Preview :: Love Lace
October 16th 2012
As we salivate over the latest edition of Frankie each month, one can’t help but wonder where this nostalgic fetish for handicrafts came from. Whether you’re waking up your nanna with a crochet hook in hand or madly knotting macramé for your rental patio, there’s no denying it: Gen Y is on a vintage high. But beneath all the trimmings, buttons and handmade invitations, our reincarnation of traditional women’s work is actually rather liberating.
The Love Lace exhibition is an annual competition run by the Powerhouse Museum. Showcasing 134 artists from twenty countries, each work must involve the concept of lace, with variances of the literal within interpretations. But apart from looking pretty (very, very pretty), this exhibition is important in its celebration of women’s creativity.
The esteemed halls of the art world have, up until the 20th century, been a complete sausage fest. You would be hard pressed to name a classic, female artist from before this time, and those that have since been discovered, worked under ‘anonymous’ or had their work dismissed and discounted from the professional sphere. There is a gaping void that is only just beginning to be filled in history, investigating the significance and unraveling the wonder of women’s handiwork. For whilst Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, his female contemporaries were embroidering flowers onto their kid’s christening gowns. A stunning paradox exists between a painful, laborious skill and a beautiful, delicate product that has become a fundamental symbol for femininity.
‘Lace offers the mystery of concealment and the subtle interplay of space, light and shadows.’ –Exhibition Overview
The status of handicrafts such as lacemaking as art is the subject of continuing debate. Whilst the Powerhouse isn’t your average gallery, its welcoming of lace into the exhibition space is a step towards the valorization of years of forgotten female artists, who spoke in stitches instead of strokes. Each work is a complex, conceptual structure that’ll tickle your po-mo bone as well as your eyes… well maybe not tickle your eyes. The point is the intricacy and hours of dedicated work that went into forming intimate, beautiful patterns, on a huge scale, will knock your socks off.
A massive selection from male and female artists, each work appropriates different elements of the lace idea, from fraying memory to sex. Little sculptures open up into a world of infinite possibility that exists around this textile medium. There’s a uterus spun of human hair (yep), a ‘Joan-of-Arc’ chain mail gown, cuffs and lace collars that will have you pressed up against the glass in longing, setting off all manner of alarms. Artists have mastered and appropriated an ancient skill, affirming its relevance in today’s less ‘classic’ society. The inexhaustible potential of lace as a sculptural medium is revealed, and the setting allows it to be viewed as just that, more than the trim of a hanky or the edge of your knickers, but masterful, timeless and passionate works of art.
Whilst each of the works is contemporary, created for this exhibition, I can’t help but think years of creative women are hiding amongst the knots, their craft and only means of expression finally on display. If you’re super enthusiastic, the gallery has extensive explanations on techniques, and also houses an impressive collection of original lace works dating back as far as the 1500s.