Review - The Photographic Stitch

by - Friday, September 21, 2012

Last night Carol Shinn delivered her lecture "The Photographic Stitch" to an enthusiastic audience that came primed with many questions. Perhaps more than other forms of textile art Carol's working methods provoke a curiosity and a desire to understand more fully the techniques involved.

Here is a reprint of the evenings introduction:

"As artists, we may think we know how to deliver colour to a surface. In the fine arts we may mix pigments with oil, with water, with acrylic, or with wax. Hence arriving at oil paint, watercolours, acrylics, or encaustic. In the textile arts we might deploy other strategies centered around dyeing, and various mechanisms to resist that dye.

"Few would consider, however, using the sewing machine as a painter would use a brush. And fewer still would take this idea into the realm of photorealism – producing what has been called “Thread Painting” with freestyle embroidery. But someone did – and that someone is Carol Shinn.

"To look at her work is to confront a tension between the image and what it is made of. For those who appreciate photorealism this is a familiar and pleasurable tension. Such art always contains a little bit of the miraculous in it, evoking as it does, a sense of “how can this be so?” It contains a little of the miraculous in it because the foundation of all miracles is that they be, by definition, impossible.

"Carol shares some of the hallmarks of high realism – a fascination with surfaces, both the surface of the object she is representing and the surface of her own finished work - which becomes layered and thick as the threads build up. For unlike the artist happily cross hatching with pencil, as Carol builds up a shade she must add more and more threads. The result can be a thickening of the surface and a distortion of the rectilinear frame of the piece.

"Carol renders in thread in a way that is so clearly not embroidery. In fact, Carol’s work turns its back on the entire grammar and technique of stitches. It is on more comfortable ground when situated within the context of the photograph and the various artistic reactions to the ubiquity and dominance photographic imagery in the modern world.

"It seems we have come a long way from the Bayeux Tapestry to the works of Carol Shinn.
 - Tim McLaughlin

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