Historically, the use of textile as a material to create art images can be placed halfway between the liberal and applied arts, and its position is still considered a contested issue. Today, artists are going back to textile and its multiple historical, political, social and symbolic meanings—a rich semantic texture, which unfolds through the exhibition.
Soft Pictures is a group exhibition that explores the use of textile in contemporary art. The show addresses the multiplicity of meanings that the adoption of this medium entails in artistic practice.
As a product of human labour, a perfect blend between technique and invention, true skill and a great deal of application, the textile arts may seem distant from the conceptual approach that characterises much of today’s art. Yet, it is these very aspects that have become central in the way modern artists are bringing back the textile tradition. In the contemporary world, choosing fabric as a material and using old techniques to work it represents the first significant, strong gesture to open up a whole range of expressive possibilities for art.
Artists use textile to reflect on tradition, memory and folklore, a domain in which the work of art has no definite author but carries within it the richness of an entire culture, of countless hands and minds that have shaped it throughout the centuries, handing it down to us. At the same time, the connection between these artefacts and a specific culture and age unearths their political and social implications: A humble household job, mostly carried out by women and serving private needs, is the other side to an art that was fit to celebrate the wealth and power of the great European courts. Hard-wearing and easily transportable, textile was a commodity par excellence, which revolutionised the manufacturing industry.
Function and decoration, design and art, tradition and modernity: artists move between these poles, reflecting on the artefact as a cluster of different tensions and symbols.