Gio Swaby Embarks on an Exploration of Self-Love and Acceptance in Her Vibrant Textile Portraits
From minimal outlines in black thread, empowering portraits of Black women emerge in new large-scale textile pieces by Toronto-based artist Gio Swaby (previously). Vivid fabrics with an emphasis on florals dominate her new body of work titled I Will Blossom Anyway, on view now at Claire Oliver Gallery, emphasizing brightness, joy, and self-love. Centering on a number of self-portraits, her recent artworks reflect on personal identity, embarking on an introspective journey toward acceptance and compassion.
Swaby’s interest in textiles ties her to a childhood surrounded by the materials her mother often used in her work as a seamstress. She was born and raised in The Bahamas before moving to Canada, where she has spent most of her adult life, and she draws on conflicted feelings about a sense of belonging and navigating what she poetically describes as her “many selves.” She says, “I reflected a lot on my own path and started to recognize how many parts of myself exist in the in-between spaces.”
In her nearly-life-size self-portraits, the artist looks directly at the viewer yet always appears relaxed, embracing tranquil moments of rest. Loose threads occasionally abandon their outlines, dangling or wandering around the canvas as if they have a mind of their own, highlighting the never-finished process of growth, evolution, and self-understanding.
I Will Blossom Anyway runs through July 29 in Harlem and coincides with her solo exhibition Fresh Up at the Art Institute of Chicago, which continues through July 3. Find more on the artist’s website and on Instagram.
Share this story
Dressed in Soft Cushions and Bulbous Garb, Colorful Personas Emerge from Frode Bolhuis’ Daily Sculpture Project
Bound with colorful cushions and twine, draped in chains of spheres, or sprouting a single leaf from their head, the characters that originate in Frode Bolhuis’s Almere studio embody the Dutch artist’s playful imagination and desire for experimentation. Part of an ongoing sculpture project, the expressive cast is currently comprised of 117 miniature figures made primarily of polymer clay with wood, fiber, and metal additions, each of which has a distinctive personality.
Bolhuis (previously) began the project with the intention of creating a new work each day, although he shares that in order to refine the characters’ features and fashion their garments, he’s more likely to complete two per week. While much of his process remains the same as when he began the project in February 2022, the artist is currently branching into textile design in collaboration with the studio Byborre and a loom in his studio. He shares about the evolution of the collection:
I don’t know if they get better but they continually find new forms, forms I didn’t know of before I started. It’s like I’m getting to know myself through the sculptures. It’s a wonderful paradox that the set form, size, and discipline give so much freedom. It really feels as if I can continue this forever and continually develop. It’s magic.
If you’re in Philadelphia, you can see a few of the artist’s works later this year as part of Hi-Fructose’s group exhibition at Arch Enemy Arts. Otherwise, find more of the whimsical personas on Instagram.
Share this story
In a Daily Sewing Project, Karen Turner Stitches a Visual Diary in Vividly Textured Designs
From newspaper paintings and watercolor scenes to narrative photographs and wildly handled mugs, daily projects have continually grabbed our attention for their ritualistic nature, dedication, and ability to strengthen creative stamina. East Yorkshire-based artist Karen Turner has spent the last year in the midst of her own routine involving a long strip of vintage fabric and colorful hand-sewn motifs.
Turner began what’s become her Intuitive Daily Stitching project back in January 2022 when she was hoping to bring more mindfulness into her everyday. The idea was to fill a few inches on a simple, angular grid with whatever motif came to mind, creating a textured patchwork that was also “a visual representation of time passing,” she says. “The older I get, the faster time seems to pass, and I wanted to connect with this sense of time rushing by and consciously to notice a few minutes every day.”
For the 2022 iteration, Turner worked on a single sheet of metis, a cotton-linen blend, stitching undulating stripes, dense crisscrossed lines, and radial designs. Now complete, the piece stretches a staggering 95 inches, highlighting the changes in the artist’s emotions, impulses, and aesthetic sensibilities as the months passed.
In this year’s edition, Turner shifted to a more book-like structure with several pages and a cover to emphasize the diaristic nature of the project. She explains:
I sometimes think stitching is more like writing than drawing, in that you can often identify a stitcher’s work in the same way that you would recognise their handwriting on an envelope. In that way, the stitch journal functions a bit like a diary, though it records more abstract thoughts and feelings rather than events. I think of the cloth and the stitches as witness to this part of my life and holders of a fragment of time.
For those interested in starting their own daily stitching journal, Turner sells her monthly templates and offers an online course on the practice. You can find more about the project on her site and follow updates on Instagram.
Share this story
Jeanne Vicerial’s Enigmatic ‘Armors’ Evoke Timeless Strength in Elegant Sculptures Made of Thread
Evocative of medieval suits of armor or monastic traditions, Jeanne Vicerial’s intricate sculptures exude quiet strength in thousands of draping threads. The French artist layers halyards, a type of cord used to hoist sails or flags, to outline the curves of figures wearing elegant cloaks, hoods, and shield-like accessories with unraveled coils at their feet. In her series Armors—a play on the French words amour and armure, meaning “love” and “armor,” respectively—she assembles enigmatic garments that await use, as if crystallized over time.
Vicerial was inspired by the Gorgons of Greek mythology, the most famous of which is Medusa, whose hair roiled with snakes and turned anyone who looked at them into stone. “The idea was to insert myself into that great mythological story but to suspend its time, making it impossible to define the time or place where they were born,” the artist tells Colossal. She leaves the wearers’ identities open to interpretation, allowing the viewer to imagine the possibilities of their histories or purposes.
Drawing on her background in fashion and textiles, Vicerial was originally interested in studying the male figure and clothing. She began to focus on expressions of the female form when she participated in a year-long residency at Villa Medici in Rome and was struck by the way women have been represented throughout art history. “When I looked at the sculptures in the Villa’s park and saw the Venuses with their wet drapery, the representations of women in lascivious postures with draped cloth that always seems to be accidentally slipping off, I decided to focus again on the female body,” she says. Vicerial turns the ancient trope on its head by emphasizing garments as protective coverings that beget a formidable presence, merely hinting at the figure beneath.
Describing the works as “guardians,” Vicerial provokes subtle associations with medieval European burials of knights and nobles, Japanese samurai armor, or nuns’ habits. She sometimes places varnished flowers like roses into cavities located where a metal chest plate would have protected one’s vital organs in combat. Like portals glimpsing a mysterious interior, they highlight the body’s vulnerability.
Blurring the boundary between fashion and sculpture, the phantom-like works are devoid of facial expressions. Long threads cascade from headdresses, shoulders, and faces illustrating dignity and vulnerability, and the spectral, imposing armors are “protections that express a form of power, but that are in reality extremely fragile because they are made only of threads,” she says, underlining the dubious tension between strength and weakness. “To touch them is in a way to destroy them because they could never be presented in the same way again.”
Armors comprised a recent exhibition with TEMPLON. If you’re in Paris, you can find Vicerial’s work in the group exhibition Des cheveux et des poils at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs through September 17. Follow updates about forthcoming shows and new works on the artist’s Instagram. (via .able)
Share this story
In Monica Rohan’s ‘Disappearing Act,’ Free-Floating Fabrics Disguise Landscapes Under Threat
Draped over invisible clotheslines, vintage fabrics conceal seaside vistas, meadows teeming with dried grasses, and craggy walls of stone in Monica Rohan’s latest works. The artist (previously) renders the vast landscapes of her native Australia in a new series of oil paintings as part of Disappearing Act, her solo show on view later this month at Jan Murphy Gallery in Fortitude Valley, Queensland.
Known for her deft portrayals of pattern and the dimensions of folded textiles, Rohan continues to contrast domestic, human-made material with more organic surroundings. In this series, disembodied limbs draw back the suspended curtains, slowly uncovering the otherwise concealed landscapes. Rohan refers to these small reveals as “portals to seemingly idyllic environments beyond” that accentuate the way paintings—and art, more broadly—intervene in how we experience our surroundings.
The stage-like nature of the paintings draws connections between the limited duration of theatrical performances and the impending losses caused by the climate crisis as they channel “feelings of anxiety and concern toward landscapes under threat,” the artist says. Each is serene with calm waters, sunny skies, and an easiness to its existence, and all notably lack evidence of human civilization. Devoid of a body, the hands add an uncanny tension to the works, as they direct viewers toward what lies behind the curtains and emphasize, as the title suggests, “that the show is about to start.”
Disappearing Act will run from April 26 to May 13. Until then, take a look at Rohan’s Instagram, where she generously shares glimpses into her process.
Share this story
Shishi San’s Vibrant Tufted Sculptures Celebrate the Colorful Motifs of Chinese Vases
The soft pile of tufted yarn meets vibrant color in Brussels-based artist Shishi San’s bold sculptures. She began tufting in 2019, working on two-dimensional pieces that feature playful flowers, insects, and other creatures, and last year, she propelled her practice into the three-dimensional realm. Inspired by the shape, hues, and patterns of Chinese vases, she began a series of nine voluminous vessels that draw on traditional motifs in a series titled Fluffy Collection. “I wanted to create my own version of them, inspired both by my own experiences and by their visual identity,” she tells Colossal.
San is currently working on her biggest project to date, so you can keep an eye out for updates on Instagram, and find more on That’s What X Said.
Share this story
Editor's Picks: Animation
Highlights below. For the full collection click here.