The classic craft of weaving art from textile fabrics

Wu Huixin
Fabric fiber has been a witness to historical events, including the Silk Road and the Industrial Revolution. It's no surprise that artists have used fabric to create various art.
Wu Huixin

Silk, wool, canvas, yarn and fabrics – our daily stuff – could be turned into grand, glorious and graceful artworks because of their softness, warmth and tangible properties.

To feel their uniqueness, visit the 4th Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art at Zhejiang Art Museum and Hangzhou Museum and check out the almost 60 fiber art pieces from over 10 countries and regions.

The exhibition, which ends on December 4, is on the theme of "缓存在 Being Theoria" this year.

缓存在 is a combination of two words: 缓存 (cache) and 存在 (being). The character 缓 means "slow, moderate or postponed." It belongs to the Chinese radical of 纟, which is derived from a kind of silk from ancient China. Meanwhile 存在 is the equivalent of the philosophical term "being."

In Chinese, 缓存在 could be understood as "postponed-being" or "cached-being," as 缓存 is the translation of "cache" in computerese but could mean "storing slowly" literally.

"This theme attempts to interweave a new definition of fiber art. And based on the perceptions that are inspired by fiber and textile, the deep intention of the fiber art event is to arouse retrospect and reflection on art through the medium of fiber," said Liu Tian, curator of the exhibition.

"From ancient times, fibers and fiber arts have been involved in a myriad of cultural events. They are the universal structure of nature and life, an iconic invention of human civilization, a daily necessity worn by all walks of life, and a witness to historical events including the Silk Road and the Industrial Revolution."

The classic craft of weaving art from textile fabrics
Ti Gong

Artwork by Chilean artist Constanza Piña.

One highlight of the exhibition is "Khipu: Electrotextile Prehispanic Computer" by Chilean artist Constanza Piña, who integrates contemporary technologies with traditional handicraft techniques.

The Inca Khipu is a pre-Hispanic textile, often made of cotton or fiber strings, to store data coded as knots. It is considered a computer encoding and recording information from millennia ago.

Most Khipu were arranged as knotted strings hanging from horizontal cords to represent numbers for bookkeeping and census purposes. The Khipu were presumably textile abacuses, hardly written documents.

Piña's installation is made up of 180 hand-spun ropes from a mixture of copper wire and alpaca wool. Each rope is connected to an electronic circuit that boosts electromagnetic signals at the site.

The installation explores the connection between the ancient Inca Khipu and the modern-day binary coding system. The information coded in her Khipu includes a spectral classification of the constellation Boötes, expressing how the universe is governed by harmonious numerical proportions.

Fiber art in its present form was introduced to China in the 1980s. It was Maryn Varbanov from Bulgaria who established the China Tapestry Academy at Zhejiang Art College (today's China Academy of Art).

The classic craft of weaving art from textile fabrics
Ti Gong

Shi Hui's artwork

One of his students was Shi Hui, who is now the head of the Fiber and Space Studio of the China Academy of Art and the founder of the triennial.

Shi's fiber work "Writing, Non-writing" is also being exhibited. Inspired by the mythical figure, Fuxi, the artist used cotton threads to create Chinese characters by weaving. It is believed that Fuxi observed the signs in the sky and beasts, and developed the Eight Trigrams and the first Chinese characters.

"Pure Reason" is a special project at Hangzhou Museum, and includes about 20 works by 12 artists from home and abroad.

The project was inspired by Jingyin Temple, which was built in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period (AD 907-979). Today, part of the temple's foundation is housed in the museum. The characters "净因" (Jingyin) literally mean "pure reason."

"All the artworks are interspersed across the museum and exhibition halls, showing the special relationship between historical relics and modern times. This is a very 'fibrous' way of thinking," said Xu Xiaoxiao, deputy director of Hangzhou Museum.

The classic craft of weaving art from textile fabrics
Ti Gong

Part of the Jingyin Temple foundation in Hangzhou Museum.

4th Hangzhou Triennial of Fiber Art

Date: Through December 4 (closed on Mondays), 9am-4:30pm
Venue 1: Zhejiang Art Museum
Address: 138 Nanshan Rd


Venue 2: Hangzhou Museum
Address: 18 Liangdaoshan


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