Please touch the artworks…

A note from Joyaviva curator Kevin Murray about what you can do in the exhibition Joyaviva, despite normal rules about not touching the art works. We still want you to be involved!

1. Get tagged. Sarah Read’sThis Too Shall Pass is a series of tags attached to cards with images of the Christchurch earthquake. They have been lovingly stitched by members of the New Zealand jewellery community in solidarity with The National, a jewellery gallery which seeks to open again despite losing its building. For $10, you can take one of these cards away. It makes a touching gesture of encouragement, and in the process you can discover gold underneath. Remember, this week is the anniversary of the first Christchurch earthquake.

2. Find a fortune. As a reward for those to explore the exhibition deeply, there’s a message with information about how you can obtain a gold charm for yourself.

3. Arrange the flowers. Like in Facebook, this is how you “like” a work.

Beyond this, there’s been great interest by visitors in obtaining other charms on display. Go to the artist’s page on the website for details.


Above: Kevin Murray with contemporary jeweller Susan Cohn, who opened the Joyaviva exhibition.

(Opening night photos by Vicki Jones and installation images by Mark Ashkanasy)

Talking textiles with Hannah Pang

RMIT Gallery is exploring the boundaries of textiles with two new exhibitions Sensorial Loop: 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial and Hannah Pang: Double Happiness Portrait of a Chinese Wedding (both to 24 March). Hannah Pang’s exhibition opens tomorrow, (17 Feb) with a special artist talk from 12-1 pm. Chinese finger food included. Free. Bookings; 9925 1717.

Hannah Pang is currently at RMIT Gallery installing her exhibition, which features garments that are an intricate, complex and dazzling modern recreation of a 1930s Chinese wedding in Shanghai.

We caught up with Hannah and spoke with her about her interest in Chinese handicrafts like embroidery, hand painting and hand weaving. She has added a contemporary twist and her own vision to the extraordinarily beautiful garments. Not surprising, really when you realize that she’s produced fabric for some of the major innovative fashion designers of the late 20th century – like the late Gianni Versace.


RMIT Gallery: The embroidery on these garments is extraordinary. On the grandmother of the bride outfit, for instance, it covers the bottom panel and it’s in the pattern of a dragon, and almost free form.

Hannah Pang: While it is embroidery, it’s more free style. And the pattern is also more free form; it’s like a dragon but not exactly like a dragon. It’s all done by hand, and took a long time. I have a team of people who work for me in Suzhou, China. I also send some of this work out to people who specialise in this kind of embroidery.

What makes it different is that unlike traditional embroidery, where you have a motif and then you just do your stitching, free hand embroidery requires you to be creative and use your imagination. You use an overlay of antique gold, yellow gold and silver, overlapping the different shades to build depth.

What’s the symbolism of the dragon?

Oh well, because the grandmother is the head of the family, she should have the authority. But usually should be the phoenix. But I wanted to have some fun so I put in the dragon to suit her status in the family.

Everyone will love the little baby and child outfits. They are both detailed and very cute. You manage to add so much detail and texture into the pieces.

In this collection what I tried to do is weaving, but weaving using ribbon. So with the baby outfit, we use fabric to make wider ribbon and test out how it will look. Because the outfit is so small, it doesn’t take too much time because you know ribbon is so wide.

Just like in fashion parades, the actual bridal dress is the show stopper. How did you create this piece?

The bride’s dress is much finer, it takes months to do. With the fabric, you do the base first and then you do the pattern. And then the silk ribbon is base dyed. It is not one colour. From far away it looks like a red dress, but when you get closer you notice it’s very different. There are many different shades of red in it, and then it has a three dimensional, floral pattern. I am quite happy with it.

All of the garments in the exhibition are almost sculptural.

I am not interested in recreating an antique piece. There needs to be a modern twist. So this is my version. I also wanted to show that traditional garments still have a place in China if given a contemporary edge, because nowadays when young people get married they tend to wear western outfits. The groom wears the suit and girls wear the white wedding dress. I think we should do something from our heritage.


This exhibition is supported by Jin Ze Art Centre, Shanghai.

Thank you to Mei and Picchi for providing mannequins for the wonderful show Double Happiness.

Behind the scenes of Sensorial Loop

Interview with Michele Elliot, artist, Sensorial Loop: 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial

(exhibition dates: 10 February – 24 March)

by Evelyn Tsitas, RMIT Gallery

 8 February, 2012

Hi Michele and welcome to RMIT Gallery. You’ve actually been here for a few days now, installing your work. Tell us about that, and about the piece – hemispheres, drawn to you, still, (2011).

Michele: We started on Monday and just finished about half an hour ago. So that’s been two and a half days of tying knots and pushing pins into paper discs on the wall.

Let’s get this straight – how many handmade pins are there?

 Pretty close to two thousand pins.

That’s a lot. And each one of those holds a thread which looks about two meters long?

Well, it’s just over three meters. I guess the pieces are about three meters wide and sit out a little bit off the wall.

People who haven’t really come across contemporary textiles would probably be surprised by your work because it’s very sculptural. It’s really an art piece isn’t it? It’s not what people might consider traditional textiles.

First of all I should say that I’m primarily in installation and I work a lot with drawing installation, sculpture and object making. So it’s come out of a number of different projects. In some ways it’s still quite a curious piece to me. It’s come out of research that I do in the studio with materials. I work a lot with fabric, thread, with timber, paper – various materials – but often ideas come through the making of working itself.

I can see the hanging threads blowing against the wall, it’s very beautiful. Where did the idea for this work come from?

It sounds a bit strange to say that but when I’m working with one project, I start to have ideas about where I might take the particular work, in different directions. So yeah I guess it’s material research that will start me thinking in a particular line. But then it also can come out of writing or drawing.

Can we talk process? I saw you install the work, but how did you make this large, conceptual piece?

This piece is made primarily of wooden pins, which are all hand made, and lengths of thread so it’s a work that in some ways has removed the fabric of textiles and it’s just working with the bare bones with the joiners.

Pins and threads are used with materials to make other things so in that sense it’s quite a temporal work in a metaphoric sense, also in a physical sense too because the work goes up in the gallery and at the end of the exhibition it’s taken down.

In the next venue it’ll be re-made again so it’s made each time in the different spaces that it’s touring to.

So it’s a bit like a performance piece?

It is, it’s a bit like a performance and it’s a performance in the making of the work in that each of those pins have been hand made but then installation has become a performative work as well, that’s right.

The really interesting part about walking through Sensorial Loop is seeing how the different works relate to each other in the space. What’s your feeling about the exhibition?

Oh, I think it’s a fantastic show; I’m really excited to be in it. It’s great looking at the connections between materials that people are working with; the techniques that different artists are using – there’s a lot of overlap.

Also, I think curator Patrick Snelling has done such a great job with the theme and calling it ‘Sensorial Loop’. It makes you think about textiles in terms of the physicality of the work, but there’s also the loop in a conceptual sense; in the terms of pattern and repetition and it’s materially.

All the works are so different. What I also enjoy is there’s a lot of the hand-made. I make a lot of my own work and I love to see the way that other artists work with techniques and material.

Finally, your piece is actually deconstructed in a spectacular fashion just before the exhibition ends. In a way it is a performance piece in itself. That will take place at RMIT Gallery on March 22nd when we have our final floor talk for Sensorial Loop.

Can you tell me what is going to happen to your work then?

I don’t know if I should! [laughs]. I think we should keep it a surprise and get people to come down and experience it! But it will be dramatic – and final.

Exhibition details:

Sensorial Loop: 1st Tamworth Textile Triennial

Exhibition dates: 10 February – 24 March 2012

Curator: Patrick Snelling

Sensorial Loop – Public Events To Come:

The following free event explores new directions in textiles. Bookings essential on (03) 9925 1717.

What: Floor talks with contemporary textile artists
With Lucy Irvine, Anton Veenstra, Verity Prideaux and Paula Do Prado

* Plus – deconstructing Michele Elliott’s work: hemispheres: drawn to you, still (2011)

When: 2pm – 3.30pm, Thursday, 22 March (includes afternoon tea)
Where: RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne