Friday, December 13, 2013

Beauty of the Stitch: J Lynn Campbell at Loop Gallery.

1. Temporal Matter#1, 2012, Giclèe on Arches Watercolour 300g OF, pigment pen (archival ink, waterproof, fade proof), thread, metallic thread, archival linen tape,  22 x 30 inches. Image provided by artist.

J. Lynn Campbell: Temporal Matter
December 7 - December 29 2013
Loop Gallery 
1273 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ON, 

Some are under the impression that embroidery is having a resurgence, a renaissance so to speak. The recent Subversive Stitch Revisited:The Politics of Cloth conference November 29-30 at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows there is an obvious academic attempt to understand the use of embroidery in contemporary art and crafts practices. Looked at from a neo-feminist, historic feminist perspective (Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine by Rozsika Parker 1984) and a contemporary theoretical points of view, there is new writing exploring embroidery as media and medium. While there is a lot of new work out there of varying skill levels, coming from many vantage points and fitting concepts and agendas meant to take you away from the aesthetic values of the work, my eye is stopped in its tracks when I encounter beauty not categorized. This is what happened at Loop Gallery when I saw J. Lynn Campbell's work in Temporal Matters.

2. Temporal Matter#2, 2013,  Giclée on Arches Watercolour 300g OP, acrylic pen, thread, human hair, archival linen tape, 22 x 30 inches, Image provided by Artist

While I have encountered embroidery on paper before: London based Italian artist Maurizio Anzer whose work I saw during Fibre Philadelphia 2012 and having seen published images of the work I was quite underwhelmed seeing it in person. There was a quality of Italian Futurism about the work but the tension between paper and thread was awkward, uncomfortable, it was as if the paper would tear over time. It reminded me of those cardboard string art kits of my childhood only they had a more secure feeling about them, the board was not in danger of collapse. Canadian Kate Jackson's "fragile embroidery" on paper towels and other bits of ephemera has a lightness while feeling structurally embedded into the material that is stitched through, which of course it is. J. Lynn Campbell's stitch seems to have been drop onto the surface of her Giclée on Arches watercolour 300g paper and seemingly float suspended above the printed images.

Detail of  Temporal Matter #2, 2013,  Giclée on Arches Watercolour 300g OP, acrylic pen, thread, human hair, archival linen tape, 22 x 30 inches, Image provided by Artist

Campbell's practice is based in the art world she has used fibre before and particularly hair, her piece "Model No. 8 [Extension(s) No.1]," 2004 dressmaker's form, steel, fabric, thread, braided horsehair, wrapped wire, copper wire, artificial sinew was shown in Textiles as Art: Selections from the Permanent Collection at the Cambridge Galleries in 2010. This piece is one of the many sculptural works exploring the body and made with mixed media on dress forms among other things which evoke textiles. I saw a precursor to this new embroidered paper work at OCAD Alumni show at the Gladstone in 2012 and had been wondering where she would take this. The piece I saw then was delicate and beautiful as are these works. She has no fear of labour intensive making and while the sculptural pieces have the look of these labours this new work does not.

3. Temporal Matter #3, 2013, Giclée on Arches Watercolour 300g OF, pigment pen (archival ink, waterproof, fade proof), thread, archival linen tape Image provided by Artist.

" Starting with modified digital imagery printed on archival paper, Campbell overlays two-dimensional surfaces with drawing and hand sewing. The objects of interest are organic structures and diverse life forms — characteristic bodily forms of mature organisms, of which the human body is one such entity. All life forms are part of a complex interconnected system which is shaped and limited by time. Temporal Matter encapsulates the spatial and temporal boundaries within which physical objects exist transform, and dissipate. With consideration to the real, the symbolic and the abstract Campbell’s composite imagery queries our consequential proximity to the shifting realities of that which is temporary." from Press Release

4. Temporal Matter #4, 2013, Giclee on Arches Watercolour 300g OF, pigment pen (archival ink, waterprooL fade proof), acrylic paint, archival linen tape, 22 x 30 inches image provided by Artist

The above quote from the press release may increase your interest in seeing the work but it is not necessary to your appreciation when you are entranced by its simple beauty not to mention the skilled needlework. Give yourself over to the decorative quality which places these works outside the limited realm of contemporary art where beauty is rejected or held suspect. The use of thread in contemporary art does not have to be justified, the history of thread used as embellishment which may or may not carry a message or meaning (it depends on who you read) adds to its power and its magic which can easily be manipulated, which is one of the reasons it is rather faddish at the moment, J. Lynn Campbell's use of thread is not faddish it is integral to these pieces and enhances them, it doesn't draw attention to itself. These pieces are successful works of art. How I observe them comes from my appreciation of needle work how you will enjoy them will come from you. -----------------------------------------

Loop Gallery 
1273 Dundas Street West, Toronto, ONM6J 1X8   (three doors west of Dovercourt)
Wednesday - Saturday 12 p.m. - 5 p.m., Sunday 1 p.m. - 4 p.m. or by appointment (416-516-2581 or

Subversive Stitch Revisited

 Maurizio Anzer  (see Altered Images by Jamie Chalmers in SD summer 2012)

Kate Jackson

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