‘Arcadia’ strikes you with something rarely encountered in art these days…. serenity.
Perhaps it’s the muted lighting that falls upon the work and seems to ask you to approach at a slow, hushed pace. Such a contrast with many sleek, bold, bright digital and video works becoming increasingly popular in contemporary art.
On display at The Art Gallery of NSW, and part of their collection, the piece has an interesting story.
Ewa was born in Poland but made this work while living in Tasmania in the 1970s. The life size figures are constructed using crocheted man-made fibres which are first run through beeswax, making them more robust to hold the life-sized, lifelike figures existing in Arcadia.
None of the figures have hair but very feminine curves and breasts make them indisputably female, and Ewa apparently used her own body as a reference.
Many state that her work used “women’s” craft to bring domestic or ‘gentle’ arts associated with women’s work into the higher art realm.
What about the fact she studied in a town with a textile history? Perhaps that was more influential than gender.
Personally, I wonder if it was a choice based on material availability, skill and budget.
After all, she is said to have carved her own special large scale crochet hooks and source supplies from fishing shops…. So, she’s also elevating traditional male hobbies and work into art.
Within the “skin” of crochet is the “skeleton” of aluminium and foams. This adds support but like any body made around 1972-77, it is becoming more delicate.
Ewa, now over 80 years old, can perhaps empathise with the figures of Arcadia.
Now living in France, she would surely be happy to see her work at home in a Sydney gallery, as Sydney was the first place she lived in Australia when arrived 1971.
See you in Arcadia.
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