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'TEXTILES' EXHIBITION
at Suffolk Acre, Ipswich
A review by Erica Woodman

Many fine artists and critics look down their noses at textiles, which are seen as "mere craft". (Could this have anything to do with the fact that most textile producers are women?? Just wondering.) If you subscribe to this view, go and visit the latest exhibition at Suffolk ACRE curated by Freelance member Daniel Rounding, and be pleasantly surprised.

I prefer to call textiles Fabric Art, and some of the work featured here is definitely Art with a big A. Yes, perhaps Helen Dougall's landscapes are a little... well, polite, but the fact that they are batik on cotton makes them a lot more interesting than your average watercolour. And perhaps Sue Bowles' flower paintings on silk and Claire Turner's Fish series in layered and cutaway silk are (God forbid) pretty, but silk paintings have particularly lustrous, singing colours. And in the Computer Room you will find Anita Faithfull's silk painted and machine embroidered waistcoats, which are highly technically accomplished* and surely very saleable. (Actually, at these prices, the artists here would be earning, ooh, all of 50p an hour.)

But on to rather "meatier" stuff. I was particularly taken with Sarah Butters' work in the Training Room. She uses the fleece of different breeds of sheep to create semi-abstract felted hangings in different natural shades and textures, sometimes enhanced by a chains of bright silk stitches. In the ground floor Communal Area hang some very beautiful works. "High Falls" and "Hanging Gardens" by Helen Ripley use a variety of techniques to create richly tactile pieces - as does the striking "Mother Earth" by Claire Turner. This is described as "felted fibres and applied fabrics", and is an intricately worked piece that will reward close inspection. Different kinds quilting, pleating and appliqu„ add another dimension to these images. More of Claire Turner's work is featured in the board room upstairs: the wallhangings here have a common theme - "Flaming Forest" - and use dyes, spun and felted wool and metallic and iridescent fabrics in a feast of colour and texture. The same artist has also produced a topical piece inspired by the events of 11 September, on view in the Child Care Manager's office.

A noteworthy set of four pieces by Alex Perry, entitled "Patternation 1-4" is on view in the ground floor corridor. These are machine embroidered patterns and silk screen prints on perspex based on street maps and cell patterns. Very unusual, and a long way from horses' heads in cross stitch.

There's no space to mention every individual work, and as before, I can only say "go and see for yourself". Daniel has done well to assemble such an eclectic mix of works by local artists.

* Free machine embroidery is a highly skilled technique. It is only too easy to break the thread, puncture your fingernails, and go all over the place because you put your foot down too hard on the "accelerator". Believe me - I'm speaking from experience.

--Erica Woodman, January 2002

'Textiles' is the current art exhibition showing at the Suffolk Community Resource Centre, Suffolk ACRE, Wharfedale Road, Ipswich. Freelance member Erica Woodman went along and sent us this review.

The exhibition continues until 26th February 2002.