand-stitch were invariably quite different to those on the front, fired

the incidents of personal life. It might seem paradoxical to seek

a desire to see both simultaneously in order to note the various thread

to deny the self when much of the work is acknowledged to be

patterns. Thus began experiments with stitched, drilled Perspex. Next,

autobiographical, yet it is indicative of Michael’s conviction that his

drilled plywood replaced cloth and Perspex. Dyeing and staining the

art be rooted in, and present a response to, the realities of human

wood, along with incised and stitched mark-making, took the work

experience. It is this concern which made textiles – a medium

into yet another direction.

of everyday commonality imbued with historic, ethnographic and cultural significance – a natural subject for the creative investigations he has sustained during forty years of studio practice. Our approach to the project has been guided by two principles: the artist’s concern to be led by the work and his desire to acknowledge and present variable viewpoints. The following texts therefore offer a range of perspectives on Michael’s practice. Some are contemporary, some historic. Commissioned essays by Peter Murray, Ian Wilson and Paul Harper are complemented by contemporaneous archival extracts by peers and writings by the artist himself which contextualize specific pieces. Forever Changes is an archetypal Michael Brennand-Wood title. As with so many others, it is a reference to music – in this instance a seminal 1967 album by the American rock band Love. The words hint at the duality inherent in the artist’s practice. His work is ever shifting yet as Judy Barry his tutor at Manchester notes, its essence remains constant.

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left Babel 2008 (detail) below Facebook 2011 right Flower HeadNarcissistic Butterfly 2005 overleaf Unattributed Asante Bock Lace Blues 1996

‘The wooden grounds made it possible to build onto them and to

complying with the architect’s and builders’ time scales: these are

suspend 3D elements from them. Hollow, stained wooden cubes,

so typical of Michael’s courage and self belief, which have seen him

which he constructed and suspended with coloured threads, meant

through the enormously varied undertakings he has since achieved.’

that randomly moving the cubes created not only changing patterns of threads across the wood ground, but also percussive sounds.

We are grateful to all those who have helped realise this project

Here connecting with another of his enthusiasms... music.

and would like to express thanks to the following in particular: Paul Harper, Peter Murray and Ian Wilson for their essays; Judy Barry,

‘It is testimony to his fearlessness and his readiness to test his own

Dr Robert Bell, Paul Derrez and Emiko Yoshioka for contributing texts;

abilities that, at a point when most undergraduates would be fretting

Phil Sayer, Dewi Tannatt-Lloyd and West Dean Tapestry Studio for

only about their forthcoming Degree Shows, Michael was willing,

their photography; Lisa Rostron, and the designers at Lawn Creative;

without any prior experience, to undertake a real life, large scale

Meira Price for her work on the bibliography; Dr Jennifer Harris,

commission for the new Law Courts in Ilkestone, Derbyshire. Stepping

Audrey Walker and the staff at Ruthin Craft Centre; Samantha Rhodes

into the unknown; rising to the challenge of working to the scale of an

for all her support and to Michael Brennand-Wood for so generously

unbuilt building; testing out new materials and methods of working;

sharing his practice.

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left El-Rayo X 1981 (detail) below Knee High 1987

Distinctive and Rebellious Peter Murray

The great Catalan artist Joan Miró often said he wanted to

Multi-layering has always been an important aspect of Brennand-

assassinate painting. In a similar way Michael Brennand-Wood

Wood’s creative process, as has assemblage, with sections of

has interrogated his medium: he has pushed, pummelled and

work often made separately and then fused together into various

extended the boundaries of textiles and the ancient craft of

configurations. Kurt Schwitters springs to mind as Brennand-Wood

embroidery, traditionally female territories, resulting in a personal

builds his own form of ‘Merz pictures’. Like Schwitters, he is interested

visual vocabulary that has engendered an extraordinary and

in a variety of genres and media, poetry and sound, and he is also

gender rebellious body of art. When I think of Brennand-Wood’s

a forager for fragments and objects which become integral visual

work I envisage an explosion of colour and texture, of chaotic

elements within his constructions.

surfaces and gestures, which are pulled together into patterns and constructions held together via an underlying structure. Building

Entering the world of Michael Brennand-Wood is like emerging into

on a multi-layered, yet geometric and clearly defined framework,

a whirlpool of colours, textures, shape and form. The walls of his studio

usually a wooden mesh, layer upon layer of colour and texture is

contain past and present works and experiments which along with

applied, through the combination of paint, cotton, linen, threads,

ephemera prompt ideas, provoke memories and thoughts. The floor,

diverse materials and objects.

reminiscent of Jackson Pollock’s base in Springs, Long Island, New York, is pitted with the shadows of past brush strokes and colours, splashes and speckled paint; marks emphasising the intuitive side of his approach to picture making. It is an environment assembled by a fertile and inquisitive mind, the home of a gifted artist who, over the decades, has manipulated materials and traditional skills into expressive forms, often resulting in unforgettable, astonishing images. Brennand-Wood has been referred to as a textile artist, but for someone who has constantly challenged the boundaries of materials and craft approaches, it seems a totally inadequate label. Since his early days he has embraced many of the building blocks of modernism and immersed himself in contemporary issues, in art, design, music, literature, and present and past cultures. He is an authoritative figure whose relevant and lively ideas have constantly fed a fertile output which over the decades has seen significant shifts and changes. Brennand-Wood is as comfortable examining and discussing the work of John Cage as the tradition of suzani fabrics and, as a visual communicator, he attempts to fuse and blend his eclectic interests into the production of art. As a student Brennand-Wood was initially interested in studying sculpture and he was fascinated by kinetic work and intrigued by the creative world of Jean Tinguely, in particular Tinguely’s Meta-Matics.

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right Doors of Perception 1991 (detail) far right Underwater Moonlight 1997 (detail)

He did, however, choose to study embroidery. At first glance this

The introduction of chance became an important feature in his

might seem an odd choice for someone steeped in fine art but there

exploration of the tradition of embroidery, along with ideas developed

emerged a clear rationale and a strong motivation as many of the

from John Cage’s process art. Cage’s idea of how far can you go

significant artists Brennand-Wood admires often used textiles in their

has constantly lurked in the background of even the most carefully

work: Robert Rauschenberg, Alberto Burri, Antoni Tàpies and,

pre-planned structures and approaches to Brennand-Wood’s

of course, Christo. It was simply another material to be explored in

complicated works. As pattern and textures emerge they hold new

a creative and expressive manner. Also, during his childhood fabrics

ideas and indeterminacy providing an intoxicating mix of variances.

and materials became part of his developmental existence through

His ability as an artist is understanding the creative process and the

his grandmother, an industrial weaver, encouraging him to explore

power and influence of the unconscious on the final result. This, along

this world. Embroidery was waiting for a male student to have studied

with a respect for traditional skills and crafts and a heightened social

this subject for a few years at Manchester Polytechnic. Brennand-

awareness all fuelled by a zest for contemporary thought and culture,

Wood was determined to explore new ways of working traditional

has powered the uncompromising evolution of Brennand-Wood’s

processes and materials as he started to question the ‘notion of the

extensive and distinguished career.

sampler’ and ‘the subversive stitch’. Embroidery to him was the area of textiles least rooted in function and he was taken with the notion

Structure has always been important to the artist and he has

of extending the discipline and of constructing linear drawings.

frequently referred to the building of a geometric mesh to enable the

His dream to draw in space required a lot of research and advanced

layering of textural, visual and personal experiences. Musicians who

skills which took time to evolve and develop appropriate stitchery

reduce the emphasis on melody, focusing on pulse and rhythm, such

‘...a simple equation between drawing with three-dimensional line in

as Phillip Glass, more than captivate the mind of Brennand-Wood

cotton and in pencil.’ His aim was to remove physically as much of the

as he sees a parallel between these sound pulses and the pulses

foundation as possible, exposing the linear quality of the stitch. This

of threads and colour which layer and fuse his geometric structures.

approach resulted in his famous thread structures that developed into assemblages and layering ‘...in which a diverse collection of materials

Michael Brennand-Wood is an unusual artist. Having chosen

was trapped together.’ His three dimensional drawings, constructed

to start his artistic career studying one of the most traditional crafts,

via stitching, often have a luminous, kinetic vibrancy and at other times

embroidery, he has gone on to generate a prodigious body of work

the minimal delicacy of a Sol LeWitt wall drawing. In fact Brennand-

which defies boundaries and categorization. His ambition has always

Wood has said that his stitched works were often deviations of ideas

been to introduce his work and connect with a wide and diverse

found within fine art and his ink drawings of stitches were allied to

audience, galvanising his encyclopaedic knowledge and range of

the work of Sol LeWitt. His thoughtful creative approach to visual

interests into visual statements that have a personal and contextual

construction should always be perceived in a wider visual framework.

relevance. His artistic decision-making often leads to the unexpected

His early awareness that stitches formed a visual and textural unit

and he once said ‘part of my job is to understand where I’ve landed

which could be configured in an expressive way was an important

and what happens next.’

step that fuelled the dynamics of his distinctive vocabulary and his desire to blur boundaries.

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far left Babel 2008 (detail) left Phial Bodies 2008 (detail) overleaf What Goes On 1995–96

His work is nearly always reminiscent of landscape, not in a formal

forms referring to The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus

or pictorial sense, but in the layering of growth and time which acts

Bosch a painting which has mesmerised Brennand-Wood since

as a metaphor for his personal evolution as well as the growth of his

student days.

complex compositions. The land contains hidden traces of existences which are sometimes explored or rediscovered and through his work

Miró made tapestries, as did Henry Moore who also became involved

he re-finds and re-explores things ‘...an idea that I’d lost’, creating

in textile and wallpaper design. The Bauhaus had a lot to say about

works which only gradually reveal themselves, attempting to create

fabric design and textiles. Louise Bourgeois created a beautiful body

‘...things which aren’t there but at the same time are there...’.

of work utilising fabrics and textile. Michael Brennand-Wood is more than familiar with these developments. His response to materials has

Pattern can hold an idea and may, at times, be the starting point

often been influenced by minimalism and other aspects of contemporary

for a work, but it is always the concept that is paramount.

culture along with specific sculptors and painters.

Nevertheless, he likes materials to have a memory, as in Port of Call (1991) which includes a collage of Mills and Boon romantic

The American painter Mark Tobey is one that stands out. Tobey, who

book covers which he had purchased from ‘endless car boot sales’.

was also a composer, came into prominence with his ‘white writings’.

This pivotal work that could be read as a board game (a game of

He layered his canvasses with a multitude of brush strokes, mainly white

chance), also relates to time spent in Australia, New Zealand and

upon white, but sometimes delicately textured colours. This ‘all over

Japan. International success has required long periods of time

painting’ had a particular appeal to Brennand-Wood strongly influencing

travelling to different parts of the world and the creation of works in

his own early-layered works, which provided, through a variety of media

far off places. Traces of this aspect of Brennand-Wood’s life can be

including painting, a delicate surface and palette.

found in many phases of his work reflecting diverse environments and locations. These experiences run throughout his repertoire as

In 1999 Michael Brennand-Wood participated in an international

he hoards not only material but also ideas and feelings, allowing

exhibition at Yokohama Museum of Modern Art in Japan called Weaving

new thoughts to build upon the past. He refers to the indirect

the World. His work alongside Andy Goldsworthy, Richard Deacon,

influence of the Falklands War on the coloration and palette employed

Pierette Bloch and Martin Puryear attempted to disrupt our view of

in the creation of his iconic work Sadie (1982). A social and political

traditions and aesthetics, an approach he is perfectly equipped to

awareness influenced works such as A Flag of Convenience –

continue well into the future.

Behind the Lines (2011). The flag, appearing traditional from afar, upon closer inspection reveals visual clues that raise political issues

Recognition and approval of artists in this country is an odd, often

and other stories. The USA flag contains the same number of

arbitrary process, sometimes fuelled by the dichotomy existing between

soldiers as stars and the red and white stripes contain euphemistic

art and craft. By any assessment Michael Brennand-Wood is an artist

text and Arabic patterns. The beautifully constructed and mesmerising

who succeeds in undermining such binary oppositions and who brings

series such as Still Lives (2007), Babel (2008) and Phial Bodies (2008)

something distinctive and rebellious to the table.

also contain hidden subversive visual clues and images. Once more Michael Brennand-Wood alludes to his knowledge and understanding of art history in the latter where the flower heads become menacing

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left Restored and Remixed 2012 (detail)

A Heroic Transformer and His Catalogue of Enquiry Ian Wilson

Speaking with Michael Brennand-Wood is a vibrant and energetic

Hanging on the wall beside the studio door, on the day of my visit, was

activity – this has been true of dialogues over a summer luncheon

a small, rectangular rug which Brennand-Wood is re-staining with acrylic

table in a Gloucestershire garden, sitting and chatting on the floor

paint, ‘pixel by pixel, stitch by stitch’. Robert Rauschenberg’s ‘visceral’

of a Hampshire drawing–room, a bellowing interchange while he –

involvement with textiles was an inspiration for the young Brennand-

atop scaffolding and busy installing Celestial Music in Bristol’s Colston

Wood, and he feels that the inception of this piece lies, at least in part,

Hall – towered many feet above me, and, most recently, a conversation

in the story of how the American artist, having accidentally spilled paint,

as we drove through a snowy winter landscape in Bedfordshire.

converted this inadvertent carelessness into an intentional, creative act when he proceeded to paint the entire carpet.

Wide-ranging and discursive as these colloquies might be – for Brennand-Wood has a dauntingly encyclopaedic memory and a

This rug, Restored and Remixed, was an artefact in the throes

genuinely inquiring mind which is adept at delivering unexpected

of transfiguration. Re-animating shapes into another reality was

insights – it is, inevitably, some member of the ‘supremely important’

one of the artist’s preoccupations in creating it, and this intention

trinity of textiles, music and paint which sparks the images, lights

is exemplified in the ‘cross-bones’, motifs which must have had

up the flow of ideas. This essay, which is indebted to just such

a quite different significance in their original incarnation. Skulls, digitally

discussions, looks at both Brennand-Wood’s present perspective

embroidered on a fifteen needle, multi-head, computerized sewing-

in the light of the retrospective exhibition being mounted by Ruthin

machine, rest upon these bones, and border the four sides – like

Craft Centre and discusses examples of how this vision finds

a necklace worn by the Hindu deity, Kali, the Terrible and Protecting

expression. Brennand-Wood is delighted that the inclusiveness

Mother of All. Asymmetrically located upon the ground are little

of this show offers an opportunity to ‘reclaim some of my territory,

robotic, Lego-like creatures whose blocky shapes are embedded

because many people know bits of my work, but far from all

within the iconography of textile folk art, recalling the angularity of the

of it’ – a fact that is scarcely surprising when one remembers

figures encountered, for example, in Amerindian wampum-beading

how prodigious he has been ever since his student days.

and in knotted pile rugs from Central Asia, while simultaneously sharing lineage with children’s transformer toys.

In harmony with Forever Changes, a title indicating a state of affairs which is seldom static and constantly evolving, a major

These organisms are imposed upon the surface of the fabric, quite

focus of the essay will be the concept of transformation and its many

literally impinging on its space like the extra-terrestrial invaders they

manifestations in Brennand-Wood’s oeuvre. However, rigid divisions

represent. They not only effect visual and conceptual changes, but

are neither being envisaged nor drawn between ‘current’ and ‘early’

also insert and integrate themselves within the knotted geometry

perspectives, for since the beginning of his practice the perception

of the original design. The perimeter of skulls – semiotically signalling

has been and still is exploratory and experimental, and preoccupations

death and danger – has the same gruesome jollity found in the

such as lace and pattern as well as his ongoing dialogue with the

costumes and artefacts celebrating Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican

past and the concomitant sense of being part of that tradition,

festival of the dead. This connotational freight, simultaneously grim

have continued to yield up rich and diverse variations on, and

and playful, forms part of a strand of ambiguity – such as is found,

interpretations of, such themes.

for example, in many of the titles1 – which serves to keep the observer in an alert, questing frame of mind.

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On the same wall hung one of the prototypes for the sequence

which they are subservient. Deliberate and considered as is his use

of aeroplane-silhouettes made from aluminium which has been cut

of ordered composition, nevertheless, there are occasions when one

by water-jet. When several of these shapes, plus outlines of soldiers,

feels that, perhaps, certain aspects of these multi-referential and often

bombs, missiles and mines are layered upon each other, as in

complex visual designs emerge and assert themselves because it is

Meddle – Red Alert (2011), a metamorphosis takes place. The original

patterning which, like some deep geological structure, underlies and

constituents might still be recognizable, but the act of overlaying has

supplies a substratum upon which he builds.

created – rather like a Rorschach test – all manner of unforeseen visual references, whose decorative lace-like patterns have been

The non-representational patterning in Coloured Silence (2001,

formed by the accoutrements of battle.

from the Stars Underfoot cycle) and All Night Flight (2003, from the Consequence of Proximities series) – two examples having to stand

This reference to patterning and its decorative effects leads to

for many – reminds us ‘that ideas are encoded in pattern geometries’3

an important theme and one which is informatively introduced with

and that one is able to see ‘certain kinds of regularities in the structure

a quotation from Mark Wigley, who, in Sexuality and Space, says that

of a repeated pattern that may be masked by variation in the many

‘The risk of ornament is an impropriety in which the sensuality of the

ways the pattern is elaborated.’4 Brennand-Wood’s patterns are put

body confuses the mind that seeks to control it.’2 Brennand-Wood

to service in expressing and interpreting aesthetic and moral issues,

has created surfaces which set the fingers tingling to touch them,

but they never become a strait-jacket for in Wasn’t Born to Follow

and visual scenarios that are instinctively, spontaneously and sensually

(2001) – like Crystallized Movements (2004), a landmark in

alluring and has thus frequently run the kind of ‘risk’ implied by these

Brennand-Wood’s canon – we see the symmetry breaking up

lines. However, Brennand-Wood’s use of patterning is primarily one

and there is a re-introduction of the thread in wood that was

from which decorative and ornamental results may arise, but to

so distinguishing a feature of earlier work.

1

2

3 4

5

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Holding Pattern, Vase Attacks, Phial Bodies, Sweet Jain and Pretty Mines All in a Row are allusive, punning titles from Brennand-Wood’s exhibition, Pretty Deadly, held at The Naughton Gallery, Queen’s University, Belfast in October–November 2009. On occasion typography has been employed to create embedded ambiguity, as in Consequence of Proximities. This quotation was encountered in the catalogue essay (no author given) accompanying an exhibition of the work of Beverley Semmes at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, October–December 1995. It is taken from Mark Wigley, ‘Untitled: The Housing of Gender,’ in Sexuality and Space ed. Beatriz Colomina (1992), New York: Princeton Architectural Press, p355. Dorothy K. Washburn and Donald W. Crowe, eds, Introduction to Symmetry Comes of Age – The Role of Pattern in Culture (2004), Seattle: University of Washington Press, p xi. Eid. p xi. Also pertinent to this argument is the following excerpt from The Language of Ornament by James Trilling: ‘...there have always been works of great elegance with little or no ornament, but respect for ornament itself has always been a constant. There has probably not been a single cultural moment, before the birth of modernism, in which the suggestion that more is less – in effect, that ornament is a waste of time – would have been met with any response but credulity.’ James Trilling, The Language of Ornament (2001), London: Thames and Hudson, 2001, p15 W. B. Yeats, ‘Easter 1916’ in The Collected Poems of W. B. Yeats (1965), London: Macmillan & Co Ltd, pp202–205.


top (l–r) Consequence of Proximities All Night Flight 2003 A Flag of Convenience – The Sky is Crying 2011 (detail) White Lace – Flag Day 2006 (detail) Burst 2009 (detail) below (l–r) Wasn’t Born to Follow 2004 (detail) Meddle – White Light 2012

Our sensuous pleasure in the flowers, both the strewn and the

Crystallized Movements is not only seminal within the opus, but is also

consciously arranged, in the Stars Underfoot series is preparing us

a precursor of the two Flags of Convenience: The Sky is Crying (2011)

to look more closely at the arrangement of the blooms in Crystallized

and Behind the Lines (2011), based on the Union Jack and the Stars

Movements. These are set upon a background of white-painted

and Stripes, respectively. Brennand-Wood is fully aware of the flag

soldiers, a killing field formed from human beings, impotent pawns

as a site which has been much-visited by artists, and has said with

ensnared in the horrors of combat, rendered powerless by the resinous

reference to his Flags that ‘These are pieces you have to make, even

white glue in which they are entrapped. A more distanced viewing-

if you do not want to,’ words which are indicative of the powerful

point of Crystallized Movements enables the flag motif, which is formed

ethical content which is becoming increasingly more established as a

by these flowers, to materialize, and this need for both near and far

defining characteristic of his art. Both Flags are examples of Brennand-

examination is necessary for a fuller understanding of much of what

Wood’s poet-like ability for visual and verbal metaphors which lead us

Brennand-Wood makes. It also explains one aspect of his interest

to consider not only the wielding of power within the arena of world

in Hieronymus Bosch’s A Garden of Delights which he terms

politics, but also the powerful rhetoric of war-mongering.

‘a cornerstone of my recent work’, and Richard Dadd’s masterpiece The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke – which has intrigued him since his teenage years. These paintings, too, reward close scrutiny of the incredible detail, but also require a stepping-back from the canvas in order to appreciate the picture in its entirety and the emergence of features which are only revealed when looked at from a more removed position. In White Lace – Flag Day (2006) the increased prominence of the white background is no harbinger of serenity, for the martial manikins – like sparrows mired in bird-lime – contend not only with resin, but also enmeshment in a trap of threads whose taut web produces a strained, tense surface. The tiny combatants in Burst (2009) are even less immediately recognizable as representations of people and even more inextricably bound to each other, more dreadfully enveloped by a red and bloody sludge. This shocking scenario evokes images of the dissolution and descent of the defeated human being into an elemental, inchoate mire, or, conversely, of Swamp Monster creatures emerging from a primeval slime. This is confrontational art in the presence of which the observing eye and the perceiving mind are beset by horrors often depicted with an elegance of form which is simultaneously perturbing and seductive. The spectator cannot but contemplate and – as a consequence of this action – reflect upon the portrayal and the implications of this ‘terrible beauty’.5

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previous Lace: The Final Frontier 2011 (working drawing) top (l–r) Skull Cat Elf Brooch on background 2008 Lace: The Final Frontier 2011 below (l–r) Transformer 2012 (working drawing) Celestial Music 2009 (detail)

Brennand-Wood has an academic sensibility which is found

toys and images of space invaders, but this is not a depiction which is

in the assured lucidity with which he talks and writes about art

restricted to a single visual interpretation. It has a powerful capacity of

– a skill vouchsafed for by those he has taught – and which co-exists

eliciting images and memories from that great mental and emotional

with, and can be turned to focus upon, his passionate response to

reservoir that we bring to our encounters with works of art and which,

many aspects of popular culture and music. Enthusiasm is allied with

in turn, help us to interpret them.

scholarly investigation, so that when preparing for the Lost in Lace exhibition in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in 2011, he was sketching examples of sixteenth century laces as a means of feeling his way into a major project entitled Lace: The Final Frontier. However, he was also drawing upon earlier research he had undertaken into the lace holdings of Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery in the 1990s from which emerged such important works as Feel Flows (1996) and Perfect Skin (1995). The Final Frontier is a substantial – and transformable – installation mounted on a connective grid which is painted on the wall enabling the lace elements to ‘float’ proud of that surface, and implementing presentation in different configurations.6 In this piece Brennand-Wood set out to combine and merge the ostensibly incongruous concepts of militarism and lace. However, keeping in mind that a quintessential attribute of the latter is the encirclement of space, one senses the logic underpinning this conjunction of the delicate textile with the notion of contested space which is so often a casus belli. Furthermore, he could sense an association between the pricking used in lacemaking as an action which is easily envisaged in the context of war games. For Transformer the artist collaborated with West Dean Tapestry Studio to make a weaving from his drawn designs and this venture he sees as a dialogue between his graphic marks – which were inspired by embroidered originals – and the stitched mark; a case of textiles talking to textiles. Transformer is concerned with the stereotypical beliefs that the artist is a male, and the all-too common denigration

6

of textiles as being inherently lesser than painting or sculpture. Thus it

7

is involved with its maker’s being out there in the public domain battling these prejudices, fighting for a changed appreciation of textiles.7 This composite figure hints at a pedigree shared with transformer

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Incidentally, should a circular format be chosen, this will have been suggested by the idea of the doyley, which for Brennand-Wood is an example of domestic sculpture. Contrast this attitude to that discussed by Glenn Adamson in relationship to Tracey Emin and Mike Kelly, in Thinking Through Craft: ‘...the most widespread strategy in the late 1980s and early 1990s was to exploit craft’s “abject” position, its “lower than low” status in the cultural hierarchy. Craft has captured the attention of artists because it is a site of cultural failure, a field of activity that is resigned to inferiority and de-basement because of the complete supremacy and centrality of mass-manufactured commodities’. Glenn Adamson, Thinking Through Craft (2007), Oxford and New York: Berg Publishers. p159.


Is Transformer some strange entity from a Tarot card or a manga

the café bar in the new foyer area. When I last attended a gig there,

comic or perhaps a relative of Godzilla, the Japanese movie monster?

Celestial Music was provoking a lively hum of discussion amongst

It also displays that accumulative accruement of elements which gives

members of the audience having a drink during the interval, a fact

such a complicated profile to many of the magical beings depicted in

which gave its maker great pleasure. The intertextuality, the element

the codices of the Aztec and Mixtec peoples.

of hybrid bricolage and the appropriation of artefacts from popular culture – in this instance the badges worn by music fans – might

Although Brennand-Wood certainly feels that the war themes which

be seen as evidence of post-modernist tendencies, however, and

have been discussed in this essay will continue to be present in

importantly so, Brennand-Wood’s relation to tradition is certainly not

his future work, one should not neglect the frequently encountered

wholly in accord with the typical post-modernist interpretation of history.

lyricism and the sense of delight, which are exemplified, for example, in Celestial Music the three-dimensional installation in the Colston Hall,

Skull Cat Elf, is a marvellously named character regarding whom

Bristol, for the redevelopment of which complex he was appointed

it is opportune to recall that the dissertation which Brennand-Wood

Lead Artist. This six metre high by twelve metre wide wall-piece is

wrote as an undergraduate dealt not only with the advent of early

a celebratory summation of popular music and is located beside

abstraction, but also considered letter forms, and their connection to twentieth century poetry and painting. Like the evolution of an ideogram, Skull Cat Elf came into being when single embroidered shapes were digitally collaged to express a new idea, to create a new persona, and this marrying of the ancient ideographic processes with state-of-the-art technology illustrates one of the reasons why Brennand-Wood is so vital a force in the world of applied arts. He constantly looks forward, but never loses an awareness of the past; in addition, and significantly so, he never stops asking all manner of questions. This conjunction of old and modern also underlines the inter-disciplinarian nature and inter-connectedness of Brennand-Wood’s varied output. This idea emerged and was forcefully confirmed when we were watching a selection of chronologically arranged computer images of his work, and at the conclusion of this slideshow he remarked: ‘All the work is intertwined, talking to each other – it really is like a catalogue of enquiry.’ One wonders whether Skull Cat Elf, will be one of the other-worldly denizens in the populous, and possibly surreal Dream Pictures series – much thought about, but not yet made at the time of my visiting the artist in his studio. Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889, by James Ensor, is a painting to which Brennand-Wood refers when discussing

35


right Tunes of Glory 2009 far right Tunes of Glory 2009 (detail) below Meddle – Memento Mori 2012 overleaf Cassidy 1979

his current interest in crowd scenes; and in the Dream Pictures

BA (Hons) in Textiles course at Manchester Polytechnic, neither is it

he envisages lots of cartoon-like characters floating around,

immoderate when applied to the man whose achievements are being

a strange world, ‘within some weird Yves Tanguy space.’ It is with

celebrated in this Ruthin retrospective. Nor, indeed, is ‘transformer’

a sense of intrigued expectation that one waits to see what meanings

an idly applied term. For more than thirty years Brennand-Wood

will emerge when these pieces extend the process of intertwining

has been changing – and continues to do so – the way we perceive

and start their dialogue with other members of the Brennand-Wood

textiles, and, concomitantly, the role and stature of the applied arts.

canon. ‘Heroic’ should not be deemed too extravagant an adjective

He has reshaped our comprehension of lace, he has made us

to describe the teenager who was the only male student on the

see a significance in patterning that has been largely unguessed at by many, he has added new meaning to the word ‘sculpture’, and expanded the idea of the artist as inter-disciplinarian. The exhilarating rush of pleasure and excitement to be experienced when in the presence of Brennand-Wood’s work does not mean that an intrinsic appreciation comes gratuitously and without a readiness to devote attention and thoughtfulness to our encounters with these art objects. This is a statement which in no way demeans the validity of the buzz and heady thrills, and, indeed, the joyousness which these pieces are able to awake. It is precisely the energy which the viewer is compelled to invest in trying to understand the relationship between, and the co-existence and implications of, such seemingly disparate or conflicting components as music and suffering in Tunes of Glory (2009), to cite but one of many such instances, that renders encounters with Brennand-Wood’s work so stimulating. Our sensual enjoyment requires, ideally, partnering with an expenditure of cerebral effort – such as that needed to hold simultaneously in the mind the beauty of execution and the frequently painful seriousness of the subject-matter. This is an activity which, for those prepared to engage in it, is able to open out not only into questions and insights concerning aesthetics and morality, but also into a recognition of Michael Brennand-Wood as a prodigious enquirer into, and a revelatory chronicler of, the delights and desolations of the human condition.

36


left Iridescent Pink and Blue 1979 below Herringbone 1974

Archive June Hill

Overlays Paul Klee compared the artist to a tree, the roots are symbolic of what the artist gathers in, the trunk is the artist through which ideas eventually blossom. I feel that at the core of who I am today are the interests and influences of who I was as a child. Successive ideas drawn from experience build up in layers around the core, layers of references, each one accessible if you cut through to the next. Chasing Shadows, Drumcroon, January 2002.

By the age of nine, it was already too late to stop. ‘I remember thinking as a five year old that I wanted to be an artist.’1 There was no element of choice: this was something that had to be; something that already was. A recollection of himself as ‘always the school artist’ shifts into the story of his leaving at the earliest opportunity to study at Bolton College of Art (1969–72). Time on its foundation course brought contact with students training for the still active textile industry. There are memories of a weave tutor associated with the Bauhaus and a stolen experience of finding some embroidery canvas, then playing with it by improvising stitches using felt tip pens and coloured yarn. Cloth and thread were already integral elements of his mixed media investigations; a medium instinctively used since childhood. pursue fine art, but not in the place or with the medium that was It was predetermined that he would study fine art. No question.

expected. ‘I see myself as an independent artist’3 he has remarked.

Not until the decision had to be made as to where he should attend.

Never born to follow, his practice has been one of constant

A visit to Manchester Polytechnic proved decisive. ‘Looking round the

questioning; his life’s work, the dream of exploring grounds in

various areas, it struck me that textiles were akin to painting in 1910.

the here and now that are as yet unmapped.

It was uncharted territory open to experimentation and to my eyes very exciting, so I changed course and opted for Embroidery.’2

Whilst the work has shifted throughout his career, with at least five distinct phases to date as those layers have accrued, his practice

Forty years on, that still seems an extraordinary observation.

is imbued with a manifest purity of purpose. ‘Continually revising

Michael was nineteen. Consider then that he has devoted the four

and re-inventing himself (surprisingly few artist-craftspeople do this),’

decades of his subsequent practice to a sustained examination

Peter Dormer has written, ‘Michael Brennand-Wood remains true

of that thought, and one begins to comprehend its significance.

to his first impulse as an art student: “I want to take my subject

This is where the contesting of boundaries began. He would

as far as it will go”.’4

1 2 3 4

All artist quotes from conversations with the author unless otherwise stated Artist notes, Student experiments, March 2012 Artist notes, Wasn’t Born To Follow, March 2012 Peter Dormer, ‘Sources of Inspiration’, Crafts Sept/Oct 94

41


top (l–r) 27 Cubes 1976 Early Mesh 1976 Charlemagne 1978 White Crayola 1978 (detail) below Michael BrennandWood, 1980

Art of the Stitch

Textile Constructions

‘Michael came to us... very much his own person,’ recalls Judy Barry,

The year after completing his studies, Michael took up a teaching

his tutor at Manchester. ‘From the start, he impressed with his intellect,

post at Goldsmiths College. Audrey Walker was Head of Department.

focus and articulation, but most of all, his natural curiosity. He was alive

A pivotal influence in his life, she became a mentor figure.8 ‘Working

with ideas, and possessed the energy to pursue the majority of them.’5

with Audrey was like a second education. She was so full of ideas. She took a chance on me... We did a lot of experimenting and

Single minded in the pursuit of his art and ‘forceful enough to

questioning of the craft in those years.’9

bend the system to accommodate his idiosyncratic experiments’6 – ‘I used to have two folders: one for course work and one for my own

That inquisitive probing of boundaries was highly pertinent. This was

which I did at home’ he explains – the grounding in textile history and

a formative period for both crafts and textiles in the UK. The Crafts

technique which the course provided was something deeply valued.

Council (then the Crafts Advisory Committee) had been formed in

The attitude evident then, of thirsting to know the context of the

1971 with a brief to promote craft. Michael was one of many who

medium yet refusing to be confined by perceived territorial limitations,

benefited from their advocacy and support. In 1978 – the same year

remains fundamental to his practice. Here at the beginning, it was

he was awarded a New Craftsman Grant – Charlemagne was selected

expressed in an exploration of three-dimensional line synthesised with

for the 3rd International Exhibition of Miniature Textiles which opened

an investigation of stitch structures. ‘My intention was to try and free

at the British Crafts Centre, London, prior to commencing a world tour.

the geometrical beauty of basic stitches from their background.’ The

More high profile exposure followed as the Crafts Council initiated

outcome was a series of experimental, mixed media box sculptures

a series of influential projects to which Michael was invited to

and grid meshes based on bobbin lace and embroidery techniques.

contribute as a practitioner, educator and curator. His practice was consequently positioned in the vanguard of critical debate on the nature of art, craft and textiles.

The work attracted immediate attention. His first public art commission7 was awarded during his second year, and completed

The battle between art and craft continues... Michael Brennand-Wood is well aware of [the] dichotomy. When asked about it he replies that he cannot categorise his work at all, and that he simply wants it to be seen for what it is. His talent is remarkable, for reasons which defy the prescriptions of either faction, having little to do with masterly technique or creative genius. He has evolved a kind of work which is at once atmospheric and tangible, mysterious and accessible. Moira Kelly, ‘This is Embroidery’, Crafts Nov/Dec 1980 p28–31.

during his Masters at Birmingham (1975–6). Opportunities to exhibit and teach swiftly followed. Eleven young artists all ex-members of Manchester Polytechnic, have got together again to form an interesting exhibition of assorted crafts. ...Michael Wood, whose work lies between the fine and decorative arts, brought off an interesting use of embroidery when he used it to form his ‘boxes’ which are really sculptures. These boxes, composed of small cubes, fall menacingly out towards you like toy games that have somehow gone all wrong in their size and meaning. Michael Regan, ‘Once Upon a Time’, Peterloo Gallery, Manchester, Crafts March/April 1976.

5 6 7 8 9

42

Email conversation with the author, 29 December 2011 Anna Burch, Working On The Edge, The Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, 1988 John Siddley International Ltd, the Law Courts of Ilkestone County Council Susie Johns, Embroidery, Nov 2003 Vol 54 p41–2. Peter Dormer, ‘Sources of Inspiration’, Crafts Sept/Oct 1994 p38


Thread Collages Still in his 20s Michael was already establishing himself as an artist with a uniquely authoritative voice. Thread Collages (1979), a twoperson exhibition with Caroline Broadhead in London, was the first substantive showing of his grid works. ‘I feel that they are still very much a series of preliminary marks and experiments, indicative rather than totally resolved statements,’ he commented. ‘As with any new technique or idea it takes a substantial amount of time to familiarise oneself with the possibilities and extent to which it can be stretched.’10 In his exhibition review Emmanuel Cooper noted: ...Everything is tremendously enlarged. The embroiderer’s canvas is replaced by a painted wooden grid with the warp and the weft pulled apart; the stitches are worked on an equally large scale so that the whole piece takes on a three dimensional quality with close meshed wefts giving a very dense effect. In some pieces the basic frame or canvas remains but a much freer approach was used. Pieces of paper, scraps and remnants have been woven in and the effect is much freer and livelier. One quieter piece White Crayola was more delicate and used white and cream. Other pieces used strong reds and greens and became more decorative, and this seems to be the key to Brennand-Wood’s work – until questions and doubts arise about the significance of the use of newspaper and other odd scraps. Is the choice totally arbitrary, merely convenient ‘waste’ materials or is the choice of ‘Daily Mirror’ or ‘Financial Times’ important? They left me with a slight but persistent sense of unease. Art and Artists April 1979 p48–9.

Thread Collages had been initiated by Ralph Turner (Head of Exhibitions, Crafts Council). He was also a pivotal figure in several subsequent projects, most notably The Maker’s Eye and Fabric and Form. Held just months apart in 1982, both proved highly influential and both involved Michael as an exhibitor and selector.

10

Exhibition statement, Thread Collages, (Crafts Advisory Committee Gallery) 1979

43


Sleepless Nights aka Recycled Painting 1978

44


45


The Maker’s Eye

Emblematic of ‘an influx of people working in traditional craft disciplines

An examination of current craft practice, this exhibition celebrated

who previously might have taken a fine art course’,13 Michael described

the Crafts Council’s first ten years and marked the opening of its new

his approach as ‘simply choosing work he liked rather than [illustrating]

gallery and resource centre in Waterloo Place. The establishment

a particular attitude on craft’.14 The rationale for his selection indicated

of such a venue in central London barely a decade after the

the elements he valued and viewed as important. Practitioners

organisations formation was indicative of the energy of current practice

possessed of commitment and vision; the ability to communicate a

in the sector. The Maker’s Eye sought to reflect this by featuring

real sense of enjoyment ‘a quality sadly overlooked’; the use of colour;

500 objects selected by fourteen prominent practitioners. The aim

the manipulation of diverse materials; a breadth of ideas; an ability to

was to present crafts for the 1980s as perceived by the makers

question and a discernible attention to craftsmanship in the making.15

themselves, each of whom had been invited to define the idea of

That some work was by practitioners classed as painters and others

craft in terms of their personal experience.

as jewellers or textile artists, mattered not a jot.

11

12

I suspect that one’s reaction to a piece of Michael Brennand-Wood’s work depends strongly on the company in which it is hung. In a mixed craft exhibition, one of his textile constructions would stand up well by many of the traditional craft criteria, and, despite its unorthodox nature, one would inevitably be aware of its background in embroidery... However, seen as a one-man show, the work’s intrinsic craft interest is pushed into second place by one’s awareness that here is a body of work which explores optical colour mixing with eloquence and authority... There is a nice logic in the similarity between these pieces and an influential body of modern painting. A direct line of influence from Albers, Poons, Riley et al back to Seurat and the Impressionists. Go a stage further back and you reach Michel-Eugene Chevreul, chief of the dyeing department at the Royal Gobelins tapestry workshop, Paris. All Chevreul’s vastly influential work on colour was done from a basis of weaving and textile crafts in general; and it is the sort of precise control that can be achieved by varying the colour of a few threads that Brennand-Wood exercises with such confidence. With optical mixing as the artist’s chief interest, the distance from which one observes each piece is crucial, as with Pointillist paintings. Close up, in most cases one is aware of brilliantly coloured chaos, while at about ten feet the colours own pattern emerges. This pattern is often independent of the grid which physically supports it. Again, as with Pointillist pictures, at about twenty feet or more the lightest hues merge to form a subtle but distinctly subdued grey...At a distance ‘Available Space’ had the austere greyness of one of Seurat’s ‘Gravelines’, close up it was like a cross-section through a fantastic blossoming tree... Martin Bright, ‘Review: Michael Brennand-Wood: Textile Constructions’, Craft Quarterly Winter 1981 Issue 2.

11

12 13 14 15

46

The Maker’s Eye: An exhibition to celebrate 10 years of the Crafts Council, curated by Ralph Turner 13th January to 28th March 1982 Crafts Council Gallery, 12 Waterloo Place, London. The fourteen selectors were: Alison Britton, Michael Cardew, Emmanuel Cooper, Mary Farmer, Erik de Graaf, David Kindersley, John Makepeace, Enid Marx, Malcolm Parsons, Alan Peters, David Pye, Connie Stevenson, David Watkins and Michael Brennand-Wood Victor Margrie, Director, Crafts Council, The Maker’s Eye, Crafts Council 1982, Introduction Michael Brennand-Wood, The Maker’s Eye, Crafts Council 1982 p68 Op cit Op cit


top (l–r) The Maker’s Eye catalogue cover 1982 Broken English 1981 Fabric and Form catalogue cover 1982 Mumbles 1982 below (l–r) Michael BrennandWood portrait 1982 It’s Too Late to Stop Now 1980 (detail)

Fabric and Form

This is an exhibition about textiles as opposed to a textile exhibition... I was determined from the start to concentrate on the limitations and scope of textiles... I sought strong ideas, I wanted to be challenged and confronted with something of which I had previously been unaware... Inevitably, [the selection process] sharpened my response and made me question hard why I enjoyed a particular piece, and what constituted a textile.

Initiated by the British Council as a follow-up to Image and Idea, an acclaimed exhibition of ceramic sculpture which toured Australia and New Zealand in 1981, Fabric and Form: New Textile Art from Britain16 was a response to the Crafts Board of Australia’s request for a focus

I began to question my own training and that of my contemporaries in an effort to understand the circumstances in which our work had developed. I realised that apart from traditional examples of textiles, it had been the study of painting and sculpture which had exerted the greatest influence. The type of work the average textile student is exposed to now is vastly different from that of a few years ago. I would cite recent exhibitions of work by Eva Hesse, Robert Ryman, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell, Antoni Tapies and the Décor show at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford as being of particular importance. Consequently, the terms of reference within which contemporary textiles are produced have altered. The effect of this change is not fully realised, but there is evidence in certain current work of changes in awareness and the past constraints of use, durability and application have begun to break down. This will lead to a different form of textiles which is no longer dependent upon a study of technique, but is free to involve and embrace any media or discipline necessary to further the concept. Textiles will never again be a definable area; in the same way that distinctions between painting and sculpture have become pointless. Fabric and Form, The British Council 1982 p6–7.

on contemporary fibre and textile crafts. At the invitation of Ralph Turner, Michael took on the role of selector. It was the first of several landmark exhibitions he would curate, and the most contentious. The reverberations it engendered continued long after the exhibition had ceased to be. Reading his catalogue essay thirty years later, is to be reminded of how visionary was the approach taken. It is a remarkable document; further evidence of the acute perception – and unsettling energy – that was being brought to the subject at hand.

Fabric and Form opened at the Crafts Council Gallery shortly after The Maker’s Eye closed. It proceeded to tour Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe for two years. Containing the work of twelve practitioners across what would be defined as craft and fine art, the exhibition fuelled an intense critical debate. The ferocity of the initial response,17 allied to the international exposure of his practice, had a profound effect. During the next decade, the artist’s presence would increasingly shift from the UK to Australia, Japan and mainland Europe. This show of avante-garde textiles drew the bitter wit of the late Peter Fuller. Such attention from the eminent critic indicated that Brennand-Wood had definitely arrived. Peter Dormer, Crafts Sept/Oct 1994 p38.

16

17

47

Fabric and Form: New Textile Art from Britain: A British Council/Crafts Council touring exhibition selected by Michael Brennand-Wood 9 June – 4 July 1982, Crafts Council, London. The exhibition then toured for two years to venues in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe. Artists represented were: Stephanie Bergman, Tadek Beutlich, Michael Brennand-Wood, Barbara Brown, Diana Harrison, Danielle Keunen, Di Livey, Michael Moon, Mary Restieaux, Ingunn Skogholt, Richard Smith, Katherine Virgils. Peter Fuller, Crafts Nov/Dec 1982 pp43–4


previous Sefronia 1979 right Clinker 1983–84 (detail) far right Michael BrennandWood, Australia residency, 1984

Here and There

Robert Bell, himself an influential textile artist prior to taking up

The contesting of boundaries that was inherent in Michael’s practice

a series of senior curatorial roles, was a significant figure in these

acquired a further dimension with the tour of Fabric and Form to

developments. The professional relationship he forged with Michael

Australia. The first of many intercontinental trips he would make, it

during his first visit to the country, was to have an enduring impact

is possible to discern here the genesis of a deeper fascination with

on both the artist and indigenous practice.

the material culture of textiles and, more specifically, an appreciation Michael Brennand-Wood has a long association with Australia, having first visited in 1982 as the organiser and selector for... Fabric and Form, in which his own work was seen [here] for the first time. With its informal, grid-like structure as a matrix for a vivid accretion of fabric and paint, it stood apart for its robust interpretation of embroidery as collage. Returning in 1984 for a longer period as artist-in-residence at the Western Australian Institute of Technology allowed him to develop his work in an Australian context, providing him with enduring friendships with a number of Australian textile artists. As an articulate advocate of craft, he created an interest in his work that has resulted in a number of opportunities to return to exhibit and lecture. An inveterate traveller, particularly in Asia and Australia, his research on textile structures is an exploration of the power of pattern to encode tradition and encapsulate cultural interaction.

of patterning as a signifier of human interaction. Trade in textiles had traversed the world. Its commerce represented a duality of the material and the intangible; a form of symbiotic transaction in which pieces of cloth and pieces of information were exchanged in parallel. A mark on the map it may have been but, for those who followed the route of its path, the Silk Road was a conduit for the transmission of knowledge, ideas and experience. All these elements would feed into the development of subsequent work. At this juncture, however, it was the process of journeying itself which acted as the focal point.

A parallel interest in music and eclectic taste, running from John Cage to Buck Owens, has influenced his approach to the building of textile constructions in which variations on familiar forms, such as mandala, fans and the interlinking of lace, reverberate in counterpoint and random geometry. It is only on close inspection that we discover the multitude of small found objects – plastic toy soldiers and guns, tickets, labels, plastic and metal detritus, scraps of books and comic illustration – scattered among fields of his own embroidered flowers in apparently infinite variety, that provide the visual narrative beneath his abstract compositions. Avoiding random bricolage and saccharine sentiment in these works, Brennand-Wood uses machine embroidery to link us to a world of industry and production that stretches from Jacquard’s loom charts of the eighteenth century to today’s computerized sewing machines, their implications for labour and exploitation lying beneath his iconography of nature. Dr Robert Bell AM, Senior Curator Decorative Arts and Design, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, April 2012.

It symbolised an engagement with something other, a different startpoint, an openness to change and the welcoming of challenge. Australia is seeing an exhibition... that challenges, inspires, ignores easy definitions and labels, and compels one to reconsider all preconceptions about textiles as a craft and as an art form... Fabric and Form is not a survey exhibition of textile crafts but an expansion of the possibilities inherent in textiles as a creative medium. Jennifer Saunders, Crafts NSW, August 1983 p6. Whether one agrees with Brennand-Wood’s point of view is really NOT the issue. I believe that for Australian viewers, and possibly for British viewers, the real issue is the experience that he offers. He has focused on the textile arts in a refreshingly personal way, he has encouraged some uncomfortable dialogue between textile practitioners, painters and sculptors, and art writers, and he has forced a sense of enquiry. Surely the role of all creative endeavour is to include some unsettling, and disturbing of established thinking. Brennand-Wood has clearly achieved this as is evidenced through the columns of this journal. The less tangible and less immediate results will undoubtedly become apparent, to those who choose to look. Sue Walker, Victorian Tapestry Workshop.

18

Images of Thread Collages had preceded Michael to Australia and, alongside the critical response to this current exhibition, were indicative of a receptivity to his work.18 In moves akin to those in the UK, the Australian Council Crafts Board had been active since the 1970s in encouraging the promotion of contemporary practice.

50

Christine Harris curated Threads, an exhibition of contemporary Australian textiles at the Tasmanian School of Art Gallery, University of Tasmania, Hobart, September 1981 which referenced the work of Michael Brennand-Wood in her catalogue introduction. ‘In electing to put together this exhibition, inevitably certain difficulties were to arise: having chosen “thread” as the basis, slowly the reason for such a choice became clearer and I was looking for work which I felt to be more concerned with concept than technique... During the initial stages of this project... I came across an article [in Crafts] on Michael Brennand-Wood, an English embroiderer. I was mistaken in believing I had picked up an Australian publication and was excited about the prospect of including him in the exhibition... Although his background of embroidery is pertinent, the work transgresses the barriers between art and craft and the category to which it belongs is not of prime importance. Hopefully the same could be said of those taking part in [Threads].’


top (l–r) Paper Moon 1988 The Unguarded Moment 1995 Trip, Stumble, Fall 1990 below (l–r) Slow Turning 1989 Slow Turning 1989 (details)

Carousel

Michael has described his thinking as ‘both additive and subtractive:

Historically it has always been important for my artistic development to work in unfamiliar situations. A concentrated period of time within which it is possible to focus upon new ideas and research, and to be energised and influenced by new surroundings, is an invaluable experience. As I travel and meet other textile artists I’m always keen to know how a piece undergoes much change during its construction. I don’t always like those changes but I’m not frightened of them. The Press, Christchurch Arts, New Zealand, 8 August 2001.

I work a lot in layers, laminates of history, re-finding and re-exposing things or ideas that I’d lost.’19 It is an approach that informs both the process and the object of his making. Nothing is lost, naught forgotten, though it may remain dormant for a time – a road not yet taken but which exists to be pursued at some further date. One of the works that developed out of the Perth investigations was

When Michael returned to Australia in 1984, it was to take up the first

Carousel. The grid is gone, now the focus is an inverted arch of boxes,

of several extended residencies: on this occasion at a college in Perth.

suspended on thread from a central point. It is a substantive work

Travelling light by necessity – the statutory luggage allowance was

born of that moment in the studio, yet one which references both the

twenty kilos – he was given an empty studio in which to work. It was

past and the future. Look back, compress the image and there are

a serendipitous assignment of space. There were several picture

the student constructions at Manchester. Look forward, combine the

hooks on the wall. From these he hung a series of partly completed

two, elongate the forms, increase the fluidity and there is Provenance

wooden grids. It was a configuration of chance, but one which

(2000). These are more than variations on a theme, or a form of

indicated a new line of exploration.

counterpoint; they are physical ruminations whispering to each other across time and space.

For years I’d always made things in sections and then moved them around until they became fixed. By suspending panels in front of the wall so that they were overlaid one on top of the other it appeared to offer more flexibility. So I began to think about the wall as a surface and the way in which things hang. Working On The Edge, The Turnpike Gallery, 1988.

Carousel was awarded the Creative Concept Prize at the 1987 International Textile Competition in Kyoto. Established to ‘present and demonstrate the most advanced creative, theoretical and technical achievements in the textile arts internationally’, its prizes recognized ‘distinguished achievement... that will shape our future.’20 Whilst not the first occasion his work had been shown in Japan, it was the one which sparked an enduring, creative association. The jurors commented on the award: Carousel communicates clearly the playful joy of its maker. The work is full of energy and persuasive power, without becoming serious and overstated. Constructed into brightly painted wood compartments on the radius of the curve are dense patterns of colourful fiber that describe a festival of activities while the carousel appears to move in circular rotation. Unusual in concept, this work in mixed media reveals an artist who can play, who knows the rules of art, but who knows also how to extend them for effective and effortless results.21

19 20 21

52

Peter Dormer, Art-Net-Work, Dimensions in Line, Museum Voor Sierkunst Gent 4.10.94–19.12.94 International Textile Competition ’87, Kyoto, Japan catalogue International Textile Competition ’87, Kyoto, Japan catalogue page on the artist


Slow Turning

In 1989, Slow Turning was awarded the Fine Art Award at that year’s

After a period working in Brisbane in 1988, Michael flew directly on

International Textile Competition. ‘Apart from the question of an

to Japan at the behest of the National Museum of Modern Art,

object’s technical completeness,’ wrote Moriguchi Kunihiko of the

Kyoto, where his work featured in the survey exhibition Contemporary

judging process, ‘one important criterion was whether or not the

British Crafts. Another groundbreaking exhibition, it was indicative of

“object” contained some motive, a “seed” to be shared. Indeed this

the international impact created by what was described as ‘the

“seed” can be the very point of departure for the artist ever searching

recent remarkable creative activity in crafts in the United Kingdom.’

for new horizons.’24

22

Invited to contextualize this development, Martina Margetts wrote: Pattern was that seed for Michael, more specifically textile patterning. ...it is the artist craftspeople, such as those exhibiting here, who are the fountainhead of the contemporary crafts world in Britain. Here are the experimentalists, the small number of craftspeople whose achievements liberate each craft discipline by showing what is possible, by thus inspiring others to test out their own ideas, and by attracting much needed critical attention and discriminating appreciation. Here are the craftspeople who have transformed our perception of what craft can be and who have given Bernard Leach’s concept of the artist craftsman a radical re-interpretation.

The largest of a series of carpet-inspired works of that period, Slow Turning was an assemblage of culturally distinctive, archetypal, abstract patterns. Its fusion of historic and contemporary visual referencing indicative of the influence Japan exerted on the artist’s present and future thinking.

It is only by an acknowledgement of, and mastery of, tradition that individuals can truly develop their own talent. Even the avant-garde has roots. The works in this exhibition provide excellent evidence of this with varying degrees of experimentation. There are what one could call the ‘classicists’ – Peter Collingwood, David Pye, Anna Dickinson and Elisabeth Holder, for example – whose works achieve a rare refinement of techniques and material in subtle, almost self-effacing works of beauty and tranquillity. And there are the ‘iconoclasts’ – Angus Suttie, Michael Brennand-Wood, Fred Baier, Bryan Illsley and Tom Dixon – whose work provides a straight challenge to what one expects of a particular craft.23

Kyoto is a major city of historical textile importance especially in relation to the dyeing and weaving of kimono cloths. A walk through the old section of the city reveals a rich network of small traditional craft workshops interspersed within the modernity of the city. Tools, tatami-matting and wooden vessels are all made in local units. In essence there is a bewildering mixture of old and new ideas that appear on the surface to co-exist with perfect harmony... In the West the contemporary vogue is that almost nothing is worth preserving in the dash towards the ‘new’. The spirit of Kyoto, its’ gardens, temples and festivals provides a timely reminder that influences can be absorbed from both the past as well as the present. A direct correlation between the usage of materials in fibre arts and every day life can easily be observed, Japanese craftsmen and artists are masters at using natural materials with a full understanding of their inherent properties and qualities – an object is made to please both the mind and the senses although it is possible to make a material do almost anything; the true artist understands that in order for something to work it has both to look right and feel right. Michael Brennand-Wood, Restless Shadows: Japanese Fibreworks, Goldsmiths Gallery, 1991.

That visit to Japan paralleled the one made to Australia with Fabric and Form. It marked the opening of a portal into another world; a place that excited with its strangeness yet resonated with the concerns of his practice. Michael did not seek out Japan, just as he did not seek out Australia; they had sought out him. ‘I’ve always gone where the work has led,’ he explains. During the next few years, it was to Kyoto – the ‘Heart of the Country’ – that the work would repeatedly take him.

22 23 24

Contemporary British Crafts, 1988 Introduction Tadao Ogura (Director, The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto) and Hitoshi Osaki (Director The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo) p5 Op cit, Martina Margetts pp11–12 International Textile Art Competition, Kyoto 1989 ‘Living Tradition’

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Restless Shadows

Developed with the support of Goldsmiths College where he was

Michael spent three months in Kyoto during 1990, teaching and

then a senior tutor, and funded by bodies from both countries,

researching artists for a proposed exhibition of Japanese fibre art.

Restless Shadows (1991–2) featured three-dimensional work by ten

‘Aware of the strength of the work,’ he wrote, ‘I was equally conscious

artists and toured to eight venues.26 ‘The huge scale, unconventional

that no major exposition of their work had been mounted in the UK,

materials and techniques and allusive abstraction of the works

an omission I regarded with deep sadness... In order to strengthen

(cousins of Christo, Minimalism and Conceptual Art) will strike any

our own achievements we need to be aware at first-hand of the

visitor,’ wrote Martina Margetts in Crafts. ‘I do not know how such

work of artists from overseas. The richness and inventive nature

a variety and scale of textile work is sustained in Japan... the sampling

of the Japanese works, so very different from our own in form,

in this [very worthwhile] exhibition of some of [it’s] best-known textile

convinced me that I should try and organise an exhibition at the

artists will provide a springboard from which one can explore the

earliest opportunity.’

profoundly rich traditions and the variety of textiles currently being

25

created in Japan...’27


top (l–r) Canberra Drawing 1991 (detail) Port of Call 1991 Devil Bowl 1991 below New Field 1992

Michael’s essay as selector presented another insightful analysis

Featured in a section entitled ‘Form and Structure’, Michael’s work

of current practice.

was displayed alongside that of John McQueen, Hisaka Sekijima, Martin Puryear, Richard Deacon, Noe Aoki, Christian Jaccard,

One major feature of the 1980s has been the usage of Fibre by artists from both Fine Art backgrounds and Craft Traditions, choosing it not only for its expressive capabilities but also for its sociological, ritualistic and ethnographic associations. If the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s typified the exploration of media and process I would see the late 80s and 90s as a period within which textiles will come of age, the rise of the individual artist unfettered by group organisation and dogma... I believe that textiles is currently moving out of the margins towards a closer integration with other contemporary arts. I look forward to the future when exhibitions will be selected on the basis of a unifying idea; textiles, ceramics and paintings shown together in the same space. Restless Shadows: Japanese Fibreworks, Goldsmiths Gallery 1991.

Rebecca Medel, Pierette Bloch and Francois Rouan. ‘When we look at their works and when we read their statements,’ continued Numata, ‘it becomes apparent that it is not appropriate to evaluate these works within an existing paradigm of art’.29 Michael Brennand-Wood’s art is interesting because he passes freely between different times, regions, and fields and weaves them into his work. He creates rich and dense pictorial surfaces that connect our vision, psychology, and memories and draw us into his highly original world. In the 1990s, the artist was stimulated by the decorative and expressive qualities of antique lace and he applied the patterns of lace and his observations of its cultural background in his art. He showed a strong interest in transitory situations, the memories of the past in pieces of cloth, which deteriorate and change with time. In this period, he often used inlay in works like Destroy the Heart (1999), which is in the collection of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa. He cut out the lines and planes of the pattern and inserted pieces of fabric in the hollows, where they take on a strong sense of tactility. Brennand-Wood is like an excavator of buried objects, radically exploring their meaning and value. Since the latter half of the 1990s, his work has referred to scientific fields such as biology or genetics. In Destroy the Heart, the composition of the pictorial surface suggests biological formations and transformations, a ceaseless movement between chaos and order.

Eight years later the Yokohama Museum of Modern Art exhibited Weaving the World, Contemporary Art of Linear Construction; an international exploration of the subject which brought together a diversity of practice across the fine, applied and decorative arts. Hideko Numata, the Museum’s Assistant Curator, explained the thinking behind the venture. ‘Weaving as a technique is not limited to fiber materials, it is a basic technique of form creation, and has a deep connection to human spiritual energy and actions... [If] we focus on contemporary art instead of contemporary decorative arts, we notice that artists are developing a wide range of artistic

Brennand-Wood opens up a new visual world where information reverberates with cultural elements and transforms them. His art is stimulating and meaningful in the regional context of Kanazawa, where this museum is located. In a city that contains many vestiges of traditional culture as well as old streets and buildings, it is common for artists to offer contemporary interpretations of traditional patterns and techniques or to appropriate and reorganize concepts of tradition. We can look forward to the future development of Brennand-Wood’s work, radically illuminating themes that are familiar to us from new and different angles. Emiko Yoshioka, Curator, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, April 2012.

expression based on weaving and combining lines, regardless of what kind of specific materials are being used.’28

25 26

Restless Shadows: Japanese Fibrework, Goldsmiths Gallery, 1991 Artists: Nobuko Hiroi; Teruyoshi Yoshida; Masao Yoshimura; Katsuhiro Fujimura; Yuko Takada; Machiko Agano; Jun Mitsuhashi; Satoru Shoji; Naomi Kobayashi; Masakazu Kobayashi. Toured to Edinburgh College of Art; Bluecoat Gallery, Liverpool; Howard Garden Gallery Cardiff; John Hansard Gallery, Southampton; Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich; Goldsmiths Gallery, Cleveland Gallery, Middlesbrough, Tullie House, Carlisle 22 July 1991 – 15 Sept 1992 (Supported by Crafts Council – Barclay Price, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Visiting Arts; Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation; Japan Foundation; Japan Art and Cultural Association. Jill Sheridan curator; Marlene Miller at Goldsmiths

27 28 29

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Martina Margetts, Crafts July/August 1992 pp48–9 Weaving the World, Contemporary Art of Linear Construction, Yokohama Museum of Art 1999, p178. The exhibition marked the Museum’s tenth anniversary Weaving the World, Contemporary Art of Linear Construction, Yokohama Museum of Art p178. Artists in other sections included: Norma Minkowitz, Catherine Owens, Barbara Kruger, Jemmy Holzer, Joseph Kosuth, Oliver Herring, Emily Bates, Caroline Broadhead, Rosemarie Trockel, Naomi London, Toshio Sekiji, Margo Mensing, Markku Kosonen, Andy Goldsworthy, Marinette Cueco, Ludwika Ogorzelec and Kyoko Kumai


Doors of Perception

Paul Derrez, have exerted an enduring influence on the artist’s practice

Reviewing one of his early UK exhibitions, Moira Kelly commented:

since 1990 when the gallery hosted his solo show Reliefs. During that

‘Michael Brennand-Wood is as much concerned with how and where

time, Michael’s work has featured in both group and solo exhibitions

people see things as he is with the things themselves. He maintains

alongside international artists working in different media. The focus on

that his work proves itself by where it is placed, and he thoroughly

jewellery has encouraged the experimentation of ideas, form and scale

enjoys the challenge of working in unusual situations. The very

and it is significant that several areas of study have emerged from

nature of his work is eclectic, and it is at its best when adapted to

work initially shown at Galerie Ra. Vase Attacks, inspired by the

circumstances as various and changeable as those described.’

advice of Derrez to ‘consider the vessel’ is but one such instance.

30

Gilt Trips the 2002 solo exhibition which precipitated more overtly It was partly an observation on his public art commissions, but is also

political works, another. There have been masks, digitally embroidered

revealing of a broader interest in positioning work where it might not

flower brooches, wax and metal works and, in that initial exhibition, a

be expected. The transgression of boundaries infuses every element

series of circular pieces which marked the first appearance of fabric

of his practice and is reflected in the variety of venues, countries and

inlay as a major visual device. Its next sighting would be in Belgium.

subject fields in which he has placed his work. Basketry, ceramics, Galerie Ra specialises in contemporary jewellery and also features vessels and objects. Often, gallery artists don’t limit themselves to one particular medium. There are those with a background in textiles who turn to making jewellery or jewellery makers producing vessels. These cross-art forms and the intrinsic and stylistic interaction have turned Galerie Ra into a vibrant space for lovers of art, craft and design.

glass, jewellery, paper, embroidery, weave, drawing, photography, sculpture, craft, fine art, applied art: Michael has shown – sometimes the same work – within multiple areas of classification. It is not something lightly done. It is part of the questing. The text below is indicative of this, written by Ralph Turner of New Field which was

In this sense Michael’s work fits the gallery profile perfectly. His objects, for a wall or table, are markedly expressive, associative, sculptural and diverse in composition and use of material. Despite, or perhaps because of, the colourfulness and complexity of his work, the Dutch public – with a tradition for visual restraint and subdued or stylised expression – have come to appreciate and purchase his art.

exhibited in Paper: The Third Dimension at Aberystywth Arts Centre in 1991. Its previous showing had been at the Canberra Institute of Arts. Anyone who has followed Michael Brennand-Wood’s career during the past decade or more, could not fail to see that he has evidently been trying to realise a new form of plasticity. Initially he explored the physical structure of thread, separating it and building highly complex structures onto frames of three dimensions. A range of materials, which often include paper – mostly newsprint – were painted and trapped together to create a dazzling deep veil of colour and texture, like the habitat of some exotic spider! This zestful approach sang of optimism and rhyme, though sometimes on tones of darker mood. The new work we are looking at in this exhibition shows a development influenced by his travels to Australia, Japan and the Far East. An open doorway or arch offers an invitation to explore, to travel into an imagined world, to follow life’s options and choices and drench ourselves in earth’s humanities.31

The work goes deeper than its, albeit never saccharine, decorative quality. It is layered, often literally, in allusions to historical and cultural phenomena, while not avoiding the negative and controversial. Michael’s works actively engage the observer and continue to fascinate. Paul Derrez, Director, Galerie Ra, Amsterdam, May 2012.

Possibly the most fruitful of these cross genre links has been the

30

one established with Amsterdam’s Galerie Ra. Described in 1994 as ‘the applied arts gallery with the most intelligent exhibitions

31 32 33

programme in Europe,’32 the jewellery focused venue, and its founder

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Moira Kelly, ‘This is Embroidery’, Crafts Nov/Dec 1980 pp28–31, reproduced in Thread Constructions exhibition catalogue, Gardner Centre Gallery University of Sussex Nov 4–27 1980; John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, Dec 6 – Jan 7th 1981. Exhibition organised by Hilary Lane Ralph Turner, Paper: The Third Dimension, May 1991 p10 Peter Dormer, ‘Sources of Inspiration’, Crafts Sept/Oct 1994 p38 Op cit p41


top (l–r) 21 Stars 1994 Rhythm & Blues 1994 Kells and Spells in Delft 1994 (detail)

Passage

predictability of the Fibre arts’,36 and to challenge perceptions of the

The Low Countries had played a significant role in the development

medium that were both internal and external to the experience of its

of Michael’s thinking during an earlier transition period in the 1980s.

practice. ‘My aim was to integrate an understanding and respect for

‘I wanted to introduce a narrative element whilst continuing to work

the decorative with the physical language of Minimalism specifically

with abstract imagery. The Spiritual in Art exhibition held in Holland

in relation to an awareness of sequential elements, nuances of colour

in 1987 was an inspiration to me.’33 Generated by the Los Angeles

and attention to surface qualities... Baroque Minimalism [is] a term

County Museum of Art, in what was perceived as representing a

fraught with contradiction but in one sense an accurate description

major shift in contemporary sensibilities, the exhibition explored the

of the visual language employed.’37

visual language of abstract art through paintings produced between 1890 and 1985.34 Its examination of the metaphysical, mystical and

The dichotomy implicit in that term was inherent in the works

occult derivations of non-representational imagery fed directly into

themselves. Made from sheets of wood, which were painted, carved

Michael’s fascination with ideograms, pictograms, archaeology and

and impressed with fabric, their sheer physicality was in direct contrast

ethnography. The contact with Aboriginal, Shinto and Buddhist art

to their subject matter. This was lace viewed through a microscope

experienced during his travels further fuelled this area of interrogation,

and transmuted into landscapes. The work compelled questioning.

as did the increasing interest in historic textiles.

Their examination of the often pejorative association of textiles with gender was highly pertinent; a subject addressed in different form

Why is this one time ‘enfant terrible’ of art textiles looking backwards in order to go forwards? For some time now Brennand-Wood has felt an ever growing need both to understand the history of textile art and to ensure that what he produced was of its own time; he was (and remains) uneasy about textile art’s tendency to play the role of poor second cousin to Fine Art by trailing after its fashions. ‘I began reading history, buying carpets, and realising that textiles has an aesthetic of its own, that you can build on’. Peter Dormer, Art-Net-Work, Museum Voor Sierkunst, Gent, 1994.

by the seminal exhibition The Subversive Stitch (1988–9) which offered a feminist critique of the discourse. Today we label lace as something fussy and bourgeois, and fashionable only when, once in a while, it is rediscovered by trendy designers of haute couture. Brennand-Wood sees it differently, ‘I am trying to reclaim some of the power that lace once had. For once lace, which historically was associated with both men and women, indicated wealth and status.’ It was also an example of highly skilled, highly intelligent work with designs of often dazzling complexity requiring an agility, not only of the hand but also the mind to create. If lace were invented today, say as the product of an artist working with a computer at MIT, then the art and style magazines would ooze with praise. Yet lace is regarded as just a minor domestic art, a thing that women once did... By enlarging the scale of the lace pattern (transforming the dimensions from millimetres into metres) [Brennand-Wood] says, ‘The composition takes on a new range of connotations: stained glass, iron work, architecture and the organic geometry of fractals... I am trying to imply that what may be considered delicate or fragile (lace, women) does have power and strength.’

In 1992 Michael profiled a radical new series of work inspired by lace at the 3rd International Betonac Prize.35 The focus for this exploration was twofold: the geometric structure and patterning of its form and the historical and social significance of lace itself. Directly inspired by the discovery of a book of sixteenth century lace patterns, these works were an expression of a desire to ‘step outside the

34 35

36 37

Some people will wonder if Brennand-Wood is wise making art in what may be considered ‘feminist’ territory; he is likely to retort that uprooting male hegemonies in art only to see female hegemonies flower in their place, is no progress. The history of textiles is neither wholly male nor female. Peter Dormer, Art-Net-Work, Museum Voor Sierkunst, Gent, 1994.

The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting 1890–1985, the exhibition was generated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and toured to The Hague. http://articles.latimes.com/1987-0222/books/bk-5047_1_abstract-art The Betonac Prize was founded in 1985 by Betty Boulez-Cuykx with the aim of promoting lace as an expressive art form. Based in Belgium, the Betonac was held biennially and was one of a handful of juried international exhibitions of textile art which included the Lausanne Biennial (1962–95), the Lodz Tapestry Triennial (1972–) and the Kyoto International Textile Competition (1987–99). A New Century in European Design, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1994 p5 Op cit

57


left Seed of Memory 1995 right You Are Here 1997 (detail)

Material Evidence

Yet, almost every piece of work produced over a career spanning twenty years or more has been influenced or shaped by a knowledge of and deep respect for textiles... Dr Jennifer Harris, You Are Here, Hare Print Press, 1999, p5.

Michael’s lace works received international recognition. The first, Hide and Seek, was awarded the 1992 Betonac Prize. Two years later, a group was exhibited alongside those of three other European artists in Art-Net-

‘Michael’s return to textile history,’ commented Pamela Johnson, ‘is a

Works at Ghent’s Museum voor Sierkunst.38 Then, also in 1994, a further

valuable contribution to visual culture. It shows that history is not simply the

series toured Japan as part of A New Century of Design: An Exhibition

written narrative of the historian, but that visual arts practitioners, in an era

of Contemporary European Arts and Crafts. ‘These works grapple with

of “new versions”, may offer critical perspectives and interventions into the

materials in a revolutionary way, trying to recapture the once-existing

past through their practice. The area we might call textile crafts is still often

connection between humans and materials,’ explained the catalogue.39

associated with nostalgia, a reverential repeating of what has gone before or “retrospective regret”. But as critic Hal Foster notes, there is a difference

It was perhaps inevitable that Michael’s increasing fascination with

between, “...a return to an archaic form... that bolsters conservative

historic textiles would lead to his engagement with a museum

tendencies in the present, and a return to a lost model... to displace

collection. A relative commonplace now, it was less so in 1994 when

customary ways of working...”. Brennand-Wood is clearly engaged in

he approached Jennifer Harris at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester

the latter. As the histories of post-war art and textile activity come to

with the idea of creating work in response to its collection of lace. That

be re-assessed, [he] will have a place in each; which, in itself, challenges

collaboration led to a major new phase of work for the artist and resulted

the way the history of visual culture has thus far been written.’40

in the 1996 exhibition Material Evidence: Improvisations on a historical theme. It also marked the next phase of an influential professional

Several of the works produced for Material Evidence were included

relationship for the artist which continues to inform his practice whilst

in Michael’s submission for the 1997 Jerwood Prize. His major exhibit

also exemplifying the important role played by both the curator and

was You Are Here: a cri de couer for pattern which recorded the

the gallery in the development of textile art in the UK.

diversity of his visual referencing. ‘I wanted to show a group of pieces that looked at patterning within an entirely positive framework. If a

Material Evidence, the exhibition of Michael’s work at the Whitworth Art Gallery in 1996, which we worked on together, demonstrated the creative potential, for artists and venues, of artists working closely with historical and geographically diverse collections of museum artefacts. The resulting work – an exciting reinterpretation of historical lace fragments – also demonstrated that decorative textiles can have presence, ‘attitude’ even, for the six pieces which Michael produced over the period of the project were shown in one of the Whitworth’s most challenging spaces, a large gallery with walls some six and a half metres high.

mathematician or scientist talks about patterning its invariably always a reference to correlations of data that impart insight. So why is it that patterning within the visual arts still elicits such a pejorative response?’41 You Are Here marks a pivotal point in Michael’s practice. It contains everything of import to his then visual language. This was where he

Michael’s explorations of pattern and decoration run counter to the interests of much mainstream visual arts practice which, since the advent of Modernism, has regarded decoration as inessential and functionless. This is not a view held by non-Western cultures, and especially not within textiles practice, where pattern-making has historically been a sophisticated visual language. One need only cite in this context the examples of Oriental carpets, Chinese or Japanese textiles. But Michael is also viewed by some people in textiles as a maverick figure whose mixed media constructions in wood, acrylic, metal and cloth are definitely ‘more art than stitch’, as one visitor to the 1995 Embroiderers’ Guild International Open exhibition, Art of the Stitch, expressed it.

stood, and it was the place from which he went forth. Pattern, and its expression in historic – and more particularly floral – textiles, was to dominate the next period of his practice. 38 39 40 41

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Art-Net-Work Dimensions in Line, Museum Voor Sierkunst Gent 4.10.94 – 19.12.94. Also featured the work of Betty Cuykx (B); Jacques Lortet (F) and Lucie Schenker (CH) A New Century in European Design, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, 1994, catalogue p5. The exhibition included 130 works by 27 artists from 12 European countries. Pamela Johnson, You Are Here, Crafts Nov/Dec 1999 p31 Artists notes, You Are Here, March 2012


59


Skeleton Key 1997

60


Cloud Factory 2001

61


Stars Underfoot – Coloured Silence 2001

62


Stars Underfoot – Bee Bee’s Blues 2005

63


top (l–r) Gilt – Trip 2005 The Birds the Word 2004 Consequence of Proximities – Blurring Boundaries 2003 (detail) below Consequence of Proximities – A Sense of Perspective 2003 (detail) Consequence of Proximities – Walls within Walls 2003 (detail)

A Field of Centres The dozen years since 2000 have been ones so creatively fruitful, that they can almost be perceived as a career in themselves. That is not to say that the works exist separately from all that went before. They do not. Rather, they reflect the further pursuit of ideas and investigations that the artist has been examining since his student days at Manchester. What is notable about this cycle, however, is the energy which has propelled one investigation from the other, like extensions of the same thought. It is the innate naturalness of it all: the sense of being swept along by some external force, an awareness of not always being in control, counter-balanced by an intuitive understanding of the process which is being pursued. Floral imagery, specifically in relation to carpets, has been central to this period, one which has encompassed three different phases of work. The start-point – as far as it is possible to identify any such marker given the artist’s fluid process of thinking – was the 2000 Stars Underfoot series. A Year of the Artist42 initiative, these works subverted the tradition of floral imagery in textiles by using flowers themselves as the medium and recording the compositions photographically. The next phase, a desire to turn to the flowers back into textile, was enabled by two educational developments: a major AHRC Research Fellowship at the University of Ulster (2001–8) and a six month residency at The Harley Foundation, Nottinghamshire (2003). The former provided access to digital embroidery machines which enabled the production of multiple ‘flower’ heads and an academic context for his research; the latter studio and gallery space in which to work and exhibit. Out of both came Field of Centres (2004). ‘It sounds perverse,’ he explains, ‘but... I am not that interested in flowers. I am interested in the geometrical substructures that are underneath a lot of historical textiles. In a sense I was mapping those geometries and the flowers became a marking point of geometrical intersection... Field of Centres as a title is derived from a critique: people say that a good carpet has a “field of centres” and by that

64


they mean it has a geometrical multiplicity. Within the visual field

ghosts haunting the present. To reinforce the battle concept, the layouts are based on the crossed lines of a flag. Fragments of red, white and blue bunting add a poignant note of celebration – highly topical at the time of the D-Day celebrations.

there is a sense of illusionary space, an implied arena within which something might happen. That sense of something happening, not knowing what to expect, is very present for the viewer in the works

In one piece, the components are entangled in a white, lace-like web, a series of threads that suggest the confusion and disorder of war while also implying that, no matter what, we are all involved. Responding partly to the current crisis in Iraq and other centres of conflict, Brennand-Wood lures and beguiles us with complex narratives – the iron fist on the velvet glove – affirming that not everything in the garden is either rosy or straightforward... Emmanuel Cooper, Tribune Arts Focus, 18 June 2004.

where you use found objects to create the pattern.’43 ‘In essence there were two areas of research; the use, understanding and compositional logic found in early Central Asian suzani textiles and the creation of a parallel, personal codex of contemporary imagery... The works initially enticed and subsequently forced the viewer to question their initial responses to imagery deemed decorative or pretty in origin.

In 2007, the year Field of Centres completed its UK tour, Michael’s

Does floral imagery artistically, still carry strong negative associations?

work was shown at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Design

If so, could this be utilized in a positive form to attract, then deliver

as part of Pricked: Extreme Embroidery. David Revere McFadden,

a more subversive message.’44

the Chief Curator, introduced the exhibition with the following words:

Developed by The Harley Gallery in partnership with Ruthin Craft

Materiality in its many forms, and an intense devotion to the making of things, has renovated and re-energized the world of handcraft, replacing the world of conceptual art with the new materiality of our time... By the last years of the twentieth century and the early years of the twenty-first, needleworking in general, and embroidery in particular, had secured its place in the mainstream of contemporary art... ‘Pricked’ takes the pulse of international embroidery as practiced today. It is not by any means an exhibition about embroidery, but rather an exhibition of contemporary art made by artists that use embroidery as a medium to communicate their ideas and vision. Pricked: Extreme Embroidery, Museum of Modern Art, New York 2007 p8–10.

Centre, the exhibition toured to seven galleries in the UK over a three year period. The series of works displayed were as radically divergent as those shown in Material Evidence. That same subversive investigation of textile patterning and current discourse was now combined with an exploration of the creative potential of new technology. A series unto themselves, the works simultaneously hinted at the phase yet to come.

Twenty-five years on from Fabric and Form, the echo of his words Flower power has rarely felt so poignant and super-real as in the assemblies and constructions of Michael Brennand-Wood... Although nature is the starting point... his work strays into a world of fantasy and dreams, taking us into the realms of such exotic and make-believe environments as the Wizard of Oz rather than a worthy nature trail. The flower heads, everlasting and exotic, are hybrids, mutated and genetically engineered to be slightly larger and brighter than life, while the psychedelic colours have more in common with lurid technicolour and ‘E’ numbers than the quiet shades of the woodland. Nature for Brennand-Wood serves only as a reference.

returned to the artist.

Like any plucked flowers, death is never far away, be it after a life of only a few days or weeks, despite its jolly, up-beat feel, Field of Centres has a sinister, darker side, which is specifically explored in his most recent pieces. In these, the ‘fields’ in question are ones of destruction and battle rather than celebration. The floral heads are fashioned out of medal ribbons, some arranged-like badges or emblems, some even resembling poppies. These mock blossoms are set against white painted toy soldiers presented either lying on their sides as if slain, or engaging in actual battle, the bleached out figures appearing like

42 43 44

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Year of the Artist was an Arts Council of England initiative which supported artists in the development of collaborative, cross disciplinary projects Cloth and Culture NOW, Professor Lesley Millar 2007 (University for the Creative Arts) p151 Michael Brennand-Wood, University of Ulster research notes, artist’s archive


Stars Underfoot – Evening 2001

66


Stars Underfoot – Morning 2001

67


right Only the Strange Remain 2011 far right Holding Pattern 2007 (detail) below This Final Twist 2007 Shell Shock 2009

Pretty Deadly Of the various contested spaces in which Michael has chosen to place his practice, it is the one described by Rauschenburg – the gap between art and life – which is perhaps most presently evident. Convinced from the outset that art should be of its time, his work has become increasingly polemic. Playing on the military connotations of the word ‘field’, he has created arenas of action which draw on the experience of visual indeterminacy to question the illusions of the political determined. In Stars Underfoot, The Slow Reveal (2007), the Pretty Deadly series (2009) and Vase Attacks (2009–10), the flower images have mutated and burst from the wall to physically engage with the viewer. These are passionate entreaties, indicative of the artists assured knowledge of his medium and his concern to use it, as he has consistently done, to question the territorialization of perception. Whilst the influence on these works of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are well documented, it is impossible not to conjecture on the impact also exerted by the artist’s concurrent, long-term residency at the University of Ulster. The grounding of this questioning in a country possessed of its own distinctive textile heritage and complex history, only adds to the layers of meaning. Few artists manage to get beyond placing their work in someone else’s context. One of the most important exceptions, whose works are more interventions in space rather than the placement of objects, is the English-born textile artist Michael Brennand-Wood. Since the early 1990s Michael has been at the forefront of the textile art world and he has worked on a series of major craft+architecture commissions. Although at the centre of his practice is a keen interest in the ‘contested areas of textile practice: embroidery, lace, and patterning’ his work also shows how the artist can intervene in the spatial positioning of their work. Brennand-Wood’s installations are artistic interventions not only in the spatial and sculptural configuration of the private and the public but also within the history of textiles, and their current preoccupation with conflict, diaspora, and compression and tension as well as individual and collective experiences of space find a powerful resonance in Northern Ireland. After almost a decade as a key figure in textile education at Belfast School of Art and Design, it will surely be unforgivable if the interior of one of our city’s many new buildings is not given over to the devastating beauty of Michael’s imagination and his extraordinary genius. Dr Joseph McBrinn, Perspective Nov/Dec 2008, pp76–9.

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previous Pretty Deadly 2011 (detail) far left Transformer 2012 (detail) left Transformer 2012 (detail, on loom at West Dean Tapestry Studio)

World of Echoes

‘Crossover’ is another favoured term, and apparent in the manner

‘I just feel that I work in many diverse ways,’ Michael explained in

in which projects nurture work. The importance of the placing of

Working on the Edge (1988). He was speaking of his refusal to be

practice underscores this. Note how many of the commissions mesh

categorized by medium or terminology, but the description is also

with other elements of his work. The list is indicative of that which is

reflective of the different facets of his practice. Prolific in his studio

held of value: schools – he has been the resident artist since a pupil

output, his commitment to public art and education has been

himself; concert halls – music, the single most important source of

equally prodigious and similarly influential. Michael’s first commission,

inspiration; hospitals – his conviction of the value of making as a

remember, was awarded during his second year at Manchester.

source of wellbeing; libraries and museums – the fascination with

His first teaching role came shortly after graduating from Birmingham.

learning and material culture; community centres and international

He founded his studio the same year. Those three elements have

businesses – his commitment to placing work in unexpected arenas.

remained integral to his practice; more intertwined elements than

There is an inherent authenticity to all this: a coherence of thought and

parallel functions.

action, one proceeding from the other in a continuous onward cycle. What Brennand-Wood has brought in all his work of the past decade is an originality of dazzling proportions. If the value of property varies according to its location, so too does the value – both literally and intellectually – of a work of art. It is a risky business for any artist to challenge or question the canons by which fields are defined and imagery assessed, yet that is what Michael Brennand-Wood’s work is about... When asked about where he would locate himself, he says off-Broadway rather than on, adding an aside to Neil Young’s refusal to repeat the successful formula of his hit song ‘Heart of Gold’, and instead changing routes and ‘meeting more interesting people in the ditch than in the main road’. By ‘ditch’ Brennand-Wood means his conscious placing of the work ‘to contradict conventional ideas, by involvement with architects, music centres and mixed shows, putting the work in interesting places to challenge assumptions about media.’ ‘No-one tells sculptors they can’t use wood,’ he says, and his work has argued for the same lack of limitations for textiles. ‘Call it art, public art, craft. It doesn’t matter. People accept textiles at face value.’ Mary Schoeser, Revealed: Nottingham’s contemporary textiles 2005 p37.

Whilst his career as an educator began relatively conventionally, the 1992 decision to work freelance enabled its diversification. In the intervening years it has grown to encompass work with schools, universities, museums, galleries, teachers, emerging artists, peers and specialist groups. That he is equally excited at being with a class of four year olds as mentoring artists is strangely affecting. Ideas for potential projects are bountiful; themes may recur but they are never simply repeated. His willingness to spend an hour responding to a student query and an admission of coveting a sample made by a young pupil, are indicative of that which drives his work. The economics help, but this is fundamentally about the promotion of art. ‘Fusion’ is a word frequently used and a process constantly applied.

‘Fluent in the exposition of his ideas and work,’ Peter Dormer noted

No facet of work exists in isolation from another: each is part of the

in 1994, ‘Brennand-Wood nevertheless returns again and again to the

enquiry. His public art projects exemplify this. ‘Good commissions

importance of doing and making rather than talking and writing.’46

should... provide a form of continuous education, new opportunities

This was not idle chatter; it is what he does. It is not an argument against

to extend practice and develop thinking... Personally that’s what

intellectual rigour or the textual dissemination of ideas, both of which he

remains with me once the work is installed; new ideas, an extension

pursues. Rather it is the articulation of a concern that what is expressed

of thinking that will inevitably flow into future artworks.’45

45 46

is a knowledge acquired in, and through, an exploration of making.

Susan Jones (editor), ‘Developing the artwork’, Artists Handbooks: Art in Public (AN publications) pp132–3 Peter Dormer, ‘Sources of Inspiration’, Crafts Sept/Oct 94

73


right Provenance 2000 far right Provenance 2000 (detail) below Feel Flows 1996

‘You Are Here’, Mary Schoeser has written, ‘represents BrennandWood’s determination to repair the rupture between traditional textiles that function as a real part of life and contemporary textiles that are separate, with no roots.’47 This is an extension of Dormer’s observation. It has become almost a truism to argue the value of textiles as a signifier of individual and communal experience by referencing their ubiquity in human culture. The challenge inferred from this premise by Michael, is that contemporary textile practice must similarly expose itself to the testing of everyday existence. Engaging in education at all levels and creating work for public venues is an expression of that conviction. ‘I didn’t just want to come in and do a Michael’, he will explain of a project. There is no conceit in the use of the third person, rather it reflects a responsiveness of approach. The artist is distinctly present in every project but the precise form that self takes will vary in relation to the context. A culture is lived in, a culture is grown; the process is reciprocal, the outcome open. One aspect of the arts I’ve always enjoyed is the diversity of thinking employed to originate a new idea. Artists regularly associate disparate imagery and materials together, an illogical logic prevails as to why one idea is deleted, another retained. How many variables exist between the two points as ideas collide and fuse? The consequence of proximities is the fleeting moment in time within which unexpected juxtapositions exert cause and effect. I desire resolution, a deeper understanding of the connections between the information I collate, the reasons why I associate materials and ideas together. The adventure is to discern why and make visual sense of the clues amassed. Invariably I am faced with opaque instructional yet puzzling chaos. Michael Brennand-Wood, Stitching Textielcommissie Nederlands,‘Pigmenten En Pixels In De Spotlights’, Jaarboek 2004, 22 April, p34. Conceptual as well as material rigor and an ongoing inability for any single discipline to lay claim to his celebrated work define a career that spans several decades. While much has been spoken of the increasingly porous boundaries that define what Americans refer to as ‘fiber art’ and the British ‘art textiles’, the field seems reluctant to embrace the possibilities of its multiple personalities. Brennand-Wood’s relentless departure from the self-imposed restrictions of art textiles effectively sets his work both at the forefront and, perhaps ironically, beyond its parameters. Dr Jessica Hemmings, Fiberarts April/May 2005 p28–9.

47

74

Mary Schoeser, Revealed: Nottingham’s contemporary textiles, Kate Stoddard, Nottingham City Museums & Galleries 2005 p36


75


Portfolio


Early canvas work 1970 Stitch experiment 1973

78


Early Manchester stitch experiment 1973 The first piece I ever made that looked like I wanted my work to look 1972

79


Herringbone Drawing 1974

80


Herringbone Drawing 1974

81


Box Piece 1975

82


Birmingham MA 1976

83


Ilkestone County Law Courts Sample 1975

84


Ilkestone County Law Courts Sample 1975

85


above Howlaa 1978 (detail) right Crayola for Lucinda Childs 1980

86


White Crayola 1978

88


Silver Tongued Devil 1981

89


previous It’s Too Late To Stop Now 1980

El-Rayo X 1981

92


Mumbles 1982

93


Sadie 1982

94


Clinker 1983–84

95


Residue 1984

96


Archive 1984

97


Talk-Talk 1987–88

98


Shards 1988

99


Passage: Tomorrow Never Knows 1988

100


101


Slow Turning 1989

102


Diviner 1990

103


Navigator 1990

104


Port of Call 1991

105


Yellow Pages 1991

106


Doors of Perception 1991

107


Mazzy 1991

108


Overlays 1991

109


Hide and Seek 1992

110


111


I Know You Know and I Wish You’d Tell 1993

112


113


The Light is Only Perfect for a Very Short Time 1994

114


Perfect Skin 1995

115


Feel Flows 1996

116


117


A Field of Centres 1996

118


119


You Are Here 1997

120


121


Interstellar 1999

122


9 Dreams Within the Here and Now 1998–99

123


124


Destroy the Heart 1999

125


Stars Underfoot – Flower Power 2001

126


Consequence of Proximities – All Night Flight 2003

127


Crystallized Movements 2004

128


Wasn’t Born to Follow 2004

129


World of Echoes 2004

130


131


Gilt Trip – Private Number 2004

132


Pinhead – Do You See What I See? 2005

133


Holding Pattern 2007

134


Babel 2008

135


136


Celestial Music 2009

137


138


If it’s all so black and white why is it such a mystery to me? 2011

139


Reflective Stance 2009

140


Vase Attacks 2009

141


A Flag of Convenience – Behind The Lines 2011

142


A Flag of Convenience – The Sky is Crying 2011

143


Restored and Remixed 2012

144


Transformer 2012

145


Dream No.9 – Expecting To Fly, after the Catalan Atlas 2012

146


147


left Michael’s studio, 2012

A Little Way to a Long Way June Hill

Michael Brennand-Wood has been an abiding and unsettling

leads’ he has explained. It is a principle applied to both his creative

presence in contemporary textiles since his emergence as an

process and the areas in which his making has been positioned

Embroidery graduate in 1975. An energetic educator and mentor,

and is reflective of an openness to potential that refuses to be subject

as well as a serial exhibitor and lead artist on numerous architectural

to control or inhibited by the application of certainties.

commissions, he has brought a unique and visionary eye to a field which has changed radically during his lifetime. An influential

Examining the back catalogue of his work in preparation for Forever

component in those shifts, Michael has been at the forefront

Changes was to be subsumed by the wealth of material. So much

of significant developments in the discipline. Constantly seeking

ground has been covered, and so many exhibits created, that it is

out new ground and concerned that practice must be reflective

almost inevitable that any researcher will be consumed by the sheer

of its time, he remains equally convinced of its need to be rooted

weight of information and the array of possible avenues of exploration.

and grounded in a knowledge and understanding of the medium

This is an inherent danger of the artist’s practice. Its content is

as a historic entity and cultural signifier.

substantial. Pieces offer different – often contrasting – perspectives dependent on the viewpoint taken. Order and chaos exist as

Michael’s work has received international recognition, won major

counterpoint. Images of colourful beauty carry dark themes.

awards and stimulated critical debate since his first major exhibition in 1978, when his Thread Collages featured in a two person show

Having failed in the pursuit of various approaches, the conclusion

with Caroline Broadhead at the Crafts Advisory Committee Gallery

drawn was the need to adhere to simplicity: to give the artist voice

in London. He could be a heroic figure, yet the combination of artist

and to permit the reader a personal standpoint.

and broader field has not always been an easy marry, particularly in the UK where his practice has proven capable of polarising opinion.

Michael had spoken from the outset of his desire that Forever

Precisely why this is so is a complexity, but it is perhaps only to

Changes would be an exhibition about ideas and the development

be expected for an artist who has consistently refused to accept

of a visual language. This threw up an interesting parallel with Fabric

boundaries. An autonomous spirit verging on iconoclasm is evident

and Form, the seminal show he curated in 1982. That he defined

in the terms used to describe his work: it ‘defies categorization’,

as ‘an exhibition about textiles as opposed to a textile exhibition’.

inhabits ‘contested areas’ and is the fruit of a ‘maverick figure’ who

It fuelled an intense, and at times vitriolic, critical debate in both

has always been his ‘own person’. This is a picture Michael would

Britain and Australia, and it is worthwhile recalling at this juncture

largely recognize of himself. He is an ‘independent artist’, ‘not born

the observations made by the artist in his catalogue essay:

to follow’, someone who has actively pursued questions which have taken him outside the mainstream into uncomfortable places.

‘I sought strong ideas, I wanted to be challenged and confronted with something of which I had previously been unaware... Inevitably, [the

Talking with Michael and researching the extensive archive which

selection process] sharpened my response and made me question

documents his career, it becomes evident that the course he has

hard why I enjoyed a particular piece, and what constituted a textile.

taken is not a measure of wilful defiance, but rather the consequence of a restless, intelligent curiosity which is focused on taking his subject

‘I began to question my own training and that of my contemporaries

– and his practice – as far as possible. ‘I always go where the work

in an effort to understand the circumstances in which our work had

149


far right Michael’s studio, 2012

developed. I realised that apart from traditional examples of textiles,

The annotated sketch above was made by Michael to explain the

it had been the study of painting and sculpture which had exerted

concept of Chinese Whispers, a project he devised to mark the

the greatest influence. The type of work the average textile student

opening of The Study Gallery, Poole in 2001. This involved his sharing

is exposed to now is vastly different from that of a few years ago.

two messages (a text and an image) with artists in five different

I would cite recent exhibitions of work by Eva Hesse, Robert Ryman,

countries. Each of the twenty-four artists involved were invited

Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Cornell, Antoni Tapies and the Décor

to pass their understanding of the message onwards to another and

show at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford as being of particular

to produce work in return. Both the route taken and the response

importance. Consequently, the terms of reference within which

made were documented and shared in the exhibition.

contemporary textiles are produced have altered. The effect of this change is not fully realised, but there is evidence in certain current

The relationship of the diagram to Michael’s work is striking.

work of changes in awareness and that past constraints of use,

Visually, this is Slow Turning. Conceptually, it is the Consequence

durability and application have begun to break down. This will lead

of Proximities. This is a model of his practice: it is a mandala with

to a different form of textiles which is no longer dependent upon

the artist at its centre. The lines are his creative process; moving

a study of technique, but is free to involve and embrace any media

restlessly between the different spheres, every to and fro adding

or discipline necessary to further the concept. Textiles will never

to the tracks and traces that already exist. Layering is fundamental

again be a definable area; in the same way that distinctions between

to his work, but so is circularity. Whilst the former gives depth, the

painting and sculpture have become pointless.’ (Michael Brennand-

latter creates energy. Combine the two and there are the echoes

Wood, Fabric and Form: New Textile Art from Britain, The British

and shadows of resonance. Michael has spoken of ‘the constant

Council/Crafts Council 1982 p6–7)

sense that I am in pursuit of something that is never still,’ and described his mind as a hard disk with the primary access mode

The next section of this book follows the working out of that story

permanently set to random play. The thinking and the making never

in Michael’s own practice. It is a complex and multilayered narrative

cease, nor does the forever changing landscape of his search

in which the titles of his work are a form of clue, an entry point offered

for resolution.

by the artist to the viewer. The following references – one drawn, one written – hint at the framework in which those clues sit. ‘Paul Klee compared the artist to a tree, the roots are symbolic of what the artist gathers in, the trunk is the artist through which ideas eventually blossom. I feel that at the core of who I am today are the interests and influences of who I was as a child. Successive ideas drawn from experience build up in layers around the core, layers of references, each one accessible if you cut through to the next.’ (Michael Brennand-Wood Chasing Shadows catalogue, Drumcroon Gallery, January 2002)

150


152


Inside Information Michael Brennand-Wood

153


Early Canvas Work 1970 p78

Student Experiments 1973 p78

Like most people I didn’t have much money as a student, I used to make fantasy want lists of various things I’d like, most of which were books or records. I could often be found at Willshaw’s bookshop on John Dalton Street in Manchester, I’d drop in on the way home from college. I’d spend ages reading and checking out all the art books I couldn’t afford. One day I got into conversation with one of the assistants, she told me that sometimes books, which had been ordered, were never collected. If I was interested then she’d offer them to me at a reduced price. Over the next year or two I took home many an exciting find – monographs on Hans Richter, Emil Nolde, anthologies of painting, books on mosaic etc. I’ve always been really grateful to her. As everything was chosen by chance, I was introduced to artists I’d never heard of which made it all the more exciting. I spent the whole of one Christmas reading about the experimental film-making and visual music of Viking Eggeling and the ‘nocturnal language’ of the novelist Anna Kavan, strange bedfellows. The unexpected things that come into your life are sometimes the most affirming.

The two primary materials in my life, wood and textiles, emanate from my grandparents on my mother’s side. As a small child I literally played with cloth, stitch, wood and metal, moving between both grandparents and both material bases as a matter of course. The importance of this in retrospect is that I never regarded textiles as a female subject; it was simply another material to use, one that I’d been regularly exposed to since I was six. Therefore during my Foundation at Bolton College of Art (1969–72) I naturally interpreted ideas into a variety of media, including stitch, machine embroidery and tapestry. My intention was to opt for a fine art course but as I visited colleges, it became increasingly clear that textiles was a complete anathema. The assumption was that I was going to make useful, practical items. No one seemed to recognize that it was just a medium. I’d already looked at the work of Rauschenberg, Tapies, Burri and Christo all of whom seemed to be doing very interesting work in textiles, so what or why was there so much prejudice? Then I visited Manchester Polytechnic1 and in the space of an afternoon decided to major in textiles, not fine art. It struck me going round the various areas that textiles were akin to painting in 1910. It was uncharted territory open to experimentation and to my eyes very exciting, so I changed course and opted for Embroidery which of all the textile areas was the least rooted in function. I also thought it was a drawing medium; the difference was I’d be working in 3D as opposed to 2D line. Essentially that’s where the linear nature of the work begins, using threads and trying to draw in space: a dream that would have to wait until I’d found a way technically to achieve that.

1

Early Manchester stitch experiment 1973 p79 In many ways I was an oddity at Manchester, the only male for the three years I was there: it wasn’t ironic, just strange. Being in a minority makes you work hard; you’re trying to be creative and prove your worth at the same time. I did however have a lot of freedom, my skill base was different to the women’s and I think there was a curiosity as to what I would do or make. One aspect that really influenced my work was the thorough technical and historical input we received. I enjoyed learning about the history of textiles, the social and political events that shaped events and encouraged the trade and exchange of textiles. Above all, for the most part it was an honest course. We learned, builtup experience and, when possible, pushed the parameters. Most of my work centred on a sustained investigation into stitch structures and derived from ideas found in the fine arts. The intention was to try and free the geometrical beauty of basic stitches from their background, which meant in effect that I’d have to create a new surface on which to work, one that facilitated depth, translucency and structure. I always liked stiff as opposed to flexible surfaces, probably a link back to the stretched canvas. Drawings of stitches in ink for me were allied to the work of Sol LeWitt; the use of chance highly influenced by John Cage. In effect I was seeking to make work that referenced textiles but within a larger visual framework. I felt that the purity of the stitch structure had been lost, subsumed in a sea of surface embellishment. It’s worth remembering that any textile book at that time would have pages of technical information and four pages at the end of inspiration. The balance for me was wrong; stitches were a unit and could be configured in far more expressive context than that which was presently visible.

Manchester Polytechnic was created in 1970 and awarded university status in 1992 when it became Manchester Metropolitan University

154

Textiles has a culture of sampling, but I was always unsure what a sample was. Was it similar to a sketch on paper, an idea for a future work or a practical experiment that would never develop into anything else? Within textiles samples seemed to hint at a whole that was never revealed, a fragment of something that remained persistently unclear. The majority of my technical samples evolved into something that connected to my current thinking. This small paper and stitched piece is a net-darned sample for my technical notebook that’s been fused with a machine-stitched laminate of dyed and torn tar paper. It’s become a tiny piece that relates to my then interest in texts and archaeology.


The first piece I ever made that looked like I wanted my work to look 1973 p79 Between the first and second year I made a wood and thread relief. I’d spent many months drawing with herringbone stitches on paper and acetate sheets. The transparency of the plastic enabled graphic configurations to be layered one upon another. I became fascinated by the linear overlays and desperately wanted to extend the paperwork into something more tangible. Stitches have a beginning and an end, points to hold the threads in place. This relief is the first work I ever made that looked like I wanted my work to look. It was made during the holidays. I’d paired the background away and secured the stitches on thin wood strips. There are four frames one behind another, each with a stitched system, so it’s possible to view the work from a number of angles. It has an interactive dimension as the viewer moves across the piece, a quality that appears in many subsequent pieces.

Herringbone Drawings 1973 p80–81

Box Pieces 1975 p82

Birmingham MA 1976 p42, 83

My dream as a student at Manchester was to find a mythical aerosol which would solidify the air and make it possible for me to stitch in space with no visible background. I’d spent a long time looking at instructional books: DMC Encyclopedia of Needlework by Th. de Dillmont and the Anchor 100 Embroidery Stitches would be good examples. I liked their depiction of stitches as a black and white graphic image although I didn’t warm to names with a specific image connotation (lazy daisy, fly, fern). My agenda was to return to the source, to look at the geometrical structure of primal stitches and rebuild. Stitchery would no longer be applied to an existing image, it would become the image. The 1969 collection of music manuscripts by John Cage, Notations, was a useful point of reference. There existed in my mind a connection between the graphic scoring of sound and stitch, both relied on a form of instructional language that was open to interpretation by the performer or artist. The Herringbone Drawings are one of the purest examples of the above philosophy. Completed over several months in the evening at home using just a pen and paper, I would systematically overlay and compose using one of the most primal of stitch structures. I retained the complete series; I’m still fascinated by their purity and economy.

The interest in thread structures continued throughout my degree as I experimented with sprang, weave, plaiting, stitch and lace. I made machine lace in Nottingham and went to a weekend bobbin lace course at Gawthorpe Hall, Burnley. What fascinated me as much as the lace was the sequential movement by hand of the wooden bobbins. It was a synthesis of rhythm and order. This boxed work is from my final degree show and is a good early example of how I’d fuse ideas together (here music, textiles and process art). I wanted to make a chance inspired piece, whereby images could be reconfigured. The boxes are the lace pillows, the thread remains a thread and the wooden cubes are the bobbins. The viewer can twist and change the position of the boxes, some of which had musical sounds to further encourage movement. In 1974 the Hayward Gallery showed the work of Morris Louis and Antoni Tapies, I adored both artists’ work and couldn’t believe they would be showing in the same venue. I’ve extensively used duality as a means to create visual dynamics; moving between the two exhibitions at the Hayward was a physical manifestation of that idea. I referenced both artists over the next few years, particularly Louis. The Veils acrylic stained canvasses were a definite inspiration as to how I might build up areas of 3D thread, indeed I often referred to this process as ‘washes’ of thread. Equally the visceral embedded collages and textural surface of Tapies also provided succour for my future use of found objects. It was his physical shaping of cloth that I found so liberating, he reminded me of the Italian artist Alberto Burri. Pre Internet it’s worth remembering that so much of what I was interested in I couldn’t actually see. You had to work hard at finding images from a visual galaxy far, far away. Both artists in different ways helped evolve my thinking, it never occurred to me to question why I would like such differing viewpoints.

My MA at Birmingham was the year I professionally grew up, I had the security of college but could make forays out into the real world. I organized my own timetable, ordered materials and had tremendously supportive input from the tutors, many of who came from a far more commercial world. I continued at Birmingham with the serial experimentation that was so important to my work. Several ideas were demo’ed but never extensively developed. The small dark rectangular frame and stitch sequences were fixed together by chance. I was becoming increasingly interested in transparency and structure, the creation of a bespoke ground. The wooden cages are part of the same enquiry, mini room spaces that enclosed found material and objects, to be arranged together in any order. My final show included all of this material and the first group of wood and stitch painted meshes. I’d gradually moved away from ever more complicated surfaces on which to work for the very simple reason that everything had to be worked out before I began. The meshes afforded a far more fluid starting point.

155


Ilkestone County Law Courts 1975 p84–85

Charlemagne 1978 p3, 43

Crayola for Lucinda Childs 1980 p87

White Crayola 1978 p43, 88

In my second year at Manchester we had a ‘live’ commissioning opportunity to design a work for a new Law Court Building in llkestone, Derbyshire. I submitted two proposals and was ultimately asked to make both although neither was installed until 1995–6. The most radical work involved the recycling of material from the soon to be demolished buildings on the proposed site into the new build. My plan was to mark and crate sections of wall; this would be reconfigured and inset at a later date into the new building. I liked the idea of retaining a memory of the earlier buildings, a frisson of the old and new. On top of this broken collage of brick, wood and stone would float several stitched panels. Retrospectively the sample is noteworthy, as it marks the first deployment of the wooden grid structure: a direction I wouldn’t pursue seriously until 1976. The sample was made at home, in many ways the most interesting experimentation was completed away from college; I always had two collections of work referred to as ‘my work’ and ‘college work’: even then I didn’t like any accountability to others.

Charlemagne is an important work on several levels. It was made in 1978 for the 3rd International Exhibition of Miniature Textiles at the old British Crafts Centre on Earlham Street. The concept for the show was Ann Sutton’s (since appropriated many times) and nothing could be submitted over 30cm in any direction. It toured extensively and years later I’d still meet people from all over the world that became aware of my work because of that inclusion. Charlemagne was first and foremost my ambassador, if only pieces could talk on their return. The title is a quiet allusion to a 1954 Robert Rauschenberg combine called Charlene. I’ve loved this painting all my life since I first came across it in the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Early Rauschenberg was for me a visceral introduction to a use of cloth that was decidedly non-decorative. As a student I was desperate to find something in cloth that I could relate to, textiles in the early 70s was a very prettified culture. I still think we need to see more edgy textiles, work that steps outside the New Age, pleasant, feel of so much work. Compositionally, Charlemagne makes reference to that most primal of textile structural units: warp and weft. I realized that if I substituted strips of painted and collaged wood for thread, then the structural possibilities of the grid increased expediently. I could work with and recycle a far greater range of materials, above all the work looked tougher and more robust. Charlemagne has continued to work its magic appearing in many books over the years, including Peter Dormer’s 1997 The Culture of Craft.

On a visit to New York in 1980 I first heard Einstein on the Beach by Phillip Glass, a five-hour opera without a conventional plot, arias or scenes. Short-spoken texts are set against repetitive electronic keyboard rhythms played at frenetic speed. My works of this period were an attempt to reflect an aspect of that musical experience. In Crayola for Lucinda Childs, additive and subtractive layers of paper, colour and fabric are built up, obscured and revealed to expose a random sense of their original meaning. The rhythmic base is provided by an overlaid stitched pulse of thread that runs throughout the whole work. The construction allows the viewer to jump between an awareness of detail and whole, between order and chaos. The collaged material provides additional clues, which in turn evoke their own associations. The early music of Philip Glass is often referred to as ‘pattern music’ for its reiteration of musical phrases such as motifs, figures, and cells within a hypnotic steady pulse, all of which I was trying to visually replicate in my own work at this period. Incidentally, the Red Krayola were a mid 1960s avant-garde, psychedelic band from Houston, Texas who were made to change their name from Crayola to Krayola for legal reasons. Crayola became a title prefix for a number of my earlier pieces. It quietly referenced art materials, music and a certain spirit of chaotic freeform adventure. I always had a weakness for a trippy title.

Of all the early pieces the White Crayola is the one I wished I’d never sold, I still miss it. There are pieces that push open doors; they contain within their make-up several potential new directions. It’s as if you can keep returning to the source of the work and mine another exciting direction from a never-ending seam. I spent a long time with the White Crayola. It’s a laminate of paper, thread and paint rhythmically laid one on top of another. The comic book papers had all but replaced the earlier thread lines. Paper strips were pinned on the surface of the mesh until I achieved a compositional logic that sufficed. As with all of the works of this period the Holy Trinity of ideas were depth, translucency and structure. I wanted to build a surface; the parallel in my mind was between the cellular creation of organic matter and the creation of a fabric surface. They were both formed from the multiplication and interconnectivity of small units or cells. It’s also worth remembering that during this period felt and papermaking had been introduced into the Textile course at Goldsmiths where I then taught. What made this period so educationally exciting was the absence of any ‘road map’. Both staff and students were collectively involved in challenging and extending our understanding of what constituted a contemporary textile. Papermaking and felt were introduced via the experimentation of the students; we influenced and supported each other. It would not be uncommon to see any number of burnt out Moulinex tabletop blenders littering the corridors.

156


It’s Too Late To Stop Now 1980 p47, 90–91

El-Rayo X 1981 p20, 92

Mumbles 1982 p47, 93

Sadie 1982 p94

I’d begun a secondary series of mesh works where the surface was covered in canvas before I’d stitch into it. That which had previously been semi-opaque suddenly appeared solid. The thread rhythms continued to march across the surface trapping ‘ties’ of cloth and collage material in an increasingly calligraphic arrangement. It’s Too Late To Stop Now (a reference to that having started a work you have to remain committed and see it through) is the largest canvas mesh: ten panels, each covered in a hand printed, patched topographical skin clearly influenced by Landsat satellite photography. I’d become fascinated by an American acrylic paint that provided a value for every colour on a scale from 1–10. It was therefore possible to be very accurate as to the relative lightness and darkness of a particular colour. The plan was to optically mix individual colours both on the canvas and via the raised cloth ties. I was hoping that a mix of paint, thread and fabric would increase the dynamism and presence of the work. It would be read in exactly the same way as a giant billboard: dots, individual marks and colours would gel at a distance into a vibrant whole. First shown in London, I was mystified as to why people kept congratulating me on my new pastel piece; in my mind I didn’t have one. It gradually dawned on me that there’s a fairly basic rule of additive colour mixing where if you keep adding brighter colours they begin to grey. The piece is therefore a good example of seeing what we want to see; I still viewed each individual colour, not the whole.

El-Rayo X is a high point of my fascination with building an optical, interactive, fabric, thread and acrylic colour field. The majority of the mesh works were conceived of as a fragment of something, the totality of which is unseen. Heavily influenced by the relationship between micro and macro structural comparative imagery, they jumped back and forth from order into chaos. As a child a favourite bedtime activity was to rub my eyes and stare into the pillow, at which point I’d see stars as I flew through outer space. Years later in Australia someone told me the lights were phosphenes, the most common of which are pressure phosphenes caused by the rubbing of closed eyes. Apparently they were known and described by the ancient Greeks. El-Rayo X is noteworthy for the increased use of silks and gold thread which gives a more exotic Latin sensibility. Structurally at this point it was rare to find a flat mesh. The majority were increasingly stepped up to create more depth, which in turn moved the threads back and forward into space.

I made three pieces for Fabric and Form (1982) which I’d been asked to curate. Of these, Mumbles was the last and certainly the most dynamic in overall form. For the first time there’s a physical access to the internal space within the heart of the piece, an attempt on my part to sculpt with the structure of the lattices. Layering was a process I really enjoyed, it facilitated the unexpected, and as the mesh works progressed I’d leave the final assemblage until the very last moment. For several years I’d had a picture on my studio wall of a rack of templates used by Tichmarsh and Goodwin in their cabinet-making workshop. The wooden shapes reminded me of hanging meat; it is no coincidence that I’ve often referred to the structure within my works as a skeleton and the fabric and thread as a form of flesh. The overriding influence in Mumbles, however, was the infrastructure of warfare: the shields, armour and confrontation found within the film Kagemusha by Akira Kurosawa. In particular the battle scenes with 1000s of soldiers identified solely by fluttering flags attached to rods on their backs. The colour of the cloth you wore could mean the difference between life and death. The materials and choice of processes within Mumbles enhance that sense of conflict: surfaces are torn, ripped, distressed and dirtied. My choice of fabric was an old Paisley shawl so rotten that it fell apart in my hands. I’d struggled with the morality of using something so old but decided that if I left it alone unused, it would have no further life whatsoever. The early 1980s had marked a point where I had begun to appreciate the mnemonic qualities inherent in cloth: a tactile and patterned response to Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past. Increasingly I viewed fabric as a form of encoded collage that it was possible to quote and direct with. The tiniest of cloth fragments could be read, their cultural and aesthetic DNA added into the overall mix of the artwork, enriching and adding more layers of meaning. The cut phrases and lines of collage pasted text are as the title suggests – incoherent ruminations that make no sense.

Work should, I believe, be reflective of the times within which it is made. The bare bones for Sadie were underway in 1982 as I listened to a play on Radio 4. The programme was suddenly and bleakly interrupted to announce the sinking of a ship in the Falklands. Without consciously thinking, the coloration of the work shifted towards a much darker palette; one suggestive of invasive and destructive forces. Collage material was added from a collection of old books. I wanted staccato phrases and lines of text without a context, symbolic of fragmentary messages. On reflection, the one that always sticks out is ‘French Schoolboy Commits Suicide in Class’ – a bizarre statement but not one without a personal precedent, in that my uncle told me years later that a boy in his class had shot himself in the head with a First World War gun. Do we select phrases or do they select us? My working method at the time was heavily influenced by the indeterminacy and chance procedures of John Cage. I viewed chance as a liberating presence in my decision-making, one that would hopefully lead to unexpected areas of enquiry. Sadie was never for sale, the graphite drawing and hatched quality of the piece was something I wanted to live with and understand. I make to understand what I’m thinking; even after a work is completed I’m still responding to what I’ve been given. Part of my job is to understand where I’ve landed and where to go next.

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Clinker 1983–84 p50, 95

Residue 1984 p96

Archive 1984 p97

Carousel 1987 p52

During the Fabric and Form tour of Australia in 1982 I visited a coral cay on the Great Barrier Reef. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, I became fascinated by the coral forms, in particular the way they all seemed to be welded together. In typical fashion I made a connection back to archaeology, specifically Pompeii. It was the way the pumice dust from the volcano had encased people and objects during the eruption. I didn’t want to replicate either the reef or archaeological forms, so I went back to my interest in early writing. Object writing relies on the assemblage; the knotting together of objects to create meaning. At a certain point people’s concepts become too abstract for their objects and the system falters, at which point we moved closer towards graphic scripts as a form of communication. The objects in Clinker were sourced from my studio: layers of fine coloured sand were built up over the surface gradually obscuring and unifying the individual forms. Clinker is a term my grandparents used to describe the residue in a grate after a coal fire, as such it seemed an apt title for the Dead Zone.

I’d read a book on the exploration of the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. I loved the organization of the spaces, the preparation for the afterlife. It seemed to me that whether it was tomb robbers in antiquity or archaeologists in the present the net result was the same, the stripping out and desecration of a ritual space. You really wanted there to be a tomb that nobody could ever find. Residue is a response to the containment and robbing of artefacts. An arch formed of railway lines and boarded in red defines a room space. When they cleared Tutankhamen’s tomb they built a railway line down to the Nile to help transport the treasure to Cairo more quickly. Within the work are references to Egyptian objects and an overhead plan of a tomb. I very much viewed the gilded, stitched old fabrics as sand, blowing into and over the surface of the work. Sections of the mesh were cut and moved, objects removed and replaced. Residue is an icon to the rationalization of destruction.

By all the laws of logic I should have sold Archive in 1984. I was just about to begin a residency in Perth, Western Australia for six months. I had no money and someone was very keen to have my latest work but I wouldn’t sell. On reflection, the influence of Archive becomes more obvious with every passing year. It’s another transitional work; for the first time in a mesh work I introduced older collaged fabrics, symbols and shapes sourced from Asian cloths and an old American flag. Ostensibly I was trying to make another archaeological dig inspired work, not dissimilar to Residue. Thread and wire were analogous to sand or silt slowly covering and obscuring the embroidered and stitched shapes. I liked the fact that Archive almost reconstituted itself into another multi-cultural flag, albeit one with no apparent country. Its importance retrospectively is that it pointed the way to a use and appreciation of historical textiles as a site for exploration. Technically that to which I was attracted, i.e. the embroidered stars, I could only manufacture once I’d started to use a computerized machine in 2001 – at which point I attained a level of ‘collage independence’, in that I could make my own units. Archive is really the point at which the early minimal music inspired works morphs into something quite different. It’s the reintroduction of pattern and the beginning of a fascination with historical textiles as a site for a contemporary artist to explore. It’s also the gradual realization that textiles form an unbroken tradition, one filled with so many interconnecting ideas.

For my 1984 residency in Perth, the University provided a studio which was completely bare except for a table and chair. One day I noticed that the wall had several old picture hooks, I thought ‘well I’ve made some art I’ll hang it on the wall’. For years I’d been making constructed work out of more than one layer. At a certain point, I’d decide on an arrangement and the work would be fixed together. I always regretted this curtailment of the compositional enquiry. The pieces I hung on the studio hooks were all unfinished; as they swung back and forth on the wall I began to see another set of possibilities. In future I would experiment with pieces that retained a sense of fluidity, Journey to Shiloh (1984) and On the Way to a Little Way (1985–86) would be two good examples. In another studio, in another continent in 1987 I was freezing; I’d moved into the space during the summer months, everything was fine until the weather turned. By February the studio was euphemistically known as ‘the fridge’, all I ever thought about was going home. As a cathartic response to the situation I made a number of small sculptural pieces based on a carpenters vice, two hewn slabs of wood separated by a screw thread, within which was trapped a mass of thread and fabric. Symbolically I saw myself as the thread element being crushed by the slowly descending jaws of the vice. When I showed the work to friends they viewed the thread as pushing outwards a far more affirmative reading. Sometimes you think of an idea, sometimes you build it. If you thought about an architectural keystone arch, multiplied the sculptural vices, and suspended them all from a central point on the wall you’d eventually arrive at Carousel.

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Passage: Tomorrow Never Knows 1988 (detail) p100–101

Talk-Talk 1987–88 p98 Talk-Talk was part of a group of my work included in the 1988 British Council organized exhibition Contemporary British Crafts which was shown at The National Museum of Modern Art in Kyoto and The National Museum of Tokyo. I’d won the Creative Concept Prize a year earlier in the International Textile Competition with Carousel which was the first in a series of new architecturally inspired wall reliefs. A strong feature of all these pieces was that they appeared to hang in a form that defied structural analysis. Talk-Talk is a conversation in parenthesis; tiny sections of verbiage are talking at, as opposed to, each other. In the 1982 film Blade Runner the dying replicant Roy Batty delivers the following soliloquy during a rain storm, moments before he dies: ‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time... like tears in rain... Time to die.’ I travelled from Brisbane, Australia to visit Japan for the first time in 1988, to accompany the above exhibition. I thought Tokyo was the most futuristic city I’d ever seen, I’d say to people ‘Oh, it’s just like Blade Runner’. What I was trying to convey was the overwhelming sense of wonder that you experienced as you walked through the city streets. Giant video screens, thousands of lights, signs and cartoon colours everywhere. On that first visit I stood at the arrivals gate at the airport and felt like a child because I couldn’t read anything. In Europe it’s always possible to read another language and look up the meaning. Within the cities you had the most exquisite fusion of old and new, I could leave a main street in Kyoto and veer into a completely different world. I’d see tiny traditional craft workshops, small eating places, shops or establishments that looked so interesting even though I didn’t know what they sold or did.

I have photographs of a building in one of the older areas of Kyoto with objects, wheels, furniture etc literally lashed to the outer façade. Over several visits it never changed, looking for all the world like an early Christo wrapped sculpture. In essence there’s a bewildering mixture of old and new that appear on the surface to co-exist with perfect harmony. Any thoughts I already had about the dialogue between the contemporary and the historical were re-enforced by my visits to Japan. Someone once told me that the lucky Japanese were those who had been brought up in a traditional mode but who now felt free to embrace the contemporary. What I believe they recognized in my work was a similar set of sensibilities in the way I’d conceptually and technically accessed the past. What I learned from them was an attitude to materials. I’ve come to believe that you can make most materials do most things but it doesn’t feel right. It’s about understanding the inherent properties of a given material and using it accordingly. When we look at something even before we intellectually compute its function we on a more primal basis read its construction. If the material choices are wrong the work’s compromised, for me it’s always about the overall feel. Japanese artists fuse materials together exceptionally well, which is one good reason why so much of their work has such a sublime quality. When I came home after that first trip I wanted to be Japanese and I certainly wanted to spend more time there. I could so easily have started any sentence with ‘I have seen things you wouldn’t believe...’.

Passage makes reference to the beginnings of my study of historic textiles as a site for a contemporary artist; from this point the dialogue between my work and the past would grow with each successive year. My early involvement in textiles centred on an exploration of materials and technique. Ideas, I continued to pull in from the fine arts. The mid to late 80s mark the point where this began to change. At that stage I was still teaching at Goldsmiths where there was a lot of interaction between students in textiles and fine art. If someone from outside our department came in and used the words decorative or patterned it was invariably a negative or critical response. I began to ask myself questions as to why important foundation stones of my practice were being contextualized in such a pejorative manner. If you looked at an Oriental carpet, couldn’t you make the case that their symbolic abstraction of reality was not appreciably different from any early modernist statement? Even more perversely there’s an ongoing fascination with musicians and artists looking at and drawing from textiles for example Morton Feldman, Barnett Newman, Paul Klee. So why is it that textiles still have such a reduced status within the art world. I sold Passage to the AA for a new computer centre; I used the money to buy three Oriental carpets. The Caucasian has remained on my wall ever since, I look at it most evenings and still marvel at the suspension of imagery as it floats within the field.

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Slow Turning 1989 p52, 102 Made for the International Textile Competition in Kyoto where it was awarded the Fine Art Prize, Slow Turning was the largest of the carpet design orientated works of the mid to late 80s. Specifically in this case the Cloud Collar, a circular device derived from the aperture at the top of a tent through which the smoke exited. The design became synonymous with the entrance to another world, another personal connection to escapism. Early notes in my ideas book indicate that I was making a connection to Passage in terms of displacement with a desire to create a movable mandala that physically could be turned by the viewer. There’s also a note to myself to integrate the patterned devices sourced from my study of carpets and other patterned devices. The piece was drawn up in my sketchbook over several pages, exploring divisions and patterns with outline suggestions for materials, indicative but not fully worked out. I always like to begin with a basic overview but with plenty of creative space for things to develop in the studio. As the work began, I became increasingly fascinated with the layering of structures one on top of another. I very much wanted the viewer to have an opportunity to rotate the work and enjoy the possibilities. To emphasize this further I built into the work a percussive musical box, a ratchet system that plays as the piece is turned. Retrospectively the layering and optical nature of the individual sections continues to fascinate. In particular the resourcing of very distinctive culturally orientated patternings. In addition to the authentic, are faux approximations of archetypal patterns rendered in alternative media e.g. the oil paint on Italian furnishing fabric that appears as an Indonesian Ikat. Furnishing fabric increasingly interested me at this time. The weight and unexpected ‘floats’ of thread on the rear of the cloth, looking for all the world like smeared machine and painted brushstrokes.


Diviner 1990 p103

Navigator 1990 p104

Port of Call 1991 p55, 105

Yellow Pages 1991 p106

I enjoyed travel and I particularly enjoyed working in new places. Consequently there are several works that reference both internalized and physical journeys. Diviner was included in the Galerie Ra Reliefs exhibition in Amsterdam in late 1990. Based loosely around a 1600s astrological map of the heavens, it’s just possible to discern allusions to Libra and other cosmic symbols. Technically the work is also noteworthy, as it’s the first time I inlaid shapes into the surface, an approach that would feature very heavily in the lace works of the 90s. It’s a star chart; the circle floats in a heavenly collage of bird imagery and the same fragments of Paisley fabric that appeared for the first time in Mumbles. For the train spotters amongst us the Bird Man in Diviner appears in You Are Here several years later, floating down a river of music. Symbolically he represents me in both pieces. Before the Ra exhibition finished I had moved eastwards to Japan for six months. I’d been appointed Distinguished Visiting Fellow by the British Council, which meant I was due to be there over Christmas and into the New Year. I had a tiny house and a studio at the Kyoto City University of the Arts. The work made during this residency was shown over Christmas 1990 at Gallery Gallery in Kyoto. Part of my reason for being back in Japan was to research artists for a forthcoming exhibition of Japanese fibreworks I was about to curate through Goldsmiths College where I still worked. I wanted to do something in return for the artists who I’d previously met and the resultant exhibition Restless Shadows was the first time this work had been seen in the UK. Diviner was used as the invitation card for the Gallery Gallery exhibition; it had therefore represented me in two quite distinctive cultures in a comparatively short time frame.

The dominant image in Navigator is that of a maze, another reference to feeling lost in life and seeking a new direction. It was included along with Diviner, Navigator and The Secret Garden as part of my Galerie Ra solo exhibition in late 1990. All four relief works have a strongly circular composition, a universal symbol that’s found in virtually every culture. Navigator makes reference to both the internal quest for insight and the external desire for an understanding of who and where we are. In that respect, the installation of all four pieces moving up and down across the surface of the wall may well also evoke the satellites and probes we send into outer space. Navigator is also the first piece where the fabric inlay is used as a major visual device.

I was sitting on the quay in Hobart, Tasmania thinking that the next stop might well be the South Pole. At that stage of my life I had a fairly regular Australian-Japanese axis. Often flying from one country to the other without going back to the UK. Port of Call picks up on an interest I had in Japanese kanji, which in turn related to a primary interest in pictograms. You can read the drawing as a board game, a constant metaphor at that time for the quiet internalized dissatisfaction with aspects of my life. Did I throw the dice and move forward up the ladder or slide down a snake? The drawing was part of a series of work I’d made during a residency at Canberra School of Art. The symbols around the edge refer to the Tasmanian mountains visible from the quay, the harbour and a semaphore-signalling tower. Apparently on their closure the last message sent was ‘forgotten’, apt and to the point. The Mills and Boon romantic covers used for the board game were sourced from endless car boot sales. I’d begun to be ‘known’ as a buyer of odd books.

Physical geography and history were the two subjects at school, apart from art, that I really liked. In many ways they are both concerned with the layering and accessing of information that has been subjected to outside forces. To cut into or excavate strata is to take a journey back through time. What is found can have a highly subjective interpretation, particularly in relation to historical events. Yellow Pages relates to a series of drawings I’d made in Australia within which the symbol of a maze assumed an increasing significance as a metaphor for my personal confusion as to ‘Where to go next?’ At a certain point it struck me that if you cut into the pages of a book the resultant graphic mark looked like a bar code, one that would be almost impossible to access. It also looked like the resultant stratification you find in rock formations after the earth’s been subjected to pressure or conflicting forces. Equally the study of archaeology allows us to speculate about history via the proximity of objects found side-by-side, layerby-layer. We assume a level of understanding that may well be entirely conjectural interpretation.

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Doors of Perception 1991 p22, 107

Overlays 1991 p109

Hide and Seek 1992 p110–111

Like most people of a certain generation I’d read The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley. There was always a lot of interest and talk about the pursuit of enlightenment. In the intervening years I’ve often mused over the proliferation of self-help books that litter any bookshop. A psychiatrist I met in Australia once told me that a large percentage of his patients were the result of the anxiety caused by people having no definable belief system anymore. As religious beliefs have changed people have become more and more adrift, the resultant vacuum’s the perfect breeding ground for increasingly esoteric ideas as to who and where we come from and perhaps most importantly where are we going? Anyway, I decided to make a work based on an Indian ritual temple door, like the bridge the door is often used as a symbol of transition from one place to another. Still personally concerned with which direction to take within my own life I decided to make a work that spiritually confuses, it seemed a far more realistic outcome. My doors in-filled with cut texts, evocations, pushed into the panels; the only perception to be had is that there’s no clear easy way forward... ‘it’s not the road you walk, it’s the walking’ Vatsyayana or, as I’ve come to believe, the measure of any person is how you deal with what you’re dealt in life.

I’d read Overlay by Lucy Lippard several years earlier; it looks at the connections between contemporary art and prehistoric sites and symbols. I’d always liked stone circles, I can remember as a child rather fancifully thinking that this was what my ancestors made. As a family we regularly holidayed in the south and Avebury was a site we visited many times. It’s never lost its power to me and I’ve taken many an overseas guest there over the years, all of who have been equally impressed. Thankfully there are no fences or restrictions so you can imagine what it might have been like in the past. By 1991 I’d visited Australia many times and with each visit I’d try to see as much Aboriginal art as I could. I particularly liked the telling of stories and the imagining of a visual landscape that had both a spiritual and topographical dimension. I became increasingly interested in mapping as a means to understand myself. Suffice to say there’s rarely an opportunity for a definitive reading of a given piece. Overlays as its title would suggest is a good example of the many allusions, quotes and clues that can coexist in just one locality. What I always liked about Avebury was that nobody really knows why it was built; each successive generation finds within its structure something that has a contemporary resonance.

There’s an assumption that visiting another country must have an influence on the direction of your work. I think it does but not in an obvious way. Changing studios and meeting people can exert a more immediate effect than say landscape. Hide and Seek was made especially for the 3rd International Betonac Prize, a lace competition in Belgium. The genesis of the work emanated from a late night visit to a Freemantle bookshop in Western Australia with my good friend, the artist Pam Gaunt. I bought a book on sixteenth century lace designs; I felt an immediate connection to the geometrical nature of the work. I particularly liked the asymmetrical nature of the images and the speculative origin of their subject matter. Lace was a natural area for me to study. It had been an important part of my early investigations into thread structures. I was now interested in it for another very different reason. I’d become increasingly irritated by the revisionist view of textiles as almost entirely female. It seemed a timely moment to reclaim one of the most female of fabrics from a male standpoint. Lace, historically, is a nongendered specific fabric; it’s worn by both men and women and was a signifier of wealth and status. Both architects and interior designers used lace designs as a source for decorative detail. Lace in the late twentieth century when Hide and Seek was begun had very different connotations; it was largely a fabric associated with lingerie with very specific connotations of fragility and femininity. All of this I wanted to challenge, so my first task was to engender a gestalt in the viewer to shock them into re-looking at this fabric from another perspective. I decided to change the scale, increasing the image so it enveloped the viewer; I also altered the way the image was physically made. Traditionally bobbin lace is formed from the twisting of a thread around a pin, my lace is very different. Fabric is inlaid into the surface of a grooved wooden panel, so the fabric is partially buried in the wood.

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This process has strong archaeological associations, the finding and conjecture of material. The inlay process also allowed me to draw with a line formed from tiny flakes of cut cloth, it’s a form of textile pointillism. I really enjoyed the frisson between the sensuality of the fabric and the harder, painted overlaid surface of the panel; duality and the collision of opposites is a quality I return to constantly. Hide and Seek was the first of my lace works. It won First Prize in Belgium, which I took to be a good omen to continue the inquiry.


I Know You Know and I Wish You’d Tell 1993 (detail) p112–113

The Light is Only Perfect for a Very Short Time 1994 p114

(detail)

In art, truth and reality start at the point when you no longer understand what you are doing or what you know. (Matisse)

My father was dying and we all knew it was just a matter of time. I’d begun to think about The Light over Christmas 1993 by looking at a book on medieval tiles. The original notebook pages talk about developing the work as a magic carpet, how individual panels might be replaced from venue to venue. In many ways the work came into my head perfectly formed: it would be twenty-five wooden panels each inlaid with either brass or copper. The composition of each panel was to be drawn from lace; I would in effect construct a metallic lace by driving rolled metallic foils into the surface of the painted wood. If you render a lace in metal as opposed to thread it has a very different set of qualities. You could press any panel of The Light into human flesh and it would leave an imprint, it therefore challenged assumptions of lace as a fragile, delicate fabric. There are additional quotes in the overall form to the lateral minimal floor sculptures of Carl Andre. I was also interested around this period in the concept of loose geometry as I felt it related to the visual reverberation I witnessed in early geometrical textiles. I was moving towards a better understanding and appreciation of that which cannot be controlled, all of which had a clear personal dimension. The work was never conceived of as any kind of religious object. It did however take on a somewhat Byzantine feel as it progressed and I did see it as a requiem of sorts for my father. Several years later it was shown in a church in Belgium laid at an angle in front of the altar, managing at one stroke to connect Andre and spirituality. During the time of my father’s illness I met several members of my family who I hadn’t seen in years. One cousin had been researching the family and was very excited about how what I did connected to the past. I of course started to talk about my grandmother’s early weaving days in a mill, at which point she said ‘no it’s what your grandfather’s family did’.

It appeared that my great grandfathers family had made wood blocks and dye for the textile industry. The Light without the metal foils is essentially twenty-five wood blocks; it would have been perfectly possible to make a print from each one. I suddenly found that both of my maternal grandparents had strong textile roots, so was my decision to undertake a textile degree based on chance or genes? I really needed to understand that connection at that moment, as it reinforced a sense of lineage that something of my father would continue in me.

I’ve always been very fond of a quote from Rebecca West who said she wrote to find out what she thought. In an increasingly over theorized art world, it seems a perfectly acceptable premise to think through the act of making. I think with my hands, eyes and head. It’s very important to me to be physically engaged with a work in the studio. Ideas change through the making. If you make, you understand that there has to be a dialogue with the work; you can’t just impose a previously worked out plan on an embryonic idea. There’s a school of thought that believes either an artisan or fabricator can make everything, all the artist needs to do is dream up an idea. The implied assumption is that making is a slightly dinosaur activity, it’s a rendering process devoid of any real creative value. I could point to any number of pieces alongside I Know You Know and I Wish You’d Tell that have changed radically in my studio. As a rule I’ll have enough of an outline idea to begin but I will go where the work wants to go. Invariably I’ll work on several pieces at once, practically this allows for the drying of materials but most importantly it allows me to think and respond to how a work is evolving. You have to be open to where the work might want to go next. In many ways I view pieces as a living, evolving entity; I’m just a conduit that facilitates their inception. As a society we prioritize the conscious mind, believing that conscious decision-making is more measured and rational. I don’t like dry over intellectualized artwork that functions as an illustration of concept. My unconscious mind invariably makes really interesting choices; to be out of control is both liberating and exciting.

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Humpty Dumpty 1994 p193 After my father died I decided to go away, I ended up in Tasmania near Hobart. I gave a talk at a college and afterwards two women came up and asked me if I’d like to see the ‘Shards’ beach (I had shown a work entitled Shards). I wasn’t really in the mood; at the back of my mind I was thinking its yet another Australian beach. Anyway off we go, the access to the beach wasn’t easy, you arrived by walking overland and dropping down to the sea. As we got closer I began to notice that the colour of the shore was really odd, it seemed to be shimmering in the light. A closer inspection revealed that well over half the beach material was made up of shards of pottery and coloured glass. It was a kaleidoscope of willow patterns, fluted glass and pebbles; everything was so very smooth and polished. The material came from an eroded landfill site that had been slowly swept out to sea; time had worked its magic and removed the broken edges. On my return I was due to start work on a piece for the Museum voor Sierkunst in Ghent, Belgium. There was something in these fragmented tiny patterns that seemed cathartic to my sense of loss.


Perfect Skin 1995 p115

Feel Flows 1996 (detail) p116–117

The Ties That Bind 1996 p198–199

You Are Here 1997 (detail) p59, 120–121

The majority of my lace works prior to 1994 had been based on photographs or pattern books. On a visit to the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester I noticed several cases containing fragments of comparable laces. I began to think it would be exciting to research real lace and the Whitworth seemed the perfect venue. The exhibition Material Evidence 1996 was curated by Jennifer Harris, Deputy Director and curator of textiles. The plan was to make six large-scale contemporary works based on the Gallery’s lace collection. As soon as I began, I realized that real lace had experienced a life, there were tears, sections missing, holes and stains – all of which was very different from the perfect images I’d previously looked at. The four lighter coloured panels are based on the original sixteenth century lace images; the five red panels in the work are drawn from a section of late seventeenth century Milanese, bobbin lace sourced from the collection. The work is a meditation on perfection; how like our own skin fabric changes through use and wear. I clad the surface in split African tile enhancing the flayed quality within the piece. The red sand is a reference to the Red Centre of Australia, an arid, desert region I’d just visited for the first time. The fabric inlay is an exquisite sensuous, grey Armani chenille I bought as a roll end in London. It would have made a beautiful dress before I cut it into tiny pieces.

I’ve come to realize that there’s a sensory access to our appreciation of an artwork which goes far beyond the eye and brain. Over the years I’ve watched people, invariably in the post applied arts, handling textiles, ceramics and other objects. Their understanding of an idea has clearly been enhanced by the feel, touch and fragrance of the piece. This is particularly true of textiles: the scent of the oils in wool, the shimmer of silk, the brush of a fabric across your skin, the deep sensual softness of chenille are all incredibly emotive qualities. I’ve seen people hold cloth to their face and absentmindedly caress it, wrap threads around and through their fingers like a rosary as they speak: it’s a tacit engagement with the materiality of construction. You begin to learn how to read with all of your senses. I find it personally almost impossible now to make anything completely flat; I need to feel the idea. I was always a big fan of the Rothko room at the original Tate on Millbank. When I visited, I’d invariably end up spending time in this solemn and meditative temple to colour. On one particular visit it suddenly popped into my head were these paintings in oil or an early form of acrylic? Unable to tell just by looking, I sidled over, moved my head closer to one of the works and tried to catch the scent of any residual solvent, the point being that white spirit or turpentine would signify oil paint. At that moment, a very loud invigilators voice boomed across the width of the gallery ‘please stop smelling the paintings’ at which point everybody in the room turned round to look, as this was clearly a dubious escalation on the comparatively normal practice of touching.

Made for the exhibition Recycling: a zeitgeist survey that looked at all aspects of the reuse and reinvention of materials. The work is based on an American memory quilt, a patchwork that recycled clothing from one family, usually over a number of years. The finished quilt contained fragments of cloth that visually charted the evolution of the family members. I’d always liked this idea of a diary or textile family tree described through fabrics, colour and pattern. I decided to make my own version using the clothes of two people, male and female. Compositionally the form is influenced by board games and puzzles. Symbolically I enjoyed the relationship between the path of life and chance movement across a board dictated by the throw of a dice. To an extent the circular shapes may be read as counters, the lines as pathways, options to consider. Sometimes emotionally you go up ladders, mostly you slide down snakes. Technically the process of binding individual shapes with silk fabric relates to the title of the work. The act of wrapping is a powerful emotive gesture, rich in symbolic importance, swaddled at birth and mummified at death, bookended by cloth. I’d a fairly long-standing fascination with the idea of recycling, it’s part of textile culture and its an important tool of contemporary art making. As a student I’d come across the practice of drizzling – a slightly insane process of the Regency period whereby gold and silver threads were unravelled and removed from laces, tassels and braids. The idea was to raise extra pin money by selling the threads to a jeweller. Drizzling parties became very fashionable not just for the money but also for the amusement of getting together and deconstructing textiles. Ladies would have drizzling boxes with tiny spools on which the extracted threads could be wound. Retrospectively the process has another dimension entirely. In my mind the drizzler was an early advocate of process art, it’s the systematic, controlled methodology that appeals, ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’.

You Are Here is a visual map, a personal Internet that charts influences both formative and current which inform my work. The field of the piece references a seventeenth century English embroidered fabric. Running horizontally across the base is a section of a John Cage score, whose use of chance procedures as a means of generating new ideas has been a constant source of inspiration. The musical river denotes a passing of time. Scattered across the work are references to diagrammatic stitch structures, early writing systems, lace designs, the iconography of Aboriginal painting, Central Asian suzani fabrics, Caucasian carpet designs, Kazakh felt, pre-historic mazes, African textiles, Scandinavian solar discs, Mbuti drawings, Ashanti stamp printing, Uzbekistan textiles and the Rorschach ink test. You Are Here may be read in any direction, a new pathway across the piece will result in alternative perhaps unexpected configurations of idea and image. The title of the work refers to the maps, traditionally found in most town centres indicating sites of interest. Since the advent of modernism patterning has been regarded as trivial, a view not shared by non-western cultures. As an artist I’m interested in the genealogical connections between the source materials I collate, the reasons why I associate one idea with another. The adventure is to discern why and make visual sense of the clues amassed. I believe that patterns are encoded language: the study of meta-patterns – patterns that connect – reveal much in anthropological terms about our spiritual, cultural and sociological history. Physically the construction methodology of You Are Here mirrors the content of the work. Imagery was layered over several weeks using both additive and subtractive processes, there’s an inbuilt sense of chance as to what remains visible. Fragments of earlier eras can be glimpsed through time veils of colour. The red fabric inlay is a reference to the continuity of memory through the bloodline, the reciting of stories that subtly evolve over time.

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9 Dreams Within the Here and Now 1998–99 p123 One unexpected line of enquiry that emanated out of the Material Evidence exhibition was this circular series. During the preparation of the lace works I’d been asked to make a floor for a hospital surgery ward. For the first time as part of my research I had access to pathology slides, the majority of which were surprisingly beautiful. As I looked at these images I became aware of an implied connection between the cellular aspect of both humans and textiles. It’s another example of my interest in micro and macro structures, the discs are analogous to both microscopic and telescopic lenses. I’d long held the view that complexity is simplicity multiplied. I’m constantly fascinated by all interrelated aspects of structure. 9 Dreams is a riff on the word culture. I realized that we lived in a culture and could also grow a culture within a Petri dish; in both cases we have become fearful of the outcome. The core imagery is drawn from textile, geographical and biological sources. Each of the nine images contains a fragment of another; within each disc there’s a sense of mutation, growth, assimilation and destruction. In my mind this echoed cellular invasion, the omnipresent threat of new diseases and viruses – most of which are constantly evolving – and our fear of cultural change via trade or immigration as we assimilate new ideas and artefacts. The tiny raised dots on the surface allude to the African scarification technique of packing. Clay or ash is packed into a wound to raise the surface of the flesh; its one of many references in my work to a relationship between earth and human skin.

Destroy the Heart 1999 p124–125

Stars Underfoot 2001 p126

Little Black Egg 2003 p195

I was attending a very long design team meeting in London for a music project I was working on. Sat at the table listening to progress reports from other consultants I suddenly had the idea for Destroy the Heart. In a comparatively short time I’d sketched out on the back of my notebook the complete piece. Ostensibly an extension of my then current interest in cellular invasion, it also relates to the breakdown of a relationship. In both cases there’s the sense that the heart is threatened; medically or legally you’re under attack. As you move across the work both the colour and the core imagery gradually deteriorate. The red becomes a black and finally a dark rusted brittle brown desert. The 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (who now own the work) installed Destroy the Heart in the opposite direction to how I originally envisaged it. Thus it goes from death to life as opposed to life to death. This may well have something to do with how Japanese text is read but I enjoy this more positive reading of the work.

John Cage talked about encouraging composers to work with sounds they found difficult or unappealing, in his case transistor radios. In my world the visual equivalent would have been floral textiles. As a textile student all we heard about was William Morris; factor into that equation a directive to draw plants as part of our course and it’s not surprising that I tended to avoid anything organic. I’d been interested in historical textiles since the mid 80s and it was becoming harder to ignore the influence of floral imagery in the work I was looking at, for example Central Asian suzani fabrics. In the late 90s I bought a book Flowers Underfoot that looked at Indian carpets of the Mughal era. They were astonishingly beautiful images. At more or less the same time appeared the Year of the Artist, a nationwide scheme organised by the Regional Arts Boards to fund residencies by artists in unusual settings. I realised that I needed to take on that which I was most apprehensive about (the floral) and applied for a grant. My plan was to work alongside my studio photographer James Austin and a large supplier and wholesaler of fresh flowers Zwetsloots Ltd. Recognizing that textiles historically have referenced floral imagery as a source for textile patterning, the Stars Underfoot photographs subverted that tradition via a process of utilizing hundreds of real flowers as a medium not subject: I would draw with a flower. This formal inversion – the flower as media not image – allowed unexpected and challenging associations to emerge. Compositionally the imagery is recognizable, yet provocative in its deconstruction and re-invention of historical textile schematic traditions. On one level I was trying to understand how imagery had traditionally evolved. I also had to work very quickly, as the flowers died within hours of being cut, all of which I found very liberating as the majority of my studio works took several weeks to complete.

In 2002 I’d been invited over to New Zealand for a residency at Christchurch Art Centre. I was up in Auckland for a few days to judge a competition and for some unknown reason decided to visit a New Age fair in town. Whilst mooching around the various tents, I came across a booth where you could have your personal aura photographed and read. I noticed that the majority of the images had a figure surrounded by a wash of affirmative blues or yellows. I was secretly wishing for someone to have a hideous all black or grey aura just to see the look of horror on everyone’s faces as we realized that the main protagonist of The Omen was in town.

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Consequence of Proximities 2003 p127

Crystallized Movements 2004 p128

World of Echoes 2004 (detail) p130–131

Gilt Trip – Private Number 2004 p132

The five works that made up the Consequence of Proximities series form a bridge between the Stars Underfoot flower photographs and the Field of Centres computerized machine embroideries. The concept was to subject the flower photograph Invisible Architecture to a series of technical experimentation and chart the ensuing cause and effect on the core image. As the series progressed the works became increasingly three dimensional, the imagery literally began to push itself into space. At a certain point it occurred to me that I could construct with machine embroidery; it didn’t need to be flat. If you put All Night Flight alongside Invisible Architecture the imagery might appear similar, the real difference is in the physical depth. Holographic in feel, All Night Flight encourages the viewer to access the work from many distinct viewing angles.

A pivotal work, first shown at COLLECT in 2004 several months before the Field of Centres solo exhibition. Crystallized Movements is the first work directly influenced by the Gulf War. Compositionally the piece re-creates a flag constructed from hundreds of embroidered flowers, which refer to medal ribbons and poppies. The piece is a play on the use of the word ‘field’ to denote both a battle and a visual field of engagement. The white base of the work, which is constructed from over a thousand toy soldiers, further enhances this; the figures record a veritable killing field, slain people preserved in crystalline white paint. What intrigued me at COLLECT was that people were initially unaware of the figures; they simply viewed the ground as an interesting surface on which the floral flag floated. In later works the conscious use of ‘pretty’ elements to seduce the viewer became quite deliberate and in my mind analogous to the use of beautiful flowers to render death palatable and less offensive.

Excited by the Stars Underfoot photographic images I began to think about extending the enquiry back into textiles. The problem was the amount of units required. The flower photographs had used on average 350–500 flowers, so how was I going to replicate that in cloth or stitch? I began to use a computerized sewing-machine, it was the most obvious tool to produce the amount of ‘flowers’ I needed. World of Echoes is formed from a collage of several photographic images; I wanted to prove to myself that a traditional medallion carpet composition could be built optically, not drawn.

The closest analogy I have for how the act of making makes me feel is that of falling in love. When you meet someone new for the first time you want to spend all the time in the world together, to see him or her last thing at night and first thing in the morning. There’s that initial exchange of likes and dislikes – a litmus test of suitability. You’re respectful of someone else’s space but keen to hurry forward but not so quick as to spoil the moment. You share intensity, a series of memories that belongs only to two people. All of this I experience when I make: I spend time with a piece; I listen to what it says and most importantly where it wants to go next. I’m fascinated by its inability to do what I desire. I badly want it to change but then I’m intrigued by how it makes me feel. I’m confused, frustrated but I can’t leave it alone. There’s a growing mutual dependency as we feed off each other and create something new; it’s a private world where everything’s possible. Above all I have a relationship with the idea and the process. When I look back I’ll have memories and I will remember the difficult times, but all that will be tempered by the experience of loving something so much that I just wanted it to be right. A friend said to me that I thought about art all of the time, after a while I decided she was right. I could be talking to someone, anyone, and somewhere at the back of my head I’d be thinking about what I was going to be working on tomorrow. I love that anticipation of starting a new piece, Art is the one thing that’s never let me down, there is nothing like the high that emanates from the act of creation and that’s the reason why I chase that feeling.

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Wasn’t Born to Follow 2004 p129 In many ways a personal manifesto, I regard myself as an independent artist. Wasn’t Born to Follow was the first of the floral pieces to break with the symmetry of the photographic images. The photographer was due at 10 am, it was late in the evening and I’d all but finished organizing the embroidered floral shapes, I just needed to glue them to the surface and the work would be complete. There’s always a part of me that’s curious to keep pushing an idea forward; it’s the ‘what if’, the opening of Pandora’s box. In reality, once I’ve seen an alternative future I find it almost impossible to be satisfied as to where I am, I can’t go back and I can’t stand still, its simply not enough any more. I began tinkering with the placement of the embroideries and everything started to change, I worked most of the night but I did manage to resolve the work by the following morning. Thought that is planned is tradition Thought that is unplanned is imagination Thought that is both is spirit Old Sufi saying.

Pinhead – Do You See What I See? 2005 p133 Since 2001 I have worked extensively with a multi-head, computerized sewing-machine. Process is reflective of content, and this machine allows an idea to be constantly revised at all stages of its evolution. Imagery is drawn on paper, scanned, digitized and machined out on cloth, during which programmes can be overridden and adapted. In many ways it’s no less flexible than any other hand made process. The machine exerts it’s own form of creative intervention, particularly in relation to the choice of appliqué, programming and thread. During the last eight years I have endeavored to view the process of machining as a continuous series of open-ended experimentation. The purity of machine embroidery was always going to be an issue. I knew from the beginning that I didn’t want to create exclusively on cloth; I wanted to construct a personal ground, one that would allow me to integrate the machined units creatively with other threedimensional materials. In terms of construction, the reliefs explore the illusionary space between two and three dimensions, combining machine embroidery, fabric, acrylic paint, metal, glass, thread and collage. Initially based on the Stars Underfoot (2001) flower installations, the relief panels reference spatial and geometric orientations sourced from early stitched and woven textiles, in particular suzani cloths. The relief works are colourful, dramatic, rhythmic and almost holographic in feel with intense detail that merges at a distance into strongly optical configurations. Most importantly, the physical depth enables the viewer to interact with the work as they move across the visual field. They have a kinetic dimension, one that has become more pronounced in the most recent Vase works, which literally project into space. The shadows are a transitory record of an image caught between two states.

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Holding Pattern 2007 p134, 178–179

Babel 2008 p16, 135

This work is a response to feelings of inertia, of being trapped in the behest of others and trying to move life forwards. I was interested in the word ‘arena’ a place where something takes place, conflict, sport etc. I utilized the plan of a well known sports and entertainment venue as a base within which something would transpire. Hundreds of burnt wood figures are arranged around the perimeter of the work. Contained in the arena’s schematic seating blocks, they resemble a coffin. Inside is a bound trussed figure, trapped in a confined space unable to move. At this point the work transposed into something less personal and gained another worldlier dimension. There are certain images once seen which are never forgotten. The slave ship plans that described with ruthless efficiency how many people could be transported on a ship from Africa are permanently embedded in my consciousness. An illustration, literally, of how one group of people can reinvent others as non-human – simply commodities to be bought and sold. Even the graphic documentation is relentlessly cold and practical. The white blocks in the centre of Holding Pattern are architectural drawings, indicative of buildings built upon the wealth generated by the export of people. My instruction to self was that from adversity comes a greater strength; the butterflies at the end of the wires are symbolic of that evolution, the transference of positive energy. Holding Pattern refers ultimately both to personal and collective concerns.

Compositionally based on the seating plan for an American arena – a ceremonial place where events unfold – the circularity of the work also references the head of a flower. The ‘stamen’ is constructed from hundreds of fused toy soldiers which create the phallic form of a tower, as they march upwards. The machined text collage is purposefully nonsensical, yet within the shattered phrases is the odd clear word or phrase. The blooms at the end of the wires are a form of cap or military badge; graphic encapsulations of campaign history that are sewed or pinned to the body. I’m interested in pictographic, ideographic floral shapes, which initially appear pretty or decorative when viewed from afar. Closer scrutiny reveals less pleasant associations; the use of land mines, skulls, explosive stars; Death’s-head moths as a symbol of change. Optically, the work flickers because of its almost monochrome palette. Simulacra or shadowy likenesses to familiar objects have intrigued artists and mystics from the earliest times. Everyone at some point has seen faces or figures in the surface of rocks, tree bark, clouds, damp stains or peeling walls. The shadows surrounding Babel enhance the transient state of the core imagery as it disappears into the ether. It is clearly about the Tower of Babel.


Celestial Music 2008 p35, 136–137

Skull: Cat Elf 2008 p34

Vase Attacks 2009 p141

Conceived as a constellation of musical genres, careful mapped to indicate musical connections and hybridization. This site-specific installation used over 3500 metal music badges that were embedded into 234 metal discs attached to the wall surface. The discs are in 4 different metals – aluminum, copper, bronze and steel – and correspond to 3 archetypal circular musical storage formats – the single, CD and vinyl album. I was interested in the duality of terms such as chart (music composition or retail list/astrological map) and star (musician/heavenly grouping). Celestial Music is also reflective of the multiplicity of performers who have performed at Colston Hall throughout the years. It’s probably fair to say that I’ve never made anything in silence. Music is the driving force behind so much of my work. It’s a passion, obsession and perpetual soundtrack to my creative life. I’m always searching for something new to experience, preferably something I’ve never heard off. A guy in a music shop once referred to it as ‘the cult of the obscure’. I read something about music nearly every day, I’ll play certain pieces to enhance a mood, drive a process or simply reflect. If you asked me what I listen to, I couldn’t really give you a definitive answer; it’s exactly like the artwork. The best music store I ever visited was Tower Records in Shibuya, Tokyo, nine floors of heaven. I went twice over two consecutive days, once with Mathew Harris and the following day I sneaked back on my own. I knew I had a problem years ago when I got a Christmas card from a record shop 350 miles away in Edinburgh thanking me for my custom.

The 1958–63 American TV series, The Naked City always ended with the narrator’s regular sign off line ‘There are eight million stories in the naked city and this has been one of them’. I like to tell stories and leave a few clues when I work; for me the pieces are characters, beyond a certain point they have their own life. They travel, meet people and go to places I’ve never been.

Vase Attacks is an installation that explores the illusionary space between two and three dimensions, utilizing computerized machine embroidery, acrylic paint, glass, wire and collage. The works are colourful, dramatic, rhythmic and almost holographic in feel with intense detail that merges at a distance into strongly optical configurations. As the viewer moves around the works, the wires create a quiet kinetic, shadowy movement back and forth in space which enhances the ambiguity of the shapes that literally explode from the wall surface. The work is a response to a comment by Paul Derrez (Director, Gallery Ra) in relation to Bloom, Bloom, Bang, a work made in 2006 for Ra’s Radiant exhibition. Paul liked the piece but said I ‘should consider the vessel’. So I did, realising that the vessel and the floral bouquet could and should exert an influence on each other. Certain works are symbiotically linked; others have a strong dreamlike or fantasy quality. It’s probably fair to say that as the series has progressed, the vessels have become more disquieting and edgy. The imagery is initially beautiful but a closer examination will reveal darker references to mines, military cap badges, uniform insignia, war games and skull head flowers. The works also marked a return to a use of collage; the vessel shapes are hybrid constructions made from found shapes and discarded domestic forms fused with military hardware. Recent works have integrated my ‘Blooms’ with the scent and form of real flowers; they echo the form of the traditional tulip vase. I thought it might be interesting to create a dialogue between the permanent and transitory, the sensual and the illusionary.

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If it’s all so black and white, why is it such a mystery to me? 2011 p138–139 Libraries are special places, I like to wander, to come across something I’ve never read before; I like the sequencing and catalogue systems, the whispered conversations. The form of the work echoes a flower head, petals as pages, seeds as ideas. It’s a flowering of knowledge. The words were chosen by the librarians, their choices were both unusual and perceptive. Collectively, they hint at the diversity of subject matter contained within the building. (The McClay Library, Queen’s University, Belfast)


A Flag of Convenience – Behind The Lines 2011 p142 The flags were pieces I didn’t see myself making or really wanted to make. A direct response to both our asset hungry warfare and the dreadful euphemistic language employed by the military or their advisors to describe rolling events. It’s as if the estate agents have taken hold of strategic planning. I find it very odd that a phrase chosen not to offend is actually more offensive, as it so plainly bleaches the humanity from the directive. Flags were, I thought, something to be proud of. The idea was to subvert both the US and UK flags by introducing various additional references, clues if you like. Formally both appear from a distance to be relatively traditional. It’s only on closer inspection that other stories emerge; in that they are both connected to the Pretty Deadly remit. The US flag has the same number of toy soldiers as stars. I was particularly happy with the integration within the red and white stripes formation of both euphemistic text and Arabic patterning. The red lettering was machined by myself and set between alternative geometrical patterns rendered in sand; both a material (oil) and geographical (Middle East) quote. I’m interested in the way we process images, how choices of colour or material can make something more palatable and less initially disturbing. I’m equally fascinated by the content/ memory that’s part of a material’s DNA; materials fused, tell stories. Correct material choices add both a physical and conceptual richness to the idea. They develop depth, via our almost subliminal ability, to connect a previous use within an alternative contemporary context.

Meddles 2011–12 p31, 36

Lace: The Final Frontier 2011 p32–33, 35 Six Frontiers, space, borders, containment, enclosure, words that can easily be transposed into another context, that of conflict. I started to consider how frontiers and space might be interpreted as a form of military engagement. Why? Because my world is invaded on, what seems like a daily basis, with images and descriptions of the latest war.

‘Ten, Nine Eight, Seven, Six, Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Zero, Bang’ Ten I first made lace in or around 1973, bobbin lace followed by a short spell working on an industrial machine in Nottingham. I loved the diagrammatic, schematic linear designs that a lace maker worked from, they reminded me of contemporary musical graphic scores. The process of moving the weighted bobbins from side to side on the pillow was also unexpectedly rhythmic. To my surprise, the sequencing and methodology interested me as much as the final fabric.

Five To understand lace, I need to deconstruct and rebuild the structure. My intention is to construct a military lace emblematic of conflict and the annexing of resources and territory. Four Imagery for the roundels will be drawn from three sources – lace, weaponry and the Rorschach test. The psychological nature of the inkblot test to detect an underlying disorder or perceived emotional stability has a certain relevance to the questionable decision making employed in resorting to warfare.

Nine In 1990 I returned to lace, I was particularly interested in a perception of it as an archetypal female fabric. As a man working in textiles, I wanted to reclaim lace from a male perspective. Lace in the sixteenth century was worn by men and women, indicative of wealth and status. Lace designs were adapted and used for architectural and interior design detail. Outcomes that seemed light years away from lingerie fabric and pretty decorative details of the late twentieth century.

Three The visual field of the work echoes the instructional, pricked, diagrammatic papers on which bobbin laces are constructed. In this case a fusion of Islamic and Western geometry’s.

Eight The interpretation of historical patterns is, to a degree, a subjective exercise. Imagery evolved through the activity of making, a tacit retelling and refinement of motifs and symbols. Successive generations adapted and introduced new references, reflective of contemporary events or traded artefacts; call it a form of early ‘sampling’. I believe patterns are a form of encoded language.

Two Pretty Deadly – The dichotomy inherent within this title aptly describes an ongoing feature of my recent work the utilization of that which is initially perceived as beautiful but masks a darker message. One If white lace is virginal/pure and black lace is sexy/alluring... what is red lace? I am interested in a coloration, which suggests the visceral/bloody.

Seven I remembered reading that lace might be defined as the encirclement of space. The majority of laces are formed via the twisting of thread to create an essentially semi transparent net. A fabric, which places the emphasis on the dialogue between the borders and their enclosed spaces, a pattern of enclosure and containment.

Zero ‘Lace: The Final Frontier’

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The Meddles are a logical progression from Lace: The Final Frontier, I increasingly regard conflict as resource led, as such they are campaign medals for the interference in other people’s lives.


Restored and Remixed 2012 p28, 144

(detail)

Transformer 2012 p34, 72, 73, 145

I’d read a story in my teens about an artist who lived and painted in a rented apartment. At a certain point he noticed that the carpeted floor was covered in paint splashes. Fearing the landlord, he resolved to make the accidental look intentional by painting the floor, so the marks blended into the existing pattern. Over a period of time the room took on a brighter and infinitely more positive dimension. Many years later I’d travelled down to Bath to pick up a suzani cloth I’d bought from a dealer. In the course of our conversation he mentioned that they routinely painted a worn carpet to hide the worn pathways, not in any duplicitous way but simply to extend the life of the rug. It therefore became inevitable that I’d seek a carpet to work with and so began the search for a worn, faded challenge. I’ve become increasingly interested in the idea of a textile that talks to a textile. I see myself as part of an unbroken textile tradition and one that doesn’t recognize any borders. I eventually sourced a carpet and began work on it in the studio shortly before Christmas 2011. Decisions were made to restore, possibly enhance but not to radically change the remnants of the existing colours. It took around two weeks to restore; I painted every knotted pixel mark by hand at relatively close quarters. Each day I’d choose a collection of music and begin work as I nursed it back to life. I developed a tremendous respect and empathy for the people that had made the piece, I’d spend hours wondering what a certain shape or symbol had been derived from. The composition was equally perplexing, what was the rationale behind the organization of the field patterns? The experience was in many ways a form of visual meditation, the carpet a portal to a journey into the past. Above all it was a beautiful creative missive from one world to another.

At a certain moment the idea of introducing the space invaders into the field pattern presented itself as a comment on resource led warfare, the annexing of territories and the destruction of unfamiliar cultures. I don’t know who made this carpet. I’d like to think that as one maker to another I extended its life and in some small way contributed something positive towards a respect for the creativity of others from a region unfairly characterized.

A tapestry is frequently woven from an existing artist’s drawing or painting. I thought it would be interesting to challenge that model. What would happen if a textile talked to a textile? I tend to make everything myself; this is clearly a different process. At a certain stage, I’ll hand the image over to the weaver Philip Sanderson at West Dean Tapestry Studio. I keep thinking it’s like handing over the master tapes to be re-mixed. I’m really excited to see how the imagery is interpreted once the weaving begins. What is a textile? Something usable or fashionable, perhaps a carpet or a garment? Invariably categorized as ‘merely decorative’ it was only a matter of time before textiles fought back. Transformer is that ‘Heroic’ figure, formed from a fusion of Italian lace, Kaitag embroideries, Caucasian carpets and motifs of the Baluch and neighbouring tribes; he has been rebuilt. Transformer crashes through the Art World, reclaiming those contested territories and visual fields open for re-evaluation. Under attack by the Space Invaders of continuity, Transformer will never rest until the mission is complete. My cartoon is in many ways, exactly that: a comic book character, born from a fusion of various textile components. Textile patterns are encoded information, a visual DNA that charts cultural exchange. Increasingly the image reminds me of a playing card. I wanted to create a heroic character, one that might save my world.

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Dream No 9 – Expecting to Fly after The Catalan Atlas 2012 p146–147 It ends as it began: the search for a ground on which to work. The difference of course is that the ground is no longer a physical but a territorial aspiration. We laugh now, at the idea of the world been thought of as flat, the terror of sailing over the edge into the unknown. Nobody then really knew if this was a realistic possibility or not and yet people still departed with a blind faith, tempered with a curiosity as to what they might find. I like that sense of adventure, the frisson of uncertainty as to what’s out there to be experienced. The Dream Pictures are a desire on my part to seek another visual landscape to inhabit. The map is a signpost to a new space, an approximation of a territory glimpsed, remembered but not yet fully explored, and that’s where I’m going next.


previous Imaginary Landscape – Chaotic Textured Crush 1999 left Lost and Found 1993 below Cloud Collar 1999 overleaf Stars Underfoot – The Slow Reveal 2007–08 (detail)

Tracks and Traces Michael Brennand-Wood

Art ideas that continue to exert an influence The Cimabue Crucifix – restoration after flood damage; Richard Dadd, The Fairy Feller’s MasterStroke – attention to detail; Morris Louis, Veil Paintings – staining of surfaces; Mark Tobey, White Writing – calligraphy; Robert Rauschenberg, Combines – use of collage and found objects; Alberto Burri, Burlap Works – visceral use of cloth and plastic; Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights – visionary imagery; Jasper Johns, Gray Alphabets – sublime use of paint and collage; Medardo Rosso, Wax over Plaster – ethereal surfaces; Willie Gudabi – storytelling

Long tracks I’d play in the afternoon Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians; Grateful Dead, Live Dead; Pat Metheny, As Falls Wichita So Falls Wichita; Philip Glass, Koyaanisqatsi; The Necks, Aquatic; Terry Riley, Rainbow in Curved Air; Decoder Ring, Somersault; Wim Mertins, Maximizing the Audience; John Zorn, The Gift; Manuel Gottsching, E2–E4

Inspirational places The Pinnacles Desert, Western Australia; Matera, Italy; Great Barrier Reef, Queensland, Australia; Kyoto, Gardens and Temples, Japan; Olgas, Northern Territory, Australia; Avebury Stone Circle, UK; Thera, Santorini, Greece; Bay of Islands, New Zealand; Tokyo, Japan; New York, USA

Albums I play a lot David Crosby, If I Could Only Remember My Name; Patti Smith, Horses; Game Theory, Lolita Nation; Nuggets; Dean and Britta, 13 Most Beautiful: Songs For Andy Warhol’s Screen Test; Vulgar Boatmen, Opposite Sex; Velvet Underground, Loaded; House of Love, House of Love; Died Pretty, Doughboy Hollow; Luna, Luna Live

Musical terms that relate to my work Rhythm; Pulse; Sustain; Reverberation; Pattern; Orchestration; Feedback; Drone; Feel; Colour Exhibitions that provided a lasting influence Morris Louis and Antoni Tapies, Hayward Gallery 1974; Richard Dadd, Tate Gallery 1974; Andy Warhol, Tate Gallery 1971; Francois Rouan, Centre Georges Pompidou 1983; Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Art Gallery of New South Wales 1998; The Spiritual in Abstract Painting 1890–1985, Haags Gemeentemuseum 1987; The Colour of My Dreams, Vancouver Art Gallery 2011; Ancient Color and Geometry: Very Early Turkish Carpets of the Christopher Alexander Collection, De Young Museum, San Francisco, 1990; Jasper Johns, Hayward Gallery 1978; The Eastern Carpet in the Western World, Hayward Gallery 1983 Long tracks I play in the studio in the morning Harold Budd, Pavilion of Dreams; Global Communication, 76:14:00; Keith Jarrett, The Koln Concert; Tangerine Dream, Zeit; Klaus Schulze, Timewind; Roedelius, Jardin Au Fou; Popol Vuh, Aguirre; Edgar Froese, Epsilon in Malaysian Pale; Ash Ra Temple, Friendship; Philip Glass, Dances 1–5

Artists I like Hannah Hoch; Mark Tobey; Julius Bissier; Robert Rauschenberg; Francois Rouan; Bernard Frize; Antoni Tapies; Paul Klee; Rick Griffin; Alberto Burri

Albums I’d play to drive a process Kirstin Hersh, Sunny Border Blue; Liz Phair, Whitechocolatespaceegg; Patricia Barber, Companion; Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea; Take Me To The River, A Southern Soul Story 1961–1977; Lee Scratch Perry, Arkology; Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs; The Church, Priest Aura; Midlake, The Trials of Van Occupanther; Aimee Mann, Lost in Space Sounds I like Fender Rhodes Piano, Fuzz Guitar; Farfisa Organ; Moog Synthesizer; Fretless Bass; 12 String Rickenbacker; Mellotron; EMS VCS3; Dub Bass; Analogue Synthesizer Books that exerted an influence Ahead of the Game, Calvin Thomkins; Psychedelic Art, Masters & Houston; Notations, John Cage; A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art, Christopher Alexander; Works Texts: To 1974, Tom Phillips; Silence, John Cage; Hans Richter, Hans Richter; Micro-Art, Lewis R Wolberg; Experimental Music, Michael Nyman; Zillij: Art of Moroccan Ceramics, John Hedgecoe and Salma Samar Damluji

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Textiles that inspire Suzani cloths; Mola cloths; 16th century lace; Kuba cloths; Coptic fabrics; Caucasian carpets; Gabbeh carpets; Mughal Indian carpets; Nasca needlework; Kaitag embroideries Artworks that make me think about colour Robert Rauschenberg, Charlene, 1954; Paul Klee, Highways and Byways, 1929; Pierre Bonnard, Nude in a Bathtub, 1946; Kandinsky, Sky Blue, 1940; Rosalie Gascoigne, Highway Code, 1985; Cy Twombly, Free Wheeler, 1955; Kurt Schwitters, Merzz 22, 1920; Philip Guston, Zone, 1954; Francois Rouan, Cassone 1, 1976; Adolf Wolfi, General View of the Island Neveranger, 1911 Artistic processes I like Watching paint dry – the unexpected; Cutting surfaces – archaeology; Collage – unexpected connections; Erasure – indentations; Construction – strategies; Staining – layers; Inlay – insertion of the unexpected; Sewing – feeling the marks; Waxing surfaces – ghosts; Impasto – primal marks


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left Phial Bodies 2008 overleaf Holding Pattern 2007 (detail)

Unrestricted Dreams Paul Harper

When I was asked to write this piece I had the thought that I have

Whilst this self-effacing position is clearly central to understanding

known Michael’s work all of my adult life. As I was becoming

Michael’s work, he is an individual artist who describes a conceptual

a student his career was just taking off. So, I have distinct memories

practice, and certainly his work is a rich medium of communication.

of seeing his work at that time, and I have observed it ever since.

Words and images, embedded in the work, are explicit, but even at its

I was thinking about this as I travelled to meet him at his studio

most abstract and decorative there is a dark poetry that is evident in

in Wysing. I was thinking about the relationship between the busily

the earliest pieces and which, if anything, has become more insistent,

embroidered, painted and collaged wooden lattices that I saw in

explicit, polemical even, in his later work.

the late seventies and all that had followed. A decorative surface draws us beyond itself into something more It was interesting then, having driven through the open, rather

complex and critical. A dense pattern becomes tangle. The eye finds

Spartan landscape west of Cambridge, to step into the dense intimacy

it hard to settle as the apparent order of the surface dissolves into

of Michael’s studio and to become gradually aware that it was all

an unruly cloud. In turn the apparent disorder of what lies beneath

represented there. Not in any sort of order or sequence, but hung on

sometimes resolves itself back into concrete forms: tangled plastic

the walls or placed on surfaces, stacked, leant in corners, complete

soldiers, words, images of war. The slow construction belies the

pieces, fragments, sketches, catalogues. As our conversation

urgency of the content. The phrase Pretty Deadly has been used to

progressed he would move about the studio, pulling things out to

describe this volatile traffic between the seductive surface and the

illustrate a point, animating his narrative. To see the work in this way

underlying visual and conceptual complexity. Some of his recent work

is to recognize it as the work of a lifetime. Individual objects lose their

calls to mind and seems to neatly reverse the pilot’s view films of

autonomy. Everything has to be seen in complex conversation with

bombing raids that were a feature of television coverage of the first Gulf

everything else. It has become clear that whilst the work has naturally

War. Blurred images that were overlaid with the shifting grids and text

developed, changed and expanded in some ways, there are persistent

of the targeting systems. Out of these abstracted desert landscapes

concerns and characteristics that are observable throughout the

there were sudden blooms, explosions as the bombs met their targets.

body of Michael’s work.

The strange, detached beauty of these pictures distanced us from the reality that they apparently gave us access to. This was war as

Michael is a maker, or, in his own phrase, a ‘constructor’, working

video game. Michael’s work turns this effect on its head. There are

within a highly specialized tradition, using an extraordinary range of

unresolved patterns that evoke Islamic geometry, out of which burst

materials and techniques, whilst remaining firmly associated with

roundels of tightly layered iconography, soldiers, weapons, jet fighters.

the field of embroidery. Although his interests and influences are

The impression is beautiful, but the bequiling patterns fragment,

many and various, he sees his work as being rooted in that tradition.

the abstract swims into focus. Typically, Michael both subverts the

This connects him to his family history (his grandmother was an

seriousness of his purpose and layers in another level of meaning with

industrial weaver and his grandfather an engineer), but more broadly

the title of this piece – Lace: The Final Frontier.

to a community of makers that includes a whole history of textile production, in which he is subject to rules and standards that are

Another recent work that hangs prominently in the studio is

external to himself. He describes himself as a conduit for something

a Middle Eastern rug with an oriental pattern. Applied to the surface

that is held in common, part of a commonwealth.

are embroidered space invaders, graphic characters from the classic

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178


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previous Die is Cast 2006 (detail) right Die is Cast 2006

video game. There is an optical effect whereby these pixilated

It can be argued that all of these things have their equivalence in our

shapes are one minute absorbed into the rug, abstract elements

human relationships. With Michael this is evident in the insistent desire

in an intricate, ancient design, and the next seem to float over the

to connect through the works but also in his vital role as an educator

surface, anomalous, alien. The eye struggles to integrate these

and in the warmth and charm that he brings to his wider social relations.

images. At first glance the rug appears to be new, the colours vibrant, but a closer look reveals that it is threadbare in places and that

Michael’s work makes us look. Joseph Conrad, in his introduction to

each tuft of wool has been carefully ‘restored’ with paint. The object

Lord Jim, describes the task of the writer: ‘by the power of the written

resonates with ideas. Again, a punning, playful surface engages us,

word, to make you hear, to make you feel – it is, before all, to make

drawing us deeper, into a dialogue between the venerable old and the

you see.’ This might stand for all great art and surely it is a task that

trashy modern, the authentic and the phoney, the East and the West.

Michael has set himself. He observes and records the world, constantly amending the exactitude of his image. At every point his images

The precise, detailed knowledge of the materials and techniques

are both beautiful and precise but, at the same moment, always

that belong to the tradition in which Michael locates himself opens

inaccurate. He is constantly thwarted, not only by the complexity of

up a wider material knowledge. A spirit of enquiry and his image of

experience, but also by the fact that each moment is an event within

himself as a constructor has drawn Michael to experiment with different

a continuum. The beauty of the work resides in it’s imperfection.

processes and media. But his craft knowledge and his grounding in a

Each piece becomes, in Gaston Bachelard’s lovely phrase, a ‘rough

specific making culture has also helped him to develop insight beyond

sketch for unrestricted dreams’... and so the work is never finished,

that culture. Textiles are archetypal, they have provided Michael with a

and we can never tire of looking. We look and look again as the work

model of human exchange, a shared knowledge and a vivid, universal

reverberates, like life, between clarity and chaos, between the fixed

language by which he can communicate and engage with the world.

and the transient, change and continuity. We stand before the work and are drawn into an exchange that both spans an entire career

Michael’s position as an artist who is so strongly committed

and transcends it.

to a particular field of practice is contrary to the permissive image of the contemporary artist. But, as has already been noted, making is

A retrospective exhibition of this kind is exciting not just because

important to him. It not only provides him with an endless resource,

it allows us to review a body of work as it has developed over time,

but it is rewarding in itself. The rituals of making order his thinking.

and to celebrate an artist’s achievements. We can also have a sense

They set the conditions in which structure and mess are in equilibrium,

of a life’s work, of a life spent working, of an artist who, quite early

in which elements can swim into focus out of the babble of his

on in his career, found a set of tools, materials and ideas that he could

internal dialogue. Making absorbs him, but he is not self-absorbed.

do something with. And so, armed with this palette, he goes to work

His purpose is not to remove himself from the world, rather, as he is

each day and endlessly reworks and reinvents his oeuvre. In this way,

drawn inwards by the practice of his work, so he experiences a deeper

individual pieces cease to be regarded as finished works, but simply

connection outwards, towards the world. Craft making emphasizes the

as resting points, parts of a larger work in progress, something that is

importance of repetition, learned anticipation and slow revision; the way

never completed. There is something deeply moving about that idea.

that practice engenders attentiveness; the incremental embodiment of tacit knowledge, and the give and take of working with material.

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left Michael in his studio, 2012

Biography Michael Brennand-Wood M.A. F.R.S.A.

Exhibitions 1975 Peterloo Gallery Group Exhibition, Manchester 1976 Peterloo Gallery Group Exhibition, Manchester 1977 Flags and other Projects, Royal Festival Hall, London 1978 3rd International Exhibition of Miniature Textiles, British Crafts Centre, London plus world tour 1979 Thread Collages, Crafts Advisory Committee Gallery London, Temple Newsam House Leeds, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge, Prescote Gallery Banbury, two-person show with Caroline Broadhead Approaches to Fabric & Colour, Midland Group Gallery Nottingham, with Stephenie Bergman and Rushton Aust Meet the Craftsmen – Textile Tour, organized by Crafts Advisory Committee, with Roger Oates, Susan Rangeley, Kaffe Fasset and Geraldine St. Aubyn Hubbard Group exhibition, Prescote Gallery Banbury 1980 Recent Works in Paint, Timber and Thread 1978–1980, Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester (solo) Six British Craftsmen of Distinction, Art Latitude Gallery New York (USA) with Caroline Broadhead, Jane Bruce, Jill Crowley, Nuala Jamison and Michael Rowe Michael Brennand-Wood: Textile Constructions, Gardner Centre Gallery University of Sussex, John Hansard Gallery University of Southampton (solo) Fourth International Exhibition of Miniature Textiles, British Crafts Centre London plus world tour Exempla, International Handwerks Messe Munich (D), World Crafts Council Conference, Vienna (A) Prescote in London, Warwick Arts Trust, London 1981 Textile Constructions, South Hill Park Arts Centre Bracknell Berkshire (solo) British Ceramics and Textiles, British Council/Crafts Council, Knokke-Heist (B)

1982 Fabric and Form: New Textile Art from Britain, British Council/Crafts Council touring exhibition, Crafts Council Gallery London and Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Zimbabwe tour (exhibitor, organizer and selector) The Maker’s Eye, Crafts Council, London (exhibitor and selector) Textile Constructions, Ceolfrith Gallery, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art Sunderland and Sunderland Arts Centre Tyne and Wear (solo) Stitchery, British Crafts Centre, London British Needlework, The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (J), and The National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (J) Aspects, London, with Helena ZakrzewskaRucinska Group Exhibition, Prescote Gallery Banbury 1983 Textile Department Exhibition, Goldsmiths College Gallery London 1984 Galerie van Kranendonk, Den Haag (NL) with Danielle Keunen Fibre Focus, Meat Market Craft Centre Melbourne (Aus) Three Interiors, Barbican Arts Centre London, organized by Aspects Gallery 1985 5th International Triennial of Tapestry, Central Museum of Textiles Lodz (P) Drawings and Mixed Media Work, The Oast Room Gallery Cambridge (solo) Textiles Plus, Royal Museum Canterbury Internationale Kunsthandwerkausstellung Burgdorf, Burgdorf (S) Ceramics and Wall Tapestries, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge Craft Matters – 3 attitudes to contemporary craft, John Hansard Gallery Southampton, Royal Museum Canterbury, Fitzwilliam Museum Cambridge 1986 Threads: International Festival of Textiles, Aldeburgh Suffolk, The Maltings Snape Westminster Gallery Boston (USA) International Contemporary Art Fair, Olympia, London

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3D, Oast Room Gallery, Cambridge (solo) Stitched Textile for Interiors – Contemporary Wall-Hung Textiles by Professional Embroiderers, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) London 1987 International Textile Competition, The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (J) Wall to Wall – Textiles for Interiors, Cornerhouse Manchester, The Minories Colchester, John Hansard Gallery Southampton, Camden Arts Centre London, Mappin Art Gallery Sheffield, Smith Art Gallery Stirling, Usher Gallery Lincoln Cleveland UK – 8th International Drawing Biennale, Cleveland County Council, Cleveland Gallery Middlesbrough, Oriel Cardiff, Derby Museum and Art Gallery, Camden Arts Centre London, The Castle Museum Norwich 1988 Contemporary British Crafts, The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (J) and Crafts Gallery, The National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo (J) in co-operation with the British Council New Art Forms, Navy Pier Chicago (USA), organized by the Crafts Council Working on the Edge, Turnpike Gallery Leigh (solo) The Art of Lego, Wrexham Arts Centre Wrexham and tour Sotheby’s Decorative Arts Award, Sotheby’s London, Seibu Department Store Tokyo (J) Tamworth National Fibre Exhibition, Tamworth City Gallery (Aus) Group Exhibition, Edinburgh Festival Edinburgh, organized by Prescote Gallery Oxford 1989 International Textile Competition, Kyoto National Museum of Modern Art (J) Solo Exhibition, Roz MacAllan Gallery, Brisbane (Aus) (solo) Textiles, Bonington Gallery Nottingham, with Annie Sherburne, Jo Budd and Kate Russell Group Exhibition, Gallery Ra Amsterdam (NL) 9th Tamworth National Fibre Exhibition 1990, Tamworth City Gallery (Aus) and tour Not Another Archibald: Contemporary Portraits, Roz MacAllan Gallery, Brisbane (Aus) Assembled Art, Centre Gallery Surfers Paradise (Aus)


1990 Reliefs, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) (solo) Chasing Shadows, Gallery Gallery Kyoto (J) (solo) Looking East, Koblenz (D), Norwich Castle Museum, and tour 1991 The Banqueting Table, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) Paper the Third Dimension, Aberystwyth Arts Centre In Our Hands – an International Competition, Nagoya Trade and Industry Centre Nagoya (J) Paper Works, Canberra Institute of Arts (Aus) (solo) Hall Of Dreams, Cleveland Crafts Centre, Tullie House Carlisle 1992 Out of the Frame, Crafts Council Gallery London, Mercer Art Gallery Harrogate, Herbert Art Gallery and Museum Coventry, Aberystwyth Art Centre, Plymouth City Gallery, Peter Scott Gallery Lancaster 3rd International Betonac Prize, Provinciaal Museum Hasselt (B), TextilMuseet Böras (S), KB-Galerij Brussel (B), Textilmuseum St. Gallen (S), Museu Textil I de la Indumentaria Barcelona (E) The 3rd Dimension, London Contemporary Art International Textile Competition, The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (J) In Context, Embroiderers’ Guild Hampton Court Palace London 1993 Flexible I – Pan European Art, Oberfrankenhalle Bayreuth (D), Nederlands Textiel Museum Tilburg (NL), Quarry Bank Mill Wilmslow, Galeria Awangarda Wroclaw (P) Royal Society of Arts London (solo) Visions of Craft, Crafts Council touring, CC Collection Fibre Arts, Landcommanderij Alden Biesen Bilzen (B) with Marian Bijlenga, Cathérine de Launoit, Maggie Henton, Nance O’Bannion Kant Textile Kunsten, Poperinge (B) Material Evidence, Waikato Museum of Art and History Hamilton (NZ) (solo) Gift for Valentines, Crafts Council Shop at the V&A, London 1994 A Faint Touch of Fragility, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) (solo) New Works, Primavera Cambridge (solo) A New Century in Design: An Exhibition of

Contemporary European Arts and Crafts, Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum, Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Art, Koriyama City Museum of Art, Fukuoka Prefectural Museum of Art, Hokkaido Hakodate Museum of Art, Kumamoto Prefectural Museum of Art, The Niigata Prefectural Museum of Modern Art Art-Net-Work, Museum voor Sierkunst, Gent (B), with Betty Cuykx, Jacques Lortet and Lucie Schenker What is Embroidery? Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester Maker’s Eye, Chelsea Crafts Fair London Showcase, Crafts Council Shop London Midsummer Art Show, Milton Keynes Craft Guild Milton Keynes 1995 The Jerwood Art for Architecture, RSA London 3rd In Our Hands – Mixed Media, Small Scale and 3-Dimensional Works, Nagoya Trade & Industry Center (J) Art-Net-Work, Museum voor Sierkunst Gent (B) Working with Paper, Bury St. Edmunds’ Art Gallery, and UK tour Primavera – Pioneering Craft & Design 1945–95, Shipley Art Gallery and Fitzwilliam Cambridge UK tour Art of the Stitch, Embroiderers’ Guild, Art Gallery Commonwealth Institute London, Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester Critics’ Choice, Scottish Gallery Edinburgh Idea & Image: An Exhibition of Contemporary Textiles, The Arts Workshop Newbury Unlaced Grace, Banbury Museum, City Art Gallery Southampton, Abingdon Museum Oxfordshire 1996 Material Evidence: Improvisations on a Historical Theme, Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester, Midlands Arts Centre Birmingham, Usher Gallery Lincoln (solo) New Works, CIAP Gallery, Hasselt (B) (solo) Recycling – Forms for the Next Century – Austerity for Posterity, A Craftspace Touring Exhibition, Crafts Council Gallery London, and UK tour Under Construction, Crafts Council Gallery London, and UK tour Flexible 2 – Pan European Art, Nederlands Textiel Museum Tilburg (NL), Galeria Awangarda Wroclaw (P), Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester Gestaltendes Handwerk, Munich (D)

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4th International Betonac Prize (B), Textilmuseum St. Gallen (S), Museum of Decorative Arts Prague (Czech Republic), Odder Museum (DK) Former Prize Winners of the Betonac Prize 1-2-3, O.C.M.W. Kapel, Sint-Truiden (B) Barely a Stitch, Royal Museum and Art Gallery Canterbury Take It From Here: Recent Purchases, Contemporary Art Society, and Sunderland Embroidery, Rufford Craft Centre Nottinghamshire Hang It, The Brewery Kendal Cumbria Beyond the Bounds, Manchester Metropolitan University and UK tour 1997 Jerwood Prize for Applied Arts – Textiles, Crafts Council, London Art of the Stitch, Embroiderers’ Guild, Barbican Arts Centre London, Cliffe Castle Keighley West Yorkshire Traditions, Embroiderers’ Guild, Barbican Arts Centre London and UK tour Textiles Works, Galerie Hilde Metz, Antwerpen (B) Basket, Piece Hall Art Gallery Halifax Universal Themes – Investigating and Understanding, Drumcroon Education Art Centre Wigan Colour Ways, The Bank Gallery, Chobham 1998 Cloth of Gold, Contemporary Applied Arts London Showcase, Contemporary Applied Arts London The Challenge of Constraint, The Opera House Tel Aviv (I) and UK tour Reclaimed, Acclaimed: New Works in Recycled Design, Craftspace Touring, Midlands Arts Centre Birmingham and UK tour Collecting Craft, Hove Museum and Art Gallery 1999 You Are Here, Bankfield Museum and Piece Hall Art Gallery Halifax (solo) Twelve Dreams within The Here and Now, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) (solo) Weaving the World – Contemporary Art of Linear Construction, Yokohama Museum of Art (J) Contemporary International Basketmaking, Crafts Council Gallery London, Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester Art of the Stitch, Embroiderers’ Guild, Barbican Centre London New Works, Oxford Gallery Oxford


top (l–r) Chasing Shadows Exhibition 1990 Gallery Gallery, Japan Material Evidence Exhibition 1996 Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (UK) Transformations Exhibition 2005 Austrailia New Works 1996 CIAP Gallery, Belgium

2000 You Are Here, Hove Art Gallery (solo) SOFA, Chicago (USA), organized by the Crafts Council London 5th International Betonac Prize, Sint Trudien (B), tour Vizo Gallery, Brussels (B) 2001 You Are Here, The Pearoom Lincoln and Beverley Art Gallery East Riding (solo) Lace – Contemporary Perspectives, Perth International Arts Festival (AUS) and tour Meister der Moderne, 53rd International Crafts Fair Munich (D) Chinese Whispers, Study Gallery Poole Stars Underfoot, Wysing Arts Bourn Crossing Borders, The Southern Arts Museum Bergen (N) Maskerade, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) Contemporary Applied Arts London 2002 You Are Here, Storey Gallery Lancaster (solo) Stars Underfoot, Bankfield Museum Halifax (solo) Chasing Shadows, Drumcroon Wigan (solo) Primavera, Cambridge (solo) Art in the Frame, Jersey (solo) Pattern Crazy, Crafts Council Gallery London Kunst Rai, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) (solo) Weaving Stories, City Arts Centre Edinburgh (tour) 2003 The Kanazawa World Craft Forum, Invitational Exhibition (J) What Is Craft? The Hub Sleaford Ormeau Baths Gallery, Belfast (solo) Contemporary Applied Arts London Sample, Embroiderers’ Guild, Williamson Art Gallery and Museum Birkenhead, Hall Place Kent, Tilburg (NL) Stars Underfoot, The Pearoom Lincs. Chendrit School, Oxfordshire (solo) 2004 A Field of Centres, Harley Gallery, The Gallery Ruthin Craft Centre, tour (solo) International Textile Art, Ormeau Baths Gallery Belfast (J) Art Embroidery, Pfaff, Knitting & Stitching Show London COLLECT, V&A Museum, London (solo) Rush, Grace Barrard Design Centre Surrey SOFA, Chicago (USA)

2005 Transformations: The Language of Craft, National Gallery of Australia (AUS) Art Embroidery, Pfaff, Knitting & Stitching Show London Revealed, Nottingham Castle Museum Drumcroon North West, Survey Exhibition Flower Power, Scottish Gallery Edinburgh Gilt Trips, Galerie Ra, Amsterdam (NL) (solo) COLLECT, Grace Barrard Design Centre, V&A Museum, London A Field of Centres, The Gallery, Ruthin Craft Centre Axis Gallery, Tokyo Japan Grace Barrard Design Centre, Surrey 2006 Radiant, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) Art of the Stitch, Embroiderers’ Guild Royal West of England Academy Bristol, The Hub Sleaford, Williamson Art Gallery and Museum Birkenhead Depth of Field, MAC Birmingham Gilt Trip, Grace Barrand Design Centre Surrey (solo) 2007 Pricked – Extreme Embroidery, Museum of Arts and Design New York Finding Lost Values, Cheongju International Craft Biennale Korea Die Blume, Galerie Handwerk Munich Traditional Skills, New Thinking, Bury St. Edmunds Art Gallery Still Life, Art Embroidery, Pfaff, Knitting & Stitching Show London Hue, Line and Form, Contemporary Applied Art London Bradford City Art Gallery and Museums A Field of Centres, Millennium Galleries Sheffield (solo) A Field of Centres, Brewery Arts Centre Kendal (solo) COLLECT, The Grace Barrand Design Centre, V&A Museum, London 2008 West Meets West, Velvet da Vinci San Francisco, Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool Art of the Stitch, Embroiderers’ Guild, The Waterhall Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery Inside Out, Wysing Arts Centre Bourn Contemporary Craft to Go, Hove Museum & Art Gallery

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COLLECT, The Gallery, Ruthin Craft Centre, V&A Museum, London Cloth and Culture NOW, Sainsbury Centre Norwich, Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester Reclaiming Beauty, The Devon Guild of Craftsmen Opening Exhibition, Wysing Arts Centre Bourn 2009 Thread Baring, UWM Union Gallery University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee USA Through an Eye Brightly, Circus/CAA London (solo) Select at COLLECT, Saatchi Gallery London Vase Attacks, Velvet da Vinci San Francisco (solo) Beyond Pattern, Oriel Davies Gallery Pretty Deadly, The Naughton Gallery at Queens, Belfast Festival (solo) Stroud International Textiles Festival Love Handle’s, CAA London 2010 Men of Cloth, Waterside Arts Centre, Sale, Manchester COLLECT, Bluecoat Display Centre Liverpool, Saatchi Gallery London ...Bending More Lines, 62 Group Exhibition, Museum Rijswijk, Netherlands The Honey Bee and the Hive curated by Wendy Ramshaw for CAA London Vase Attacks, Galerie Ra Amsterdam (NL) (solo) Frame, Munich, Galerie Ra 2011 Lost in Lace, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery Ra Presents, Galerie Ra Amsterdam BITE-SIZE, The Daiwa Foundation London Made to Last, Salisbury International Arts Festival Collected, Bluecoat Display Centre Liverpool COLLECT, Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool, Saatchi Gallery, London 2012 Forever Changes, Ruthin Craft Centre Wales (solo) Beauty is the First Test, Pumphouse Gallery Battersea Park London Badges and Buttons – Waistcoats and Vests, Velvet da Vinci San Francisco COLLECT, Bluecoat Display Centre Liverpool, Saatchi Gallery, London Modern Masters 2012, International Trade Fair Munich (D)


Commissions 1975 Ilkestone County Council, Two large wall hangings for Law Courts 1976 John Siddeley International Ltd, London 1980 Cheshire County Council – Meredith Centre Crewe, 27 Ceiling and 2 Wall Panels 1984 Cumins International, Memphis (USA) 1987 LRC International, Board Room Head Office London 1988 Michael Peters Group plc, London Lego, Head Quarters Wrexham 1989 St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Screen, Brisbane Australia, commissioned by Robin Gibson Automobile Association, Head Office Basingstoke 1992 Thornden Country Park, Visitors Centre Essex Australian United Foods, Head Office Brisbane (Aus) Tabor High School, Floor and Ceiling Installation, Essex, commissioned by Essex County Council 1994 Dorset County Council, Dorset Newbury Corn Exchange, commissioned through the Newbury Arts Workshop, District Council and Southern Arts 1996 Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norway BUPA, London Head Office Direct Line, Glasgow Restaurant PowerGen, Head Office Betonac, Head Office St.Truiden (B) 1997 Conquest Hospital, Floor design Surgical Unit Hastings Peters Hill School, Stourbridge 1998 Church Langley School Essex, Series of related architectural artworks 1999 Ocean, Music Venue, Hackney, London Four related installation works 2000 Bankfield Museum, Halifax 2002 Study Gallery, Poole Dorset 2004 Royal Aberdeen, Children’s Hospital, 2 site specific kinetic works 2004 East Winter Garden, Canary Wharf Group PLC 2007 Yorkshire Cancer Centre, Leeds 2008 Bristol Colston Hall 2010 Queen’s University Library, Belfast Plymouth Hospitals, NHS Trust 2012 Specialist Crafts, Leicester

Awards 1977 Birmingham Polytechnic Award 1978 New Craftsmen Grant, Crafts Advisory Committee 1980 Medallist, Munich Exempla Exhibition, Germany 1984 Artist in Residence Travel Award, Western Australia Institute of Technology Perth 1987 Winner of the Creative Concept Award, International Textile Competition, Kyoto (J) Canada Council Artist in Residence Travel Award 1988 British Council Exhibition Grant, Australia British Council Travel Award, Japan Major Award, Visual Arts/Crafts Board of the Australian Council 1989 Winner of the Fine Art Award, International Textile Competition, Kyoto (J) 1990 Distinguished Visiting Fellow, British Council, City University, Kyoto (J) Art for Architecture, Royal Society of Arts, London 1992 1st Prize Winner, 3rd International Betonac Prize (B) 1993 Travel Award, Queen Elizabeth II Arts Council of New Zealand 1994 Research Grant, Art and Architecture – Architecture in Schools Project, Eastern Arts Board 1999 Grant, Eastern Arts Board 2000 Year of the Artist, Eastern Arts Board, in conjunction with photographer James Austin 2001 Arts and Humanities Research Board (AHRB) Fellowship in the Creative and Performing Arts in conjunction with the University of Ulster 2002 Harley Gallery, Welbeck Foundation Notts., 6 months Artist in Residence 2003 Crafts Council Travel Grant Japanese Gallery Research 2003 University of Ulster Travel Research Award, Kanazawa 2003 Embroiderers’ Guild Exhibition Development Grant 2004 Crafts Council Travel Grant for SOFA, Chicago USA 2004 Crafts Council Travel Grant Japanese Gallery Research 2005 Visiting Professorship, Manchester Metropolitan University NHS Grampian for Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital (awarded Saltie Art in Architecture Prize) 2007 Fine Art Award, Pfaff Art Embroidery, Still Life

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Consultancies 1992 Tabor High School Essex, Art Consultant 1994 Cardiff Bay, Art Consultant 1997 New Music Venue Central Hall Trust, Hackney, Consultant Artist Church Langley School Essex, Art Consultant 2000 International Centre for Embroidery, Manchester, Embroiderers Guild, Consultant Artist 2004–2008 Colston Hall, Bristol, Lead Artist Curatorial 1982 The Maker’s Eye, Crafts Council Gallery, Selector Fabric & Form, Crafts Council & British Council, Curator 1992 Restless Shadows: Japanese Fibre Exhibition, Curator, Goldsmiths College, Edinburgh College of Art, Bluecoat Liverpool, Howard Garden Gallery Cardiff, John Hansard Gallery Southampton, SCVA Norwich, Cleveland Gallery Middlesbrough, Tullie House Carlisle 1995 Idea & Image, Newbury Festival, Selector 1996 Artextiles – a major survey of British art textiles, Bury St. Edmunds Art Gallery, Selector 2001 Chinese Whispers, Study Gallery Poole Dorset, Curator 2002 Textiles International Open Exhibition Ormeau Baths Gallery Belfast, Selector 2005 Call and Response, Creative Exhibitions, Harrogate Publications (selected) 1982 The Maker’s Eye, Crafts Council, Essay Fabric & Form, Crafts Council & British Council, Essay 1992 Restless Shadows, Goldsmiths Gallery, Catalogue Essay 1995 Idea & Image, Newbury Festival, Essay 1997 Traditions, Embroiderers’ Guild, Barbican Arts Centre, Introductory Essay 1999 You Are Here, Monograph 2003 Sample, Embroiderers’ Guild 2004 Field of Centres, Monograph 2004 Rock, Raphia, Linen, Lead catalogue, essay for Sue Lawty, Bankfield Museum 2004 Jaarboek 2004 Pigmenten En Pixels In De Spotlights’, essay, Stitching Textielcommissie Nederlands 2005 Transformations, National Gallery of Australia 2005 Reveal, Nottingham Castle Museum 2005 Matthew Harris: Trace Elements, catalogue essay, Black Swan Gallery and tour


top (l–r) Field of Centres Exhibition 2007 Millennium Galleries, Sheffield Commission 1992 Thornden Country Park, Essex Commission 2004 Canary Wharf, London Commission 2004 (detail) Canary Wharf, London overleaf Maid of Sugar Maid of Spice 1994

2009 Pretty Deadly, Naughton Gallery, Queen’s University, Belfast, Catalogue Essay 2010 Machine Stitch Perspectives, A&C Black, contributor Committees 1979–1980 Textile Exhibition Committee, Midland Group 1981–1982 Slide Index Committee, Crafts Council 1981–1982 Selection Committee, Gulbenkian Print Awards 1983–1984 Texstyles Advisory Committee, Crafts Council 1985–1988 Exhibition Committee, Crafts Council 1988–1991 Visual Arts Committee, Eastern Arts Association 1990 Chelsea Crafts Fair, Selector 1991–1993 Public Art Advisory Committee, Eastern Arts Board 1991–1997 Visual & Media Committee, Eastern Arts Board 1993–1998 Fellowship in Critical Writing, Advisory Committee, Eastern Arts Board, Board Member, Commissions East 1998–1999 The Year of the Artist, Advisory Committee, Eastern Arts Board International Residencies (selected) 1984 Western Australia Institute of Technology Perth (Aus) 1987 Textile Ceramics Glass and Furniture Studios Sheridan College, Toronto (Can) 1988 Visual Arts & Crafts Board of the Australian Council, Brisbane (Aus) 1990 Visiting Fellowship British Council, Kyoto City University of the Arts (J) 1991 Canberra Institute of the Arts, (Aus) Curtin University, Perth (Aus) Hobart Art School, Tasmania (Aus) 1993 Waikato Polytechnic, Hamilton (NZ) 2000 Israel 2001 Australia and New Zealand Bergen, Norway 2005 Australia and New Zealand Symposia/Conferences (selected) 2004 Amsterdam Curators Conference Textile Symposium, Celebrating Diversity in Stitch, Ruthin Craft Centre 2005 Sign Posts to a New Space – Concept, Collection, Collation, Symposium Harrogate Conference Centre

Teaching & Lecturing (selected) 1977– Visiting Lecturer at national and international universities, including Royal College of Art, Middlesex University, Winchester School of Art, University of Central England, Glasgow School of Art, Loughborough College, University of Ulster, Trent Polytechnic, Cardiff Art College, Manchester University, Gray’s School of Art Aberdeen, Curtin University Perth (Aus), Canberra Institute of the Arts (Aus) 1977–1983 Goldsmiths College, University of London, Part-time lecturer 1983–1989 Goldsmiths College, University of London, Senior lecturer 1989–1990 Goldsmiths College, University of London, Part-time lecturer 2011 Visiting Lecturer, Maiwa Textile Symposium, Vancouver, Canada Examining 1979–1990 1981–1985 1982–1986 1986–1988 1986–1989 1990–1994 1995–1997 1998–2001 1998–2001 1999–2002 2000–2004 2001–2004

Goldsmiths College, BA Textiles Trent Polytechnic, BA Textiles Glasgow School of Art, BA Textiles Birmingham Polytechnic, BA Textiles Middlesex Polytechnic, BA Textiles Ulster University, MA Textiles University of Central England, BA Textiles Middlesex University, BA Textiles Bath, BA Textiles University of Central England, BA Textiles University of Hertfordshire, BA Fine & Applied Arts University of Hertfordshire, MA Fine & Applied Arts

Collections (in alphabetical order) ABN Amro Bank, Holland AKZO-Nobel Art Foundation Holland Automobile Association Bedfordshire County Council Betonac St.Truiden, Belgium BUPA Canberra Institute of Arts, Australia Calderdale Council (Bankfield Museum) Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Norway Conoco Ltd Contemporary Art Society

189

Crafts Council Cummins International, Memphis, USA Curtin University, Perth, Australia Direct Line, Glasgow Dorset LEA Embroiderers’ Guild Gallery of Western Australia Gadens Ridgeway Robin Gibson Architects Brisbane, Australia Hertfordshire LEA Hewlett Packard Hotel Granvia Kyoto (J) Hove Museum and Art Gallery Kyoto City University of Arts (J) Meat Market, Melbourne (Aus) Milby School, Nuneaton Moorelands Sixth Form Centre, Cheadle, Staffordshire National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto (J) National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (Aus) Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Nottingham Castle Museum OFSTED PowerGen Powerhouse Museum, Sydney (Aus) PricewaterhouseCoopers Prior’s Court School Queensland Art Gallery (Aus) Queensland College of Art (Aus) Roade School Northampton Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead Softlab UK Somerset LEA Southern Arts St. Peters School Stourbridge Study Gallery Poole, Dorset Tamworth Gallery 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (J) Victoria & Albert Museum Waikato Polytechnic (NZ) Westwood High School, Leek, Staffordshire Whitworth Art Gallery Woolenwick School Stevenage Wysing Arts


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MacDonald, Juliette, Pretty Deadly: New work by Michael Brennand-Wood, Textile: The Journal of Cloth and Culture (Berg) Volume 8 Issue 3 2010 Page 372–377 Margetts, Martina, Contemporary British Crafts, (National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto and National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo) 1988 Introduction Margetts, Martina (editor), International Crafts (Thames & Hudson, London) 1991 Page 68 Margetts, Martina, Review: Restless Shadows: Japanese Fibreworks, Crafts July/August 1992 Page 48–9 Maskerade, The Gallery, Ruthin Craft Centre, 2002 Mason, Paul, Directions in Art: Textiles, 2003 Page 8–11 McBrinn, Dr Joseph, Review: Men of Cloth, Embroidery Nov/Dec 2010 Page 56/57 McBrinn, Dr Joseph, Perspective Nov/Dec 2008 The Royal Society of Architects Page 76–79 McBrinn, Dr Joseph, Pretty Deadly, (University of Ulster) 2009 McBrinn, Dr Joseph, Readymade Redux, Selvedge March/April 2012 Page 56–58 McFadden, David Revere, Pricked – extreme embroidery (Museum of Arts and Design, New York) 2007 Page 36/37 McKeating, Jane & Alice Kettle, Machine Stitch Perspectives (A&C Black) 2010 Page 120–135 Meat Market Craft Centre, North Melbourne, Fibre Focus Exhibition Catalogue, 1984 Page 7 Meet the Craftsmen Tour Catalogue, Crafts Advisory Committee, 1979 Metro Yorkshire, Field of Centres: New Textiles, Wednesday, 24 January, 2007 Midlands Arts Centre, Reclaimed Acclaimed, 1998 Midland Group, Approaches to Fabric and Colour, Nottingham, 1979 Millar, Professor Lesley, Bite-Size (University for the Creative Arts), 2011 Page 24/25, 117 Millar, Professor Lesley, Cloth and Culture NOW (University College for the Creative Arts) 2007 Page 150–153 Millar, Professor, Lesley, Lost in Lace: Transparent Boundaries (Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery) 2012 Page 36–39, 114 Millar, Professor Lesley, Radical Thread, The 62 Group Page 9, 26–27 Millar, Professor Lesley, The Social Network, Lost in Lace, Embroidery Sept/Oct 2011 Page 44/45 Milton Keynes, Mid-Summer Art Show, 1994 Moore, Christopher, Threads of fancy, Arts: The Press, Christchurch 8 August 2001 Museum of Arts and Design, Pricked – extreme embroidery, 2007 Page 36/37 Museum of Modern Art Finland, Miniatures 2000 Nagoya Trade and Industry Centre, In Our Hands, An International Competition, 1991 Page 48/49 National Gallery of Australia, Artonview, Transformations, Summer 2005–6 Page 16 National Gallery of Australia, Transformations: The Language of Craft 2006 Page 3, 92 National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto and National Museum of Modern Art Tokyo, Contemporary British Crafts, 1988 Introduction Page 48/49, 127 Nederlands Textielmuseum, Flexible 1 Pan-European Art, 1993 Nederlands Textielmuseum, Flexible 2 Pan-European Art, 1996 Page 17 New Zealand Herald, English Artist’s work all-consuming, April 27, 1993 Page 9 North West Textile Forum Conference, Whitworth Art Gallery Sept 2000 Page 26 Northern Tasmania This Week, Fabric and Form Exhibition, Page 10 Northlands Creative Glass, 10th International Masterclasses and Conference, September 2006, The Skilful Hand and Eye: Michael Brennand-Wood Norwich Castle Museum, Looking East, 1990 Nottingham City Council, Revealed, Nottingham’s Contemporary

Textiles 2005 Page 11–13, 36–37 Nos Plus Belles Histoires Brodées, 1999 Ocean Music Trust, Christmas 1999 Ofsted Standard, Issue 6, With our Arts in the right place, June 1995 Oriel Davies Gallery, Beyond Pattern, 2009 Page 26/27, 54 Ormeau Baths Gallery, International Textile Art Biannual Open 2004 Ormeau Baths Gallery, The Gaps Between, International Textile Biannual 2002 Orna, Bernard, Review: Fabric and Form, Craft Quarterly Autumn 1982 Page 20/21 Ormeau Baths Gallery, Autumn/Winter Programme, 2002/03 Packer, William, The Maker’s Eye: The case for the crafts, The Financial Times, January 6 1982 Papaluca, Maria, Review: Fabric and Form, Craft West (Crafts Council of Western Australia) June 1983 page 14/15 Paeringe: Kant + Textiele Kunsten Internationale Prijs, Happeland 1993 Page 11 Pattern Crazy, Crafts Council Gallery, 2002 Petherbridge, Deanna, Art for Architecture (The Jerwood Art for Architecture Award) 1990 Page 12–22 Pfaff, Art Embroidery, A Wide Focus on New Territories 2004 Page 7 Pfaff, Art Embroidery Portrait Gallery, 2005 Page 21 Pfaff, Art Embroidery Still Life, 2007 Page 8, 14/15 Poole Arts Council Action PAC, March 2001, Chinese Whispers at The Study Gallery Prema Art Centre Gloucestershire, Fibre Optic, 1992 Racz, Imogen, Contemporary Crafts (Berg) 2009 Page 13, 52/53 Rae, Janet, Review: Weaving Stories, Embroidery March/April 2003 Page 46 Regan, Michael, Once Upon a Time Exhibition Review, Crafts, March/ April 1976 RIBA, London 10, Directory of Chartered Practices 2010 Page 146 RIBA Eastern Region Yearbook, Art for Architecture Award 1990, Page 48/49 Richards, Michael, Review: Michael Brennand-Wood, Roz MacAllan Gallery, Brisbane, The Courier Mail 7 Feb 1989 Roach, Peter, Art News, Vogue Australia Sept 1983 Robson, Pat, What Defines Textiles?, Craft & Design (Craftsman Magazine) Sept/Oct 2008 Page 46/47, 199 Roux, Caroline, Crafts Council @40 Lost in Lace, Sept/Oct 2011 Page 104–107 Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital Arts Project, 2004 Royal College of Art Schools Technology Project, ROUTES Design Technology 14–16 (Hodder & Stoughton) Page 26/27 Royal Northern College of Music, Michael Brennand-Wood: Recent Works in Paint, Timber and Thread, 27 Sept – 25 Oct 1980 RSA: Art for Architecture, Essex School Project Wins Award, Press Release, 1990 RSA Art for Architecture, Michael Brennand-Wood, Inlaid wood floor, 1992 RSA: Art for Architecture, The Jerwood Art for Architecture Award, 1995 Page 13 RSA Journal, Art in the Vaults, November 1993, Page 3/4 Ruthin Craft Centre, Field of Centres, 2004 Ryan, Andrew, Crafts Sept/Oct 1995, Page 17–19 Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Exhibitions Jan–June 2008, Cover Salisbury International Arts Festival, Made to Last June 2011 Sanders, Jennifer, Review: Fabric and Form, Crafts NSW August 1983 Page 6/7 Sanders, Jennifer, Tamworth National Fibre, Craft Arts Feb/April 1987 Page 36–40 Schamroth, Helen, Material Evidence, New Zealand Herald, 27 May 1993 Schoeser, Mary, Bucking the trend, Craft Arts International No 62 2004 Page 59–62

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Schoeser, Mary, Revealed, Nottingham’s Contemporary Textiles 2005 Page 36–37 Schoeser, Mary, Review: Under Construction, Crafts Jan/Feb 1997 Page 52/53 Scholastic, Junior Education, April 2002 Page 19 Scholastic Publications, Understanding Art Picture Pack, Slow Turning, 1993 Senshoku Alpha: Monthly Japanese Textile Magazine, No 203.2 1998 Page 50–53 Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, Guide Dec 2006–March 2007 Page 6 Sheffield Telegraph, Riot of colour made by flower power, Friday, 12 Jan 2007 Short, Susanna, Textile art acquires a wider dimension, Sydney Morning Herald Oct 1982 Shuttle, Spindle and Dyepot, Pricked – extreme embroidery, Winter 2007/8 Page 28 Sinclair, Carolyn, All Stitched Up, Embroidery March/April 2011 Page 16–21 Snell, Ted, Fabric forms base for fine art, craft, The Western Mail, Perth April 1–4 1983 SOFA Chicago 2004, 11th Annual International Exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Page 88 Spender, Michael, The World of Embroidery, You Are Here, Nov 1999 Page 374 South Bank Centre, Arts & Crafts to Avant Garde: 1880 – present day, 1992 South Hill Park Arts Centre, Bracknell, Exhibitions Programme, Autumn 1981 St Edwards Arts Festival, 28th June 1991 Sterk, Beatrijs, Lost in Lace, Textile Forum Magazine Dec 2011 Page 24–27 Stitching Textielcommissie Nederland, Jaarboek 2004 Page 30–34, 56/57 Storey Gallery, You Are Here: A retrospective of textile art, 2002 Stroud International Textile Festival May 2009 Diary Guide Page 16/17 Surface Design, Summer 2006 Page 7 Surface Design, UK Surfaces, Summer 2006 Page 6–7 Sutton, Ann, British Craft Textiles, William Collins Sons & Co, 1985 Page 62 Tamworth City Gallery, 8th Tamworth National Fibre Exhibition, 1988 Tamworth City Gallery, 9th Tamworth National Fibre Exhibition, 1990 Page 10, 12, 37 Textiel Plus, February 2001 Page 6/7 Textile Constructions, Gardner Gallery, University of Sussex and John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton, 1980 Textile Fibre Forum, Michael Brennand-Wood: Artist in residence, 1989 No 25 Page 34/35 Textile Forum Magazine, 4 1996 Page 27/29 Textile Forum Magazine, June 2004 Page 28–29 Textile Forum Magazine, 2 2004, Cover, Page 29 The 62 Group of Textile Artists: Bending the Line, 2009 The 62 Group of Textile Artists: The Challenge of Constraint, 1998 The Anvil, Basingstoke, January – April 2003, Makers’ Talks: In The Forge The Anvil, Basingstoke, Makers’ Talks Second Series, 2003/4 The Art Almanac, Sydney Brisbane Canberra Gallery Magazine, Summer 1989 Cover The Art Gallery Scene Exhibition Guide, New York, Art Latitude, 1980 The Arts Workshop Newbury, Idea and Image, 1995 The Crafts Galleries Guide, 2007 The ETN Conference and Textile Celebration, Whitworth Art Gallery, Specialist Uses of Textile Collections by Artists, 1996 The Hub, Bending the Line, a collaboration with the 62 Group of Textile Artists, 2009 The Hub, The Centre for Craft, Design and Making, What is Craft? 2003 Page 20 The Knitting and Stitching Show, You Are Here, 1999


top (l–r) Beyond Pattern Exhibition 2009 Oriel Davies Gallery, Powys Pretty Deadly Exhibition 2009 The Naughton Gallery, Queens University, Belfast Installation 1996 Belgium Cloth and Culture NOW Exhibition 2008 Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester below Michael with Little Black Egg, 2004

The Korea Post, Local autonomy: Cheongju Craft Biennale, October 2007 The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, British Needlework, 1982 Page 12–14 The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto 1988 and The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Contemporary British Crafts, 1989 Page 20,22, 48 The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, A New Century in European Design, 1994 Page 29, 46, 47, 48 The Opus Millennium Lectures, You Are Here, March 2004 The Peterloo Gallery, Manchester, Once Upon a Time Exhibition of artist craftsmen, Poster, 1 – 23 December 1976 The Poole Study Gallery, Chinese Whispers, 1999 The Poole Study Gallery, Chinese Whispers, 2001 The Times, The Knowledge, May 13–19, 2006 Page 37 The Western Mail, Perth, Fabric forms base for fine art, craft April 1–4 1983 Page 44 The Wharf, Artwork is a flight of fancy, August 18 2005 Page 11 The World Craft Forum, Kanazawa, Japan, Crafts Now – 21 artists each from America, Europe and Asia, 2003 Page 41 The World of Embroidery, Materials have a spirit: an artist looks back, Spring 1995 Cover, Page 12–15 The World of Embroidery Calendar 2000, September The World of Embroidery, July 1998 Cover, Page 190 The World of Interiors, July 2002 Page 130 Theophilus, Linda, Review: In Context, Embroidery Spring 1992 Page 42/43 Thread Collages, Crafts Advisory Committee Gallery, London, 1979 Threads: International Festival of Textiles, 1986, Page 7 Time Out, Review: Out of the Frame, Oct 21–28 1992 Page 47 Townsville Daily Bulletin, Take your time at textile exhibition, Queensland Art Gallery, 9 December 1982 Turner, Ralph, Paper: The Third Dimension, Aberystywth Arts Centre,1991 Page 10

West Dean College, Foundations of Tapestry and Textile Art, 27 Sept – 5 Nov 2012 Westmorland Gazette, September 13th 1996 Page 53 Whiting, David, Mapping Material Worlds, July 2001 Whitworth Art Gallery, Material Evidence: Improvisations on a historical theme, 1996 Whitworth Art Gallery, Friends, 37th Pilkington Lecture and Dinner, November 2005 Wilson, Ian, A Dialogue between Music and Art, Surface Design, Winter 2011 Page 32–35 Wilson, Ian, Bravely Botanical, Surface Design, Machine Embroidery Fall 2005 Page 30–33 Wilson Goode, Judy, Craft Context New Zealand July 1993 Wirksworth Festival Leaflet, 2003, St Marys Church World Craft Forum Executive Committee, Kanazawa, Crafts Now 2003 Page 41, 83 Wysing Arts, Artists at Wysing ’97, Exhibition 3rd–18th May Wysing Arts Programme, Stars Underfoot, August–Nov 2001 Page 4 Yokohama Museum of Art, Weaving the World, 1999 Page 48, 180 Yorkshire Museum, The Art of Lego Exhibition Leaflet, 1988

University of East Anglia, Ideas in the making: practise in theory 1998 University of Hertfordshire, Art Now: Again Public Lecture Series, Michael Brennand-Wood Material Evidence 1997–98 University of Hertfordshire Galleries, A Field of Centres, Margaret Harvey Gallery, St Albans, 2006 University of Ulster, Cultural Events Feb to July 2007 Cover University of Ulster, Cultural Events Dec 2007–Jan 2008 Cover University of Westminster, Public art in private places, Produced by the Corporate Communications Office, 1993 Covers Unlaced Grace, Banbury Museum, 1995 Upson, Nicola, Art for All, Art East Oct 1992 V&A, The Maker’s Perspective: Exploring Contemporary Craft, Study Day, 10 February 2007, Material Evidence Vizo Gallery, Strings-free expression with textile, 2000 Vogue Australia September 1983, Fabric and Form Wadsworth, Chris, Wear it! Hang it! Build it! Visual Arts UK North of England 1996 Page XV Waikato Museum of Art and History, Material Evidence, 2001 Walford Mill Craft Centre Newsletter, Chinese Whispers, January/March 2000 Walker, Audrey, Letters: Fabric and Form, Crafts Jan/Feb 1983 Page 8 Walker, Audrey, In Context, Embroidery Spring 1992 Page 34/5 Walker, Sue, Fabric and Form, Victorian Tapestry Workshop, Undated Wall to Wall, Textiles for Interiors 1987 Page 10 Waller, Irene, Fabric and Form, Fiberarts Nov/Dec 1982 Page 80/81 Waller, Keith, In Conversation with Michael Brennand-Wood, Art & Design Year 2009 (GTTR), Page 15–20 Waterside Arts Centre, Men of Cloth, 3 July – 4 Sept 2012 Weaving Stories (City of Edinburgh Council) 2002 Wereld Op Wielen, Wood met kant, 1997 Page 68 West Dean College, Crossings July 2012 West Dean College, Tapestry and Textile Art 08/09

195


List of Illustrations

p3 Charlemagne, 1978 Stitchery, collage, acrylic, wood, thread and fabric construction 35 x 35 x 4cm

p22 Doors of Perception, 1991 Cut paperback books and wax into wood relief 100 x 100 x 10cm Private Collection Belgium

p6–7 Underwater Moonlight, 1997 Inlaid fabric into painted wood base 120 x 220 x 4cm Private Collection UK

p23 Underwater Moonlight, 1997 Inlaid fabric into painted wood base 120 x 220 x 4cm Private Collection

p8–9 Seed of Memory, 1995 Inlaid fabric into painted wood base 120 x 350 x 5cm

p24 Babel, 2008 (see p135)

p10 Study for You Are Here Inlaid fabric into painted wood base 40 x 50 x 5cm p12 Art of the Stitch, 2008 Embroidery, acrylic, metal, fabric, needles on wood 90 x 90 x 10cm p13 Pretty Deadly, 2011 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, wire, fabric, glass on wood base 90 x 90 x 15cm p15 Flight Path, 2010 Machine embroidered blooms, real flowers, glass, acrylic, mosaic, collage, fabric on wood base 50 diam x 65cm deep p16 Babel, 2008 Embroidered blooms, wire, text, fabric, glass, ceramic, tile, resin, acrylic on wood base 90 x 90 x 60cm Collection of Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (UK) Facebook, 2011 Metal, wire, badges, acrylic on wood base 50 x 40 x 15cm p17 Flower Head-Narcissistic Butterfly, 2005 Machine embroidered blooms, mirror, wire, photographs, beads, fabric, thread and acrylic on wood panel 60 x 40 x 40cm p18–19 Unattributed Asante Bock Lace Blues, 1996 Inlaid fabric into painted wood panel 152 x 245cm Collection of Wysing Arts p20 El-Rayo X, 1981 (see p92) p21 Knee High, 1987 Stitchery, thread, fabric, metal, acrylic and wood construction 90 x 80 x 6cm Collection of Calderdale Council, Bankfield Museum (UK)

p25 Phial Bodies, 2008 (see p176) p26–27 What Goes On, 1995–6 Inlaid fabric into painted wood panel 250 x 185cm p28 Restored and Remixed, 2012 (see p144) p30 Consequence of Proximities All Night Flight, 2003 Embroidered flowers, acrylic, wire, fabric on wood panel 75 x 75 x 12cm

p36 Tunes of Glory, 2009 Machine embroidered blooms, wire, fabric, piano keyboard, resin, glass tile, badges and metal on wood panel 85 x 75 x 60cm Collection of Shipley Art Gallery (UK)

p48–49 Sefronia, 1979 Stitchery, thread, canvas, acrylic on wood panel 110 x 70 x 3cm Private Collection UK

Meddle – Memento Mori, 2012 Embroidery, acrylic, wire, fabric on metal base 90 x 35 x 5cm

p51 Michael Brennand-Wood, Australia residency, 1984

p38–39 Cassidy, 1979 Stitchery, acrylic, collage, wood, thread and fabric construction 73 x 73 x 10cm (courtesy of the Crafts Council) Private Collection UK

Wasn’t Born to Follow, 2004 Embroidered flowers, acrylic, wire, fabric, beads on wood panel 90 x 90 x 7cm

p42 27 Cubes, 1976 Wood, stain, found objects 33 x 33 x 33cm

Meddle – White Light, 2012 Embroidery, acrylic, wire, fabric on metal base 90 x 35 x 5cm p32–33 Lace: The Final Frontier, 2011 (working drawing) p34 Skull Cat Elf Brooch on background, 2008 Machine embroidered brooch, machine embroidered text, blooms, dominoes on wood panel 15 x 15 x 3cm Private Collection UK Transformer, 2012 (working drawing) p35 Lace: The Final Frontier, 2011 Metal, acrylic, resin, wall installation 300 x 200 x 20cm Celestial Music, 2009 (see p136–137)

Slow Turning, 1989 (see p102) p53 The Unguarded Moment, 1995 Stitchery, fabric collage, metal, wire, thread, acrylic and wood construction 100 x 100 x 12cm Collection of PowerGen (UK)

p40 Iridescent Pink and Blue, 1979 Stitchery, acrylic, collage on wood and canvas base 80 x 80 x 20cm

A Flag of Convenience – The Sky is Crying, 2011 (see p143)

Burst, 2009 Embroidered blooms, wire, fabric, acrylic and toy soldiers on wood panel 40 x 40 x 50cm Private Collection The Netherlands

p52 Paper Moon, 1988 Oil, acrylic, cane, thread, marble dust, collage on wood relief 130 x 200 x 35cm Collection of Garden Lawyers (AUS)

p37 Tunes of Glory, 2009 (see p36)

p41 Herringbone, 1974 Stitchery, metal, stain on wood base 40 x 40 x 8cm

p31 White Lace – Flag Day, 2006 Machine embroidered blooms, thread, toy soldiers, fabric, resin and acrylic on wood panel 85 x 85 x 10cm

p50 Clinker, 1983–84 (see p95)

p43 Charlemagne, 1978 (see p3)

White Crayola, 1978 (see p88) p44–45 Sleepless Nights aka Recycled Painting, 1978 Stitchery, collage, acrylic, wood, thread and fabric construction 80 x 225 x 10cm Collection of Cummins International Memphis (USA) p46 The Maker’s Eye catalogue cover, 1982 Broken English, 1981 Stitchery, collage, acrylic, wood, wire, and fabric construction 73 x 95 x 4cm Private Collection UK

p62 Stars Underfoot – Coloured Silence, 2001 Flowers, fabric and glass 120 x 120cm p63 Stars Underfoot – Bee Bee’s Blues, 2001 Flowers, fabric, glass and mosaic 120 x 120cm p64 Gilt – Trip, 2005 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, pencils, glass on wood panel 30 x 30 x 7cm Private Collection

Consequence of Proximities – Walls within Walls, 2003 Approx. 8,000 painted wood pixels on wood panel 75 x 75 x 12cm p65 The Birds the Word, 2004 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, glass, wire, fabric, in kinetic box 40 x 40 x 15cm

p72 Transformer, 2012 (see p145)

p74 Provenance, 2000 Museum accession label, cord, acrylic on wood base Commission: Calderdale Council, Bankfield Museum (UK) Feel Flows, 1996 Inlaid fabric into painted wood panel 120 x 300 x 5cm Collection of the Crafts Council London (UK) p75 Provenance, 2000 (see page 74) p76–77 Michael Brennand-Wood in his studio, 2012 p78 Early canvas work, 1970 Canvas, thread 50 x 38cm Stitch experiment, 1973 Stitchery and net on Perspex 20 x 16cm p79 Early Manchester stitch experiment, 1973 Net embroidery and canvas work on two linked wooden blocks on dyed paper 15 x 13cm The first piece I ever made that looked like I wanted my work to look, 1973 Stained wood, herringbone stitch in thread 30 x 50 x 7cm

p55 Port of Call, 1991 Collage and acrylic on board 91 x 106cm

Consequence of Proximities – Blurring Boundaries, 2003 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, wire, fabric, wood rods on wood panel 90 x 90 x 7cm

Devil Bowl, 1991 Collage, text, acrylic on board 91 x 106cm Private Collection

p66 Stars Underfoot – Evening, 2001 Flowers and fabric 120 x 120cm

p81 Herringbone Drawing, 1974 Black ink on graph paper 21 x 34cm

p56 21 Stars, 1994 Inlaid wax, metal into painted wood relief 35 x 35 x 3cm

p67 Stars Underfoot – Morning, 2001 Flowers and Fabric 120 x 120cm

p82 Box Piece, 1975 Stained wooden block, stained linen thread 35 x 40cm

Rhythm & Blues, 1994 Inlaid wax and fabric into wood panel 70 x 70 x 20cm

p68 Only the Strange Remain, 2011 Burned wood, acrylic, fabric, wire on wood base 43 x 40 x 66cm

p83 Birmingham MA, 1976 27 Wood cubes, found objects 33 x 33cm (11 x 11cm each cube)

This Final Twist, 2007 Machine embroidered blooms, wire, wax, wooden figures and fabric collage, on wood base 60 diam x 55cm deep

p84 Ilkestone County Law Courts Sample, 1975 Carpet tiles, wood veneer, canvas work on linked wood blocks 55 x 30 x 6cm

Michael Brennand-Wood portrait, The Maker’s Eye catalogue 1982 p47 Fabric and Form catalogue cover, 1982

p58 Seed of Memory, 1995 (see p8–9)

Mumbles, 1982 (see p93)

p59 You Are Here, 1997 (see p120–121)

196

p73 Transformer, 2012 (detail, on loom at West Dean Tapestry Studio)

Slow Turning, 1989 (details) (see p102)

p57 Kells and Spells in Delft, 1994 Inlaid wax, oil, acrylic into wood relief Private Collection The Netherlands 70 x 75 x 5cm

It’s Too Late to Stop Now, 1980 (see p90–91)

p61 Cloud Factory, 2001 Fabric, paint, mosaic, wire and thread 140 x 140 x 20cm Collection The Study Gallery, Poole (UK)

Consequence of Proximities – A Sense of Perspective, 2003 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, wire, fabric, sand on wood panel 75 x 75 x 12cm

New Field, 1992 Cut paperback books into wood relief 70 diam x 10cm

Michael Brennand-Wood, 1980

p70–71 Pretty Deadly, 2011 (see p13)

Trip, Stumble, Fall, 1990 Stitchery, fabric, lino, acrylic and wood construction 100 x 100 x 10cm Collection of PricewaterhouseCoopers (UK)

p54 Canberra Drawing, 1991 Collage, fabric, acrylic on board 91 x 106cm Private Collection

Early Mesh, 1976 Fabric stitchery, stain on wood base 50 x 50 x 4cm

p60 Skeleton Key, 1997 Stitchery, fabric, wire, thread, acrylic onto wood construction 110 x 110 x 4cm Private Collection UK

Shell Shock, 2009 Machine embroidery, wire, toy soldiers, acrylic 30 x 30 x 50cm p69 Holding Pattern, 2007 (see p134)

p80 Herringbone Drawing, 1974 Black ink on graph paper 21 x 34cm

p85 Ilkestone Law Courts Sample, 1975 Tile and cement collage, wood and fabric stitchery 45 x 30 x 15cm


p86 Howlaa, 1978 Stitchery, collage, acrylic, wood, thread, and fabric construction 110 x 120 x 4cm Private Collection UK p87 Crayola for Lucinda Childs, 1980 Stitchery, collage, acrylic, wood, thread and fabric construction 127 x 97 x 4cm Collection of The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (J) Photo courtesy of Crafts Council p88 White Crayola, 1978 Stitchery, paper, acrylic, wood, thread and fabric construction 80 x 100 x 4cm Private Collection Switzerland p89 Silver Tongued Devil, 1981 Stitchery, collage, acrylic, wood, thread wire and fabric construction 73 x 95 x 4cm Private Collection UK p90–91 It’s Too Late To Stop Now, 1980 Stitchery, thread, canvas, acrylic on wood panel 126 x 204 x 3cm p92 El-Rayo X, 1981 Stitchery, fabric, thread, wire, acrylic on wood panel 73 x 95 x 4cm p93 Mumbles, 1982 Stitchery, collage, acrylic, oil, wood, metal, thread and fabric construction 125 x 140 x 10cm p94 Sadie, 1982 Stitchery, fabric, collage, graphite, thread, text, acrylic, wire on wood panel 60 x 73 x 4cm p95 Clinker, 1983–84 Wire, found objects, sand, acrylic, fabric and wood construction 74 x 120 x 6cm p96 Residue, 1984 Stitchery, found objects, acrylic, graphite, thread, fabric and wood construction 60 x 73 x 4cm p97 Archive, 1984 Stitchery, fabric collage, graphite, thread, wire and wood construction 60 x 73 x 4cm p98 Talk-Talk, 1987–88 Oil, acrylic, paper, collage, cord, marble dust on wood relief 130 x 200 x 35cm Collection of The National Museum of Modern Art Kyoto (J)

p99 Shards, 1988 Oil, acrylic, metal, cane, cord, marble, dust on wood relief 165 x 200 x 35cm Private Collection UK p100–101 Passage: Tomorrow Never Knows, 1988 Stitchery, wire, thread, metal, fabric, wax, oil, acrylic and wood construction 104 x 300 x 5cm Collection of Automobile Association (UK) p102 Slow Turning, 1989 Stitchery, fabric, thread, wire, metal, acrylic, oil, wood construction 200 x 200 x 12cm Collection of SoftLab Ltd. (UK) p103 Diviner, 1990 Inlaid wood, fabric collage, wax and acrylic 100 x 90 x 4cm Private Collection The Netherlands p104 Navigator, 1990 Inlaid fabric, stitchery, collage, wire, acrylic into wood relief 70 diam x 10cm p105 Port of Call, 1991 Collage and acrylic on board 91 x 106cm p106 Yellow Pages, 1991 Cut paperback books into wood relief 70 diam x 10cm p107 Doors of Perception, 1991 Cut paperback books and wax into wood relief 100 x 100 x 10cm Private Collection Belgium p108 Mazzy, 1991 Fabric, tile, acrylic into metal and wood base 37 diam x 14cm p109 Overlays, 1991 Books, paper, wood, ceramic, fabric, thread, metal, cane, acrylic and tile relief 170 x 170 x 30cm Collection of Conoco Ltd. (UK) p110–111 Hide and Seek, 1992 Inlaid fabric into painted wood panel 110 x 230 x 4cm Collection of Whitworth Art Gallery Manchester (UK) p112–113 I Know You Know and I Wish You’d Tell, 1993 Inlaid fabric into painted wood panel 120 x 325 x 5cm p114 The Light is Only Perfect for a Very Short Time, 1994 Inlaid copper and brass into painted wood panel 200 x 200 x 5cm (25 Panels)

p115 Perfect Skin, 1995 Inlaid fabric into tile and sand base 200 x 200 x 5cm p116–117 Feel Flows, 1996 Inlaid fabric into painted wood panel 120 x 300 x 5cm Collection of the Crafts Council London (UK) p118–119 A Field of Centres, 1996 Inlaid fabric into painted wood base 200 x 580 x 4cm Collection of Calderdale Council, Bankfield Museum (UK)

p132 Gilt Trip – Private Number, 2004 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, wire, fabric, beads on wood panel 46 x 46 x 7cm

p146–147 Dream No.9 – Expecting To Fly, after the Catalan Atlas, 2012 Embroidery, fabric inlay, acrylic on wood panel 90 x 115 x 4cm

p133 Pinhead – Do You See What I See?, 2005 Wire, wood, fabric, acrylic onto photograph 70 x 70 x 20cm

p170–171 Imaginary Landscape – Chaotic Textured Crush, 1999 Inlaid fabric into painted wood panel 120 x 70 x 10cm

p134 Holding Pattern, 2007 Machine embroidered blooms, wire, collage, wooden figures, wax, acrylic, fabric and thread on wood base 90 diam x 55cm deep

p120–121 You Are Here, 1997 Inlaid fabric, electric lights, into painted wood base 175 x 350 x 4cm Collection of Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Nottingham

p135 Babel, 2008 Embroidered blooms, wire, fabric, glass, ceramic, tile on wood base 90 x 90 x 60cm Collection of Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (UK)

p122 Interstellar, 1999 Inlaid fabric, marble dust, beads into painted wood base with metal edge 60 diam x 12cm Private Collection

p136–137 Celestial Music, 2009 3,500 music metal badges, 234 copper, bronze and steel discs, acrylic paint and fibre optic lighting 12 x 6 metres wall installation Commission: Colston Hall, Bristol

p123 9 Dreams Within the Here and Now, 1998–99 Inlaid fabric, marble dust into painted wood panel with metal edge 60 diam x 10cm (9 panels)

p138–139 If it’s all so black and white why is it such a mystery to me?, 2011 220 diam x 120cm Commission: McClay Library, Queens University, Belfast

p124–125 Destroy the Heart, 1999 Inlaid fabric, marble dust, sand, slate into painted wood base with metal edge 100 diam x 10cm (5 panels) Collection: 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan

p140 Reflective Stance, 2009 Embroidered Blooms, mirror, acrylic, wire, thread on wood base 40 diam x 35cm Private Collection

p126 Stars Underfoot – Flower Power, 2001 Flowers, fabric and glass 120 x 120cm

p141 Vase Attacks, 2008 Found objects, acrylic, collage, fabric, wire, machine embroidery Various sizes, wall installation, series of individual vases attached by base to wall

p127 Consequence of Proximities – All Night Flight, 2003 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, wire, graphite, fabric on wood panel 75 x 75 x 12cm

p142 A Flag of Convenience – Behind the Lines, 2011 Machine embroidery, sand, marble dust, toy soldiers on wood panel 114 x 63 x 4cm

p128 Crystallized Movements, 2004 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, sand, toy soldiers, on wood panel 90 x 90 x 7cm Private Collection UK

p143 A Flag of Convenience – The Sky is Crying, 2011 Machine embroidery, fabric, acrylic, toy soldiers on wood panel 114 x 70 x 4cm

p129 Wasn’t Born To Follow, 2004 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, wire, fabric, metal, glass thread, sand on wood panel 90 x 90 x 7cm

p144 Restored and Remixed, 2012 Carpet, acrylic, machine embroidery 110 x 148 x 4cm

p130–131 World of Echoes, 2004 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, metal, glass, collage, fabric on wood panel 215 x 85 x 5cm Collection of The Bexley Wing, St James Hospital, Leeds

p145 Transformer, 2012 Tapestry woven by Philip Sanderson at West Dean Tapestry Studio 125 x 80 x 2cm

197

p172 Lost and Found, 1993 Inlaid Fabric into painted wood panel 70 x 70 x 4cm p173 Cloud Collar, 1999 Wood, acrylic, cord 90 x 90 x 70 Private Collection UK p174–175 Stars Underfoot – The Slow Reveal, 2007–08 Machine embroidered blooms, wire, acrylic, resin, metal and glass on wood panel 700 x 100 x 30cm p176 Phial Bodies, 2008 Machine embroidered blooms, wire, glass, acrylic, fabric, thread, and glass tile on wood panel 90 diam x 55cm deep p178–179 Holding Pattern, 2007 (see p134) p180–181 Die is Cast, 2006 (see p183) p183 Die is Cast, 2006 Machine embroidered blooms, thread, toy soldiers, fabric, resin and acrylic on wood panel 40 x 40 x 10cm p186 Chasing Shadows Exhibition, 1990 Gallery Gallery, Japan Material Evidence Exhibition, 1996 Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester p187 Transformations Exhibition, 2005 Australia New Works, 1996 CIAP Gallery, Belgium p188 Field of Centres Exhibition, 2007 Millennium Galleries, Sheffield Commission, 1992 Thornden Country Park, Essex p189 Commission, 2004 Canary Wharf, London p190–191 Maid of Sugar Maid of Spice, 1994 Inlaid fabric into painted wood base 320 x 240 x 5cm

p192 Commission, 2007 Bexley Wing, St James Hospital, Leeds p193 Commission, 2004 Royal Aberdeen Children’s Hospital Humpty Dumpty, 1994, Museum Voor Sierkunst, Ghent p194 Beyond Pattern Exhibition, 2009 Oriel Davies Gallery, Powys Pretty Deadly Exhibition, 2009 The Naughton Gallery, Queens University, Belfast p195 Installation, 1996 Belgium Cloth and Culture NOW Exhibition, 2008 Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester Michael with Little Black Egg, 2004 p198–199 The Ties That Bind, 1996 Inlaid male and female clothing and fabric into wood panel 200 x 120 x 4cm p200 Petal Pusher, 2005 Embroidered blooms, acrylic, fabric, resin, wire on wood panel 90 x 90 x 7cm p202 Somewhere in the Night, 2009 Embroidered Blooms, wire, acrylic, collage on wood base


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previous The Ties That Bind 1996 left Petal Pusher 2005

Acknowledgements

This exhibition and book is dedicated with love to Jeremy, Elaine, Elizabeth and Catherine Wood, Audrey Walker and Samantha Rhodes. In memory of my parents Joan and Neville Wood and maternal grandparents Louisa and Norman Brennand, for the most wonderful, secure and creative childhood, the bedrock of my creative life. I would also like to thank: Samantha Rhodes for her love, grace, friendship and support on ‘The Road to Ruthin’. Philip Hughes whose ability to curate the right creative mix is unsurpassed. June Hill for her patience, humour, calm and unfailing energy throughout this project. Writers Peter Murray, Paul Harper, Ian Wilson, Robert Bell, Judy Barry, Emiko Yoshioka, Paul Derrez and June Hill, conversations, recollections and echoes that continue to shape my thinking. Lisa Rostron and all the team at Lawn, for their clarity of concept and design. To all the photographers, especially Phil Sayer, Dewi Tannatt Lloyd and Peter Mennim for both photographic and musical musings. To everyone at Ruthin, Jane Gerrard, Elen Bonner, Gregory Parsons, I couldn’t conceive of a more insightful and dedicated team. For words of advice: Jeremy Wood, Matthew Harris, Cleo Mussi, Philip Sanderson, Audrey Walker, Nancy Rhodes, Rachael Howard, Jo Hall, Rozanne Hawksley, Nick Beavon, Paul Derrez, Pam Gaunt, Jennifer Harris, Christina Jansen, Jane Gerrard, Wilma Kirkpatrick, Joseph McBrinn, Shan McAnena, Pete Goodridge and Jo Scott. Galleries and organizations whose support has helped develop works for this exhibition: Bluecoat Display Centre, Velvet da Vinci, Oriel Davies, CAA, Scottish Gallery, Galerie Ra, Naughton Gallery, West Dean, MAIWA, Specialist Crafts, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and the Crafts Council.

Ruthin Craft Centre would like to thank: Michael Brennand-Wood, Samantha Rhodes, June Hill, Paul Harper, Peter Murray, Ian Wilson, Judy Barry, Robert Bell, Paul Derrez, Emiko Yoshioka, Dewi Tannatt Lloyd, Phil Sayer, Lisa Rostron, Stephen Heaton, Rachel Shaw, Dylan Chubb, Pete Goodridge & ArtWorks, Gregory Parsons, Meira Price, Jo Scott, Jane Appleyard, Deborah Dean, Lynn George, Jennifer Harris, Nancy Rhodes & Brimark Signs, Philip Sanderson, Luisa Summers, Sarah Turner, Audrey Walker, Crafts Council, Castle Museum and Art Gallery Nottingham, West Dean Tapestry Studio, Whitworth Art Gallery.

Published by: Ruthin Craft Centre & Hare Print Press Text © The Authors 2012 ISBN: 978-1-905865-48-2

RCC exhibition and education staff: Philip Hughes, Jane Gerrard and Elen Bonner.

Forever Changes is a Ruthin Craft Centre National Touring Exhibition. Ruthin Craft Centre is part of Denbighshire County Council and is revenue funded by the Arts Council of Wales.

Book photography: James Austin 2, 6–7, 20, 23, 30, 40, 42, 43, 46, 47, 48–49, 56, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, 86, 89, 90–91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 114, 118–119, 120–121, 122, 123, 124–125, 126, 127, 128, 129, 130–131, 132, 170–171, 173, 195; David Bartram 188; Michael Brennand-Wood 43, 44–45, 54, 88; David Cook 112–113; David Cripps 87, 38– 39; Toby Farrow 35, 136–137; Chris Gomersall 8–9, 18–19, 21, 22, 26–27, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 74, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100–101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 109, 110–111, 115, 116–117, 190–191, 198–199; Klapps Jo 195; Jerry Hardman-Jones 74, 192; Stefan Kellens 187, 193; Gene Lee 141; Joe Low 25, 31, 68, 69, 134, 178–179, 180–181, 183; Andy McGregor 193; Peter Mennim 12, 13, 15, 16, 17, 24, 30, 31, 34, 36, 37, 68, 135, 140, 142, 143, 176; Rory Moore 138–139, 194; Museum Voor Sierkunst, Ghent 193; James Newell 133; Samantha Rhodes 35; Phil Sayer 5, 10, 14, 28, 31, 36, 41, 42, 46, 76–77, 78, 79, 82, 83, 84, 85, 108, 144, 146–147, 152–153, 184, 200, 202; © Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust 188; Steve Speller 72, 73, 145; Philip Vine 189; WAIT, Perth 187; David Ward 20, 50; Stuart Whipps 186, 194; Vicky White 43; Stephen Yates 174–175, 186, 195

Michael Brennand-Wood

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Ruthin Craft Centre, The Centre for the Applied Arts Park Road, Ruthin, Denbighshire LL15 1BB Tel: +44 (0)1824 704774 www.ruthincraftcentre.org.uk Commissioning editors: June Hill and Philip Hughes Design: Lawn Creative, Liverpool Print: Kingsbury Press, Doncaster

Every effort has been made to seek permission to reproduce those images whose copyright does not reside with Michael Brennand-Wood and we are grateful to the individuals and institutions who have assisted us in this task. Any omissions are entirely unintentional. This book may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form without written permission from the publishers.


June Hill is a Yorkshire based writer and curator. Her work focuses on the relationship between, and contextualisation of, historic textiles and contemporary practice. She is also interested in the role and place of process. She has been publishing ongoing research into UK textile collections for Embroidery since January 2006, is a contributor to The Textile Reader (Berg, 2012) and author of several artist monographs. Recent exhibitions include Jilly Edwards: Reflections and Investigations (2011) and Cloth and Memory, Salts Mill (2012). Paul Harper combines writing, research and teaching with freelance work in the arts. He is a Director of Alias Arts CIC, which supports artist led activity by providing a critical context, resources and advice to artists in the South West of England. He has a particular interest in craft making, which is the subject of his PhD research. Peter Murray is the founding and Executive Director of Yorkshire Sculpture Park (YSP), one of the world’s leading sculpture parks. Peter’s commitment and passion has seen the YSP develop from modest beginnings into an international centre for modern and contemporary art. He has nurtured long-standing relationships with many artists and organized major exhibitions, including Henry Moore, Joan Miró, David Nash, Eduardo Chillida, Andy Goldsworthy et al. As well as directing YSP, Peter travels internationally advising and lecturing on sculpture in the open air, contributing to conferences and organising exhibitions. He has received many honours and awards. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Art and received an OBE in 1996 and a CBE in 2010. Ian Wilson is a writer with a special interest in the applied arts and design whose work has been translated into many languages. Born in South Africa, he has lectured at universities in Ethiopia, Botswana, Malawi, Qatar and England and has lived and run courses in several Central and Eastern European countries as well as in the Near East and Central Asia. ‘My interests in cooking, reading and travelling all feed into an abiding fascination with the fine and applied arts, while the excitement generated by discussions with artists is one of the intriguing pleasures of what I do.’

left Somewhere in the Night 2009 cover Underwater Moonlight 1997 (detail) title Charlemagne 1978 back cover El-Rayo X 1981 (detail) Michael Brennand-Wood in his studio, 2012


23

Profile for Canolfan Grefft Rhuthun / Ruthin Craft Centre

Michael Brennand-Wood – Forever Changes  

Michael Brennand-Wood – Forever Changes  

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