Review: Art_Textiles at Whitworth Art Gallery

Posted on 12 December 2015
By Cairnley McKenna
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The main body for this exhibition has been situated across the ground floor, Art_Textiles can be seen at the Whitworth until the end of January 2016.

Curated by Jennifer Harris, the main aim for this show is to raise questions about the value of handmade objects in our digital age, artists such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Tracey Emin, Grayson Perry, Ghada Amer and Kimooja are featured to present their use of textiles as a powerful tool for expressing social, political and artistic issues, as stated by the gallery’s curator.

All of the works on display were clearly interpreted as works of fine art and not just pieces of fabric. Each work is to be studied and appreciated as much as any sculpture or painting that may also be in the gallery. Social issues, feminist concerns, politics of identities and nationhood are all brought to light throughout each room. A prime example of the concern of nationhood is shown through Mary Sibande’s, Sophie Velucia, 2009, Sophie is Sibande’s alter ego; she imagines her as a domestic worker who finds refuge in dreams where she emancipates herself from reality, cleaning other people’s homes. Sibande simultaneously explores identity in post-apartheid South Africa and the black female body.

‘Textiles are a powerful medium for the expression of political and social issues that are current right now. They raise questions about the value of the local and global, making them an ideal vehicle to critique global capitalism and homogeneity of production’ – Jennifer Harris

Another highlighted artwork to be discussed is Grayson Perry’s The Upper Class at Bay 2012. It is one tapestry out of a series of six called The Vanity of Small Differences which pays homage to Hogarth’s 18th century series, A Rake’s Progress. Hogarth’s paintings and prints share the story of Tom Rakewell who inherits a fortune but then manages to lose everything through poor choices. Perry has altered the plot in a contemporary society, documenting the rise and fall of software millionaire Tim Rakewell. Even though the focus piece is one of a series, it stands strong independently, upon personal experience it is very striking, bold and beautiful, and entices viewers to know the rest of the story.

Art_Textiles runs at the Whitworth Art Gallery from 10 October 2015 – 31 January 2016. Free entry.