Marilyn Theisel at Dark Mofo 2017
Congratulations to Marilyn Theisel, Guild member and UTAS Fine Arts student, who has literally been on display at Dark Mofo.
Rooms with large windows onto the UTAS Evans Street campus were used as public studios for a number of students such as Marilyn to publicly create art during the festival.
Marilyn's "Curtain Call" involved her intricately weaving shape and forms into the frame of suspended lampshades. All the while, her assistant kept the frames moving, adding to the gentle drama of light and shadow as Marilyn wove.
"Torn strips of curtain material are manipulated through cotton threads. I engage in the spontaneous design woven on my hanging structures. These become dancers gently swaying in the night. Light beams through the threads casting shadows on the surrounding surfaces. Shapes come together for the final curtain call."
This is the statement as written on the Window of Cell 12.
My work involved warping hoola-hoops with cotton thread. I used clear plastic piping to hold the top threads, and joined the bottom threads with crochet stitching. The work became a complete textile work, involving different aspects of old traditions in handcraft.
I sought to make the work recyclable, by using products that did not need to be discarded after the event. The use of old curtain material, stripping that down into thick threads was ideal. The thick threads could give a good shadow effect, but also allow me to do the work in time, over the four nights. The strips were also equal in length due to the limitations of the curtain drop, and I could calculate easily what was needed.
By hanging one lampshade inside the other allowed for different thread effects and shapes. The dark thread attached could be used to swing the shades, and give movement and rhythm.
The main issue was with lighting, to get the large shadows I wanted. The room itself did not have straight white walls, with lots of furniture and other students’ works lying around. So by the use of a white panel and left over curtains I could drape areas to allow shadow effects to fall. I needed white on lockers, so white cartridge paper worked.
Strong electricians’ torches were very effective, run on batteries, did not have leads and no health and safety issues. A small strobe lamp allowed for variations, without too strong an effect to cause health problems for viewers with epilepsy. I also used spotlights, but these were coloured, not as advertised, and not very strong. These gave a soft variation in colour. On reflection, stronger ones would have been more effective.
I found that I had many viewers early on in the evening, as the work appealed to families, and younger people. The swaying movement and shadows became mesmerising, and the actual physical work of weaving was an interest to even the very young.
My son, Christopher, had a GoPro camera, which he secured to my head and the continuous video of my hands weaving could be viewed on the tablet he placed at the window. It was a pity I did not have a bigger screen, as this video fascinated viewers.
Lots of banging on windows, thumbs up and shouts and comments.
The overall production, with many ideas to improve for later, was a great learning curve. The photographs proved even better and these I still have to download. Christopher has 3 hours of videos which I should get, hopefully, soon, and will send more photos as I get them.
The nights allowed me to reflect on my learning outcomes, how I felt during the time and what my emotions were. I felt in myself that the idea of textile art, the gentle swaying of shadows and weaving provided a sample of old traditions in an art form, as against many of the more sexual or weird works on view, allowing the younger generation to partake in a more friendly environment. After all, art starts from the youngest person and their own imaginations.