Textiles & Fibre Art: Ararat Regional Art Gallery
Ararat Regional Art Gallery's collection demonstrates the ways artists have used textile materials and techniques to push the boundaries of contemporary practice.
Anthony Camm, Director, Ararat Regional Art Gallery and Paul Hooper, Mayor, Ararat Rural City Council discuss the gallery's internationally significant collection, spanning the heady days of the 1970's through to now. Featured in the video are artworks by John Corbett, Olga de Amaral, Tony Dyer, Kate Just, Sebastian De Mauro and Yvonne Koolmatrie.
Ararat Regional Art Gallery was established in 1968 by the Ararat community. And it was operated by the community until 2005, when Ararat Rural City Council took over the running of the Gallery.
We're one of the few municipalities that's blessed to have a regional art gallery. And it adds to our diversity, and cultural diversity. It adds to the offer that we have that makes us a little bit different to other small rural municipalities.
One of the most exciting things about the Ararat Regional Art Gallery is it has this incredible history as one of the few galleries in Australia to be actively engaged in presenting and promoting excellence in textile art and fiber art practices. We have over 1,200 objects in our permanent collection. But we offer a program which is diverse and changing. So the permanent collection isn't always on display.
So it's exciting to look back to the works that we have from the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. But also to be engaged in collecting and programming the work of artists which are working in really exciting new way.s there's so many younger contemporary artists that are using fiber materials now, that it's such an exciting time to be collecting textile and fiber-based work again.
One of our earliest acquisitions was Hammock by John Corbett. John Corbett became one of Australia's most significant textile artists. This work shows that way that soft materials, and weaving in particular, was used by the artist in to develop and exciting and unconventional approach to sculpture. It's a way which is of its time, but it's also a work which speaks quite strongly to people today.
Coraza en dos Colores by Olga De Amaral is one of the really significant works in our collection. She's an artist of immense international renown. De Amaral was really active during the 1970s and the 1980s in creating large-scale textile wall hangings to soften the public spaces in modernist buildings. And that's really where she established her reputation.
The work really came into the collection at a time when the gallery was new to collecting fiber art. So it was a strong affirmation of the gallery's commitment to establishing a fiber art specialization, not only in Australia, but internationally.
Another significant work from our collection is Tony Dyer's The Tourist Trap. What's interesting about The Tourist Trap is that from a distance it really looks like a painting. But as you get closer you can see that the imagery has been created through very complex dying processes. And there's also an interesting use of stitching and piecing in the work.
It's a work of art which people can respond to in a traditional sense. But also it's clearly very much informed by textile traditions from many different cultures.
Paradise by Kate Just is one of our most significant acquisitions in recent years. Significant in terms of its scale, but also in terms of its importance to the artist's practice. Paradise refers to second generation feminist art, which we hold in our collection. So it makes some really interesting connections to other works that we hold. But it also shows the way that younger artists are returning to practices such as knitting.
Surrender by Sebastian Di Mauro is one of our most recent acquisitions. It's a work that's made from neoprene-- the material that's used to make wetsuits. I was really interested in this work, because we don't hold a lot of three-dimensional works in our collection. So it's a work which pushes a number of boundaries for us. Both in terms of its form, but importantly through the use of an unconventional fiber material.
We had the opportunity to commission a Ngarrindjeri weaver, Yvonne Koolmatrie, to create a large eel trap for our permanent collection. And Yvonne Koolmatrie has being represented widely in public gallery exhibitions, including representing Australia at the Venice Biennale. It's made from woven sedge grass. And when you get close to the work, you can smell that material. So it really gives a strong sense of place. It's a work which refers to aboriginal material culture. It is an eel trap, but also a contemporary sculpture.
When I took the directorship at Ararat, I didn't have a background in fiber art. That's something I've become really passionate about. It's such an interesting field, both in terms of its history, and in terms of the very exciting ways and innovative ways, that artists are now working with textiles and with fiber materials. There's always something that's absolutely fascinating that we on display.