Saturday, May 21, 2011

Valerie Kirk



Valerie Kirk studied art and design at Edinburgh College of Art and was captivated by the creative process/infinite possibilities of the tapestry medium. In 1979 she came to Australia to become a weaver at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop, and then worked in all states of Australia before moving to Canberra in 1991 to be the Head of Textiles at the Australian National University, School of Art. Her work from this time focused on what it meant to be a Scottish/Australian in this context.

She is considered to be an important international figure in the world of contemporary tapestry. As an artist, writer, teacher and public figure she has made a significant contribution, forging valuable and tangible links with the Scottish tradition and global field. While actively maintaining her practice as an artist, Valerie’s remarkable capacity for achievement has seen her inspire and lead community tapestry projects, research and write a major thesis on tapestry, direct significant textile projects and create major works. She has held several solo exhibitions and presented her work in USA, Europe, Australia, NZ and SE Asia.

Between 2004-2005 she was commissioned to design and weave three major tapestries to celebrate Nobel Prizes in Science associated with the Australian National University. A further tapestry was commissioned and woven in 2006 featuring the work on small pox and myxomatosis of Professor Frank Fenner. The tapestries are installed and on public display at University House, ANU.

Her most outstanding achievement to date is winning the “To Furnish a Future” carpet design competition in 2006. The selected “Crimson Carpet” design draws on the natural patination of stone around Government House, Sydney, combining with a palette of crimson from the tonal range in the Waratah flower. The second stage of the project involved working closely with the consulting design team, the Australian company, “Whitecliffe Imports” and the manufacturers, “Siam Carpets” in Thailand. The hand tufted carpet measures 8m x 20m and was produced in one piece to fit the rooms. The design is significantly different from the normal range of carpet design and at the Energy Australia National Trust Heritage Awards 2008 held on Monday 7 APRIL 2008, the refurbishment of the State Rooms at Government House won one of the major awards - Conservation, Built Heritage for a Project under $1 million. Awards such as the Australia Council New Work grant and Muse Arts Woman of the Year mark substantial success and her artwork is documented in the Telos Portfolio Collection publication.

‘Pangasianodon Gigas’ 2010
Medium: Woven Tapestry
Size: Height: 120cm x Width: 50cm x Depth: 2cm

Photographer Gabriella Hegyes

Artist statement:
The final work is an abstraction of fish and nets – an image made with a hand drawn quality suggesting the personal observation that goes with looking and responding with ink on paper. The tapestry technique mimics the original marks to a certain degree but is also very obviously a woven form with its stepped edges and shapes, blending of tones through hachure and broad set of warp and weft.

Photographer Gabriella Hegyes

Background to the work:
The giant Mekong Catfish is under threat of extinction due to over-fishing and loss of habitat. It is beleived that the fish used to reach sizes over 3 metres, but the largest recorded catch to date is 2.7 metres – a monster fish caught in Thailand in 2005. As its fame and the mythology surrounding it increases, so does the number of game fishermen keen to land a record catch or earn a sizeable amount of money in the exotic food marketplace.

However, the water flow of the river is increasingly more controlled by China, changing the natural habitat of the river. It seems that survival of the great catfish is being left to chance and the fish’s ability to avoid nets, lines and traps in the murky green waters of the Mekong.

My exhibition piece is a giant, woven Pangasianodon Gigas – made as a shaped tapestry which will hang the way a fisherman would hold up his catch to display or be photographed as his trophy. The drawing was made from photographs of very large fish I observed in Laos and the detail on the body of the fish is deliberately ambiguous cales/nets. The piece is woven on cotton seine twine (which was originally made as a string for fish netting) with mixed weft yarns.
 Valerie Kirk cutting tapestry from the loom

Photographer John Jeffery 

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