Friday, 4 November 2011

Insight Into Beauty * Japanese Embassy * London * Until 2 December 2011

Last night Richard and I had a great treat - we were guests at a special reception at the Japanese Embassy for their Insight Into Beauty exhibition. The exhibition is now open to public viewing Monday to Friday between 9.30am and 17.30pm. Entrance is free but you are required to present a form of photographic identification when entering the Embassy, such as a passport. There are a number of craft techniques displayed, needless to say I migrated towards the textiles and braiding. We are not allowed to take pictures inside the embassy, so images are few here, I am sorry to add.
I was very affected by a series of half a dozen textiles by Beverly Ayling-Smith who besides being a textile artist is a microbiologist. Her works in the exhibition explore the state of melancholia. She uses materials associated with burial to encourage a focus on the emotional dimensions in the words grief, loss and absence. One of the series embodies a child's dress as a vehicle for expressing loss – both the loss of childhood and loss of the inner child within ones-self. Beverly says that even when the immediate feelings of grief and mourning are passed, we are changed forever; the emotions embedded in the fabric of our lives emerge at different times to stain our emotional states. The way the image of a child's dress can seep through the smoothed-over surface echoes the way in which feelings of loss can rise to the surface at different moments in our lives. My earlier work has included an investigation into the Japanese Kesa, the Buddhist robe of mourning, which is made from rags in remembrance of a deceased person to honour their memory.

I also had chance to speak to Edna Gibson who works with kumihimo - braids - which are wonderful. They are complex and extraordinarily beautiful in their infinite combinations and structures. I was totally mesemerised by Edna's choice of colours and asked how she chose the colours for her designs. I think her answer is helpful not only to braiders, but to stitchers and knitters also. She says she puts a palette of her threads out on a table which she passes many times a day. If she keeps going past it without thinking about it, then she knows the colours are OK. If she has to pause and stop, then she knows there is something wrong and will remove colours and change them. She says braiding is like a meditation, the enjoyment is in the making - a feeling I am totally in sympathy with, as I expect many of you are. The Braid Society have a very interesting and informative web site, just click here to visit.
For more information about the Insight Into Beauty exhibition as a whole, click here.

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