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

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