Taranaki textile artist Viv Davy recently displayed a comprehensive and diverse exhibition of work at Greerton’s Cottleston Art Gallery. The content of the exhibition showed two distinct threads of Davy’s work – highly skilled fine fibre weaving juxtaposed against significant, intellectual and feminist social commentary. For me, it was a particularly insightful and moving exhibition.
I’d never been to Cottleston Gallery before: the personally and creatively articulate Tauranga artist Deborah Forkert (who herself will be exhibiting at Cottleston in early 2017) “suggested” I go along and meet Kate Steeds, Cottleston Owner/Director and view the Davy work.
Cottleston represents part of early Tauranga. An historic, period home in a rustic garden on the now semi-industrial/commerical fringe of the Greerton Village. The old homestead lends itself to its contemporary use – large, glass paned windows, wide window surrounds and white-painted walls tie a series of residential rooms into a boutique gallery with many of the architectural and presentation effects of the old Zeus Gallery on 11th Avenue. Just as with Zeus the conversion of a residential home into several smaller gallery rooms adds to the charm of the gallery and also allows work to be seen on house size walls and in a residential ambiance.
It was an early evening opening. The building’s french doors open directly opposite a compact modern kitchen, screened by an imposing antique dresser. On the dresser are the evening’s treats – fruit punch and a cheese ball among them. The cheese ball is an absolute delight and reminds me of my early years “dinner parties”. I manage to break crackers all over the foyer in my excitement to try this contemporary version of a long-loved delight.
Work is displayed in the foyer – one of my favourite pieces of fine weaving is right there – “Joy Gems. I found them in My Garden” Vibrant eye shaped patterns. I walk through into what must have been the sitting room – there is a collection of the more sombre-coloured, social statement works. There is a large fabric collage, overwritten with cursive script text. A grouping of unusual collaged journals – both big and small at the same time, their contents of fabric, fibre and paper bursting out onto the display table in an untamed and uncontrolled way.
There are two other works in this main area which take my eye. I enjoy the collaged daily journal which runs along the wall. A statement piece, magpie made of diverse memory joggers. I like this example of journaling more than the obviously more creatively time-consuming journals above. Hanging in a small passage room off the main room is a banner – it’s like fabric lichen. A merging of greys, blacks and white into an abstract pattern. It’s only when I’m up close and I’m told by the artist, it is the text of the principal work, written again but run together in one continuous text.
In another small passageway are further examples of the sixties coloured tapestries. One of them screams “take me home” – it’s amoeba shape would never be tiresome and the colours would entrance at anytime of the year.
There is another body of work in a small, well-lit side room. It’s collaged fabric, lace, paper and it is a dismal, drudge, off-brown. Almost as if the life is seeping out of it. I tell the artist the works make me feel uncomfortable, even sad, a visible feeling of loss – unsettling – and so they were supposed to be.
It was interesting being able to see “two sides” to an artist in such close proximity. The joyful, energy bursting, Rajasthan-coloured fine weaving and tapestry juxtaposed against such intense yet dour expressions of daily life, domestic responsibility, loss and commitment.
The exhibition was accompanied by a series of detailed explanatory statements. I collected as many as I could see and brought them home with me. I decided I wouldn’t read them before I wrote about Davy’s work. My comment is my personal response to another woman’s creativity.
It was interesting to see who was at the opening of this exhibition. Age and gender diverse including arts journalist Rosalie Crawford and ARTbop interviewer and contributor John Baxter, The Incubator Music Manager and stalwart.
If you have the opportunity to see any of the creative work of Viv Davy I would take it. Not only for the opportunity to see up close astoundingly beautiful fine work but also to look into the soul of a creative woman through her representational textile art.
A virtual walkthrough of the exhibition may be seen on the Cottleston Art Gallery website.
From Out of the Blue Studios Viv Davy firstname.lastname@example.org
Viv Davy A.O.C.A. ; P.G.Dip
+ 64 21 407 424
“The Cottleston Gallery presents: Daily Voices – Viv Davy: A Biography from the Artist
Viv Davy grew up in the working class environment of 1950’s New Zealand where everyone “made do”. The household’s textile items were home sewn from the bed sheets to the dance frocks with all the hand knitted sweaters and gloves in between.
Not only were textile skills a domestic necessity in this era, they were also the established, albeit unacknowledged, female art form. Techniques, pattern reading and material knowledge were learned from an early age, passed down through the generations. Davy’s very talented Mother, Daphne, who clothed herself and five children with her trusty Singer sewing machine and her knitting needles, gave a love of fiber and its special qualities to her daughter.
On establishing her own family, Davy went beyond this grounding initially exploring hand spinning, and dying then weaving. Davy developed a boutique weaving studio producing custom yardages for clothing and upholstery, floor rugs, wall hangings and other accessories. Teaching the skills to others was always an important part of this business.
Emigration to Canada triggered a deep desire for Davy to communicate her diaspora experiences and for her, weaving was the natural vehicle. Initially undertaking residential weaving courses at The Banff Centre for the Arts Davy developed a longing for deeper learning and greater technical mastery.
Becoming an AOCA under the Master Tapestry Artist, Helen Francis Gregor and Senior Multi- Harness Weaver, William Hodge at The Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto, Davy discovered the powers firstly of tapestry and then of damask weaving. This was the springboard for exploring more intimate messages in thread, to push the boundaries of these two traditional techniques, to convey the complexities of life as a constantly evolving passage. The standard grid format of woven expression challenged Davy as a format to convey life’s irregularities and unpredictability, while responding to the organic environment of the living world. The scale of these tapestries was mostly small, intimate. They were woven on very basic portable frames that moved with the shifts of life, allowing for transporting through many changes. The woven expressions use very fine natural threads predominantly silk, often hand dyed by Davy.
Cotton is the warp thread for the tapestries. Using such fine materials Davy can build intricate details into her work so they resemble woven thread drawings. Working within the geometrics of the woven structure the fine scale of the weave enables the creation of optically curving and fluid lines – the hallmark of Davy’s work.
Returning to New Zealand to support aging parents saw greater family demands on Davy and it was this immersion in their care that inspired the research exploration into The Mundane and women’s domestic worlds. Embarking on a Masters degree Davy investigated the historic role of cleanliness in early settler New Zealand before the era of mechanisation. In this more recent practice Davy has diversified her explorations of textile expressions. Combining textural practices with more standardised stitching and assemblage, conceptual works about the lives of women have been developed. Some of these works reference the cultural creation of monuments and also how our memories are created on a more personal level. These new departures still homage the nuanced, detailed observational recording that is the hallmark of Davy’s practice. A durational practice observing, recording and reflecting on her own personal domestic life resulted in the installation exhibition that was titled “Liminal Sites: Materialising an Everyday”. This body of work was acknowledged with Davy receiving The Dean’s Award for Excellence in Research from Auckland University of Technology. Work from this installation has also been accepted into the international juried World of Threads Festival in Canada.
Davy’s continuing practice explores concepts around The Home, Values, and Iterations of Activity. She is an active exhibitor undertaking both solo and joint shows. Additionally Davy opens her studio space annually for The Taranaki Arts Trail to continue the conversations contained in her making with observers. “
Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
The exhibition was titled “Daily Voices” Textile Art Exhibition. The artist and explanatory statements from Cottleston Gallery and the artist Viv Davy are reproduced below.
UP COMING AT COTTLESTON ART GALLERY, GREERTON
10 – 17 December Decision A short exhibition of the work that has been completed in the Cottleston studio during the last month by Artist in Residence Sheena Mayer. You are invited to come and view her work and meet this charming and talented German artist who has been working at the gallery during her tour of Australia and New Zealand. She has a MLitt. (Master of Letters) in Fine Art Practice from the Glasgow School of Art.
6 – 18 December(please note changed start date) Very Printeresting :a variety of different prints from New Zealand and overseas artists. Some may be just what someone would like for Christmas. We can also organise the framing for you.
4 – 17 January 2017 Remains of the Day. Deborah Forkert has recently again been a finalist in the Tauranga Art Gallery Miles Award. Her unusual medium may surprise you. More than five years’ practice-based research with one this medium has resulted in a very polished exhibition.
20 Jan – 20 Feb 2017 The Bee Appreciation Society AGM. Paintings by Katherine Steeds. A unique and painstaking installation of tiny portraits, in homage to the humble bee.
Anne Stråtveit’s ART SCHOOL exhibition’s limited edition fine art prints are available now and will continue to be available through the gallery for the foreseeable future.
During exhibitions the Gallery’s usual opening hours: 11am – 4.30pm every day except Mondays.
But visitors are welcome to browse the gallery outside these hours. Please simply phone for an appointment.
The Cottleston Gallery
128 Oropi Road, Greerton, Tauranga.
Contact Katherine Steeds 578 5242 or 0204783337
0204 STEEDS (0204 783337)