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ANGELA WRIGHT

 

"SILK"  -  SILK-MASTERS' HOUSES,  5 & 3 PRINCELET ST.,  SPITALFIELDS,  LONDON,  EC2
torn red raw silk

viewable from 7 Mar to 29 Apr 2001
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MAKING THE WORK    
Photos: David Carr-Smith

"The 18C silk dying and weaving in Spitalfields used raw silk-thread from India (silk moths did not thrive in cool moist UK climate). This industry financed houses such as the terrace of tall ones in Princelet Street (off Brick Lane). Owned by "silk masters"; they had weaving workshops on their upper floors [1]. Number 5 includes the "Five Princelet Street Gallery" where Angela made the first "Silk" installation in a modern purpose-built gallery in its back yard. When that exhibition closed she re-installed the work in the adjoining 3 Princelet Street, a private house whose front lowest room was reserved for displays that could be viewed from the pavement.


Sketches that were leading to "Silk" (though perhaps only connected to the final piece by hindsight) had been appearing at home in various forms (eg: some consisted of 'bunches' of fragments of dry porcelain-clay weavings bound in red torn 'lining' (cheap silk-substitute cloth)). It became a definate and individual piece when Angela was asked to make a work for the Five Princelet St Gallery. The final "Silk" piece developed from initial naive 'fill the Gallery with silk threads like cobwebs' ideas [2]; progressed through studio and in-Gallery tests, and achieved its final form as 30 rows of loosely woven and knotted 'nets' strung across the Gallery width by stapling their topmost 'weft' ribbons to the two walls. 

 

Over xmas 2000 Angela and I went to India and on the tour we visited markets and shops to find the right red color and price of 40 metres of raw silk cloth:

 
We started in Bombay (Mumbai) markets: old cramped wooden shops up thin wooden stairs with multi-racks of silks (but the silks' reds were not right). Then a long train journey south to the Kerala town Ernakulam (on the W coast opposite Port Cochin): 60's shop-arcades with lots of chrome and lights (but the silks' reds were still not right). We bussed and taxied over the tea and rubber-covered mountains to the south-east city of Madurai with its 17C stylistically degenerate but monstrously overwhelming Meenakshi Temple (like a walled stone town of multiple galleries cells halls and courtyards), where - in a gigantic stone hall with countless dwarfed stalls in long lines under a roof of immense stone 'sleepers' supported by giant stone monsters, and looked over by a green robed black Kali dripping libations of butter - Angela bought 40 metres of the correctly-intense-red and cheapest-yet silk (for around 120 = 3/metre - in Lon about 10 to 12/metre ... if you could get the right color), wrapped in a bin-liner and string and bought as pouring rain was flooding the stone gullies and swilling the streets in manure! 


Later she said "I tore the silk into strips, which frayed and tangled, and wove an environment like the cables that straddled every roadway and knotted their way round every telegraph pole.":


She knelt in the Gallery tearing 40m of beautiful silk into narrow strips, which shed threads that tangled on the floor. This final object, as it was made, evoked for her and fed on her memories and feelings of India: torn and decaying banana leaves; tangles of cables and wires round poles and buildings; overgrown tracks; chaos and order so closely bound together (so unlike rich tidy functional UK). When one looked into the piece from the front ones gaze followed drooping perspectives of multiple cells leading back into obscurity and a dark distance (she says this was like the temples, caves, cellular sanctuaries, carved into cliffs or built like small-mountains) - though strangely, from the side it was just an open row of nets ... this 'solid from the front' and 'open-rows from sides' resembled the small lake-fringing plantations we entangled with inside the huge pit of Lonar Meteor Crater (a mile wide collision with a small asteroid). 


In the little windowless wooden Gallery, from the front space where one entered, the piece, though so loose and un-solid and so un-consolidated as a thing, seemed a disconcertingly menacing almost alive-like single 'presence'. Its slight asymmetry in the rectangular room, its apparant progress forewards from the rear wall, the way it was multiply 'tethered' to the sides, provoked an impression of a monster (like a sort of rhino) in a zoo-stall or shrine - this coherence was even more odd because the object that evoked it was indupitably just a tangle of torn fabric, a relatively chaotic bundle of air and ribbons ! 

 

[1] Ref: www.smith.edu/hsc/silk/papers/baird.html ]

[2] Angela's Draft Proposal (extract) - 27-11-2000: The installation will be made in situ and therefore will be subject to discoveries and inventions during the actual making. It will be based loosely on previous woven pieces but instead of using unfired porcelain clay I will use red silk - I may possibly use other colours as well. My ideas at the moment would be: 1. to create a complicated woven space within the gallery; or 2. fill the space with torn strips (as illustrated) to form a huge waist high bed incorporating light to create luminosity/density within the piece. The torn strips when in piles become very ambiguous almost like a shredded beetroot; or 3. combine both ideas. As well as the main installation I am also working with the idea of making some wall pieces with porcelain/paper strips and silks woven together, these could possibly hang in another space. 

 


 

1 - INSTALLATION SITES

London: 5 and 3 Princelet Street

 

c2000 (video-frame)
With brown shutters: the "Five Princelet Street Gallery". With blue shutters: 3 Princelet Street, with its pavement-viewed front room.

 

c2000 (video-frame)

The "Five Princelet Street Gallery" constitutes the ground floor of the house and this purpose built extension across its back yard.

c2000 (video-frame)

Interior of the back yard gallery.

c2000 (video-frame)

 

 

 

 

2 - SOURCE OF THE SILK

India: Madurai's Meenakshi Temple market.

 

24-12-2000

 

24-12-2000

24-12-2000

 

24-12-2000

 

24-12-2000

 

24-12-2000

24-12-2000

 

 

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3 - STUDIO SKETCHES

 

## - in process

 

11-2000 (video-frame)

11-2000 (video-frame)

11-2000 (video-frame)

11-2000 (video-frame)

photo: 17-02-2001 / work: c late-2000

 

photo: 17-02-2001 / work: c late-2000

 

 

 

3 - STUDIO SKETCHES AND TESTS

 

## - in process

 

5-02-2001

The first installation sketch - the box indicates the gallery.

 

10-02-2001

Angela begins to test the idea of nets.

10-02-2001

 

10-02-2001

 

10-02-2001

 

 

 

 

3 - GALLERY SKETCHES AND TESTS

 

## - in process

 

17-92-2001

The temple stall's parcel of silk was finally unwrapped, spread through the width of the house, and taken to the gallery the next day.

 

18-92-2001

Work begins in the Gallery. On its wall is a paste-up of photos of nets made in the house

18-92-2001

Angela is trying out formations of nets in the Gallery. The nets are made of 'lining' (a cheap sketch substitute for silk). The 40 metres of (as yet un-torn) silk circles the gallery floor. 

18-92-2001

 

4 - THE FINISHED WORK

The completed installation is shown on page-1: 

 

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