‘Current Threads 19’ Vancouver Island Surface Design Association Exhibition, October 3 – 24, 2019

Steaming the wrinkles out of Origins after it traveled in a box from Gimli, Manitoba to Duncan, British Columbia. This is minutes before the Artists’ Reception of Vancouver Island Surface Design Association’s annual exhibition, Current Threads 19.

This work is about a group of Icelandic people settling in Canada bringing with them their material culture and their DNA. I wrote about it in a previous blog post here 
This year’s exhibition is in the new, expanded Portals Gallery run by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council here. With so much more room the VISDA artists were able to hang large works.
During the reception, I was able to talk to some of the artists about their work.
Gina Dingwell, No Looking Back, dress: hand-dyed, indigo silk, recycled knitting, and crochet with various yarns; personal objects.
Gina’s artist statement: ‘The process of knitting with found knitting materials from my past was a visceral experience. It was an exploration of materials that I had left behind, past experiences, self-image, burdens, things said and done. This piece represents a challenging and yet beautiful process of letting go to find new awareness.’
I think Gina shows great courage in putting out such intensely personal work for all to see. Gina has done what I have just learned about from Merill Comeau, website, during her workshop ‘Mining the Personal for the Universal’ she taught during the Surface Design Association’s conference in St Louis, see previous post.
Visit Gina’s Instagram site to see more of how she views the world.
Barbara McCaffrey, Ogham – Oracle of the Trees, 3 Oak staves imprinted with Ogham alphabet letters compiling the words ‘Courage,’ ‘Harmony,’ ‘Strength’.
Barbara’s artist statement: ‘Ogham writings were discovered in the Book of Ballymote, a 14th-century Irish manuscript. The book contains treatises on the history, genealogical and geological survey of Ireland among others.’
Barbara has recently returned from a trip to Ireland where she spent time discovering and exploring her heritage. She told of her findings in this and other works in the exhibition.

Laura Feeleus, Cellular Articulation, hand and machine stitching and beads on repurposed textiles.
Laura has recently been exploring the biological processes involved in the body’s assimilation, storage, and breakdown of fatty tissue. At the same time, it is a comment on the global problem of obesity and overconsumption, a concept reinforced by her use of recycled materials. 
Laura’s website here

Jean Cockburn, Green Worlds, hand embroidery on linen gauze backed with cotton.
Jean’s artist statement: Imagine many green worlds, large and small, spinning through the infinities of space. What possibilities for Life!
Jean’s meditation on green can be explored in many ways: a colour study, a survey of hand embroidery techniques, the power of the mandala, the cosmos of the universe.
Read Jean’s blog here to see more of her work.
Susan Duffield, Traveller’s Dreams, cotton dyed with indigo and madder.
Susan’s artist statement: ‘Stitched with memories of childhood and travels to Australia.’

Traveller’s Dreams, detail
Like Gina, Susan is working with the personal to access the universal and like Jean, she is exploring the power of the handstitched circular mandala shape.

Bryony Dunsmore, One Rift, One Flaw No. 2, textile
Bryony’s artist statement: Inspired by a Margaret Atwood poem which includes the words “…there is one rift, one flaw, where we are nailed to the earth forever.”
One Rift, One Flaw No. 2, detail
I didn’t get the chance to talk with Bryony about this work so I can’t give you more details.
I am always drawn to Bryon’s beautiful colour schemes. They are just so harmonious and soft but always with enough contrast to speak loudly. She demonstrates complete mastery of her technique the result of which is always a pleasure to explore up close.
Lesley Comassar, Uprooted, (the work on the left) hand-dyed, hand-painted cotton, machine pieced and appliqued (raw edge), free motion quilting.
Lesley’s artist statement: When our vital connections to the earth, our families, and communities are forcibly severed, the effects reverberate through the generations.
Lesley’s website here.
This is one of a series of 3 works where Lesley has explored the effects of migration at both a personal level and in different communities around the world. I talked with Lesley about how she reworked the colour scheme to ensure the works had the impact she was looking for, the right grey the right red.

These are just a few of the outstanding works in this year’s VISDA annual exhibition. As you can see, members are willing to tackle large, serious and intensely personal subjects and they have the strength and courage to express their viewpoints and feelings on these subjects while demonstrating mastery of their craft.
Many thanks to Gillian Riordan and her committee for presenting an exceptional exhibition.

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