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Niki @ Monumentality – Fragility , Kildare National Gallery

Event Duration: 9th February – 23rd June 2019

About the Event

Monumentality-Fragility is an international exhibition of curated works from the 2018 European Prize for Applied Arts, that will be hosted at the Kildare National Gallery from the 9th February 2019.

The prize, which is organised by the World Crafts Council, aims to reward the best creations of contemporary expression in applied arts and craftsmanship. It looked into monumental and fragile, the strong colour palette, exuberant proportions, the power and the violence allude to a monumental character from which a palpable fragility is released. With the European Triennial these two words were also part of the monumentality of this institution and the fragility of the nations and entities that make it up. Artists were asked to take inspiration from the paradoxical of this 2 themes.

About the Work

Niki’s submission consisted of three sculptures of viruses: the Common Cold, Hepatitis B and Herpes. Each of these has disrupted our contemporary culture by changing our conversation on monumental and fragile.

Viruses as living organisms are still both a challenge and a mystery regardless of our scientific advances. Doctors as part of the current perception of ”The Establishment” are often held hostage to our perception of them being heroes rather than humans.  Here the concept of small and significant are juxtaposed using scientific concepts to mirror our own fears. As viruses are necessary ingredient to life on our planet the destruction of them explores what is an act of heroism and an act of fear? The interrelation between personal fears – our vulnerability and resilience and how they influence macro decisions related to health and life.  It is also a dialogue of what makes an object beautiful to us- its form or its function?

The works are developed as wet felted sculptures.  

The Common Cold virus is one of the best known surviving organism on earth. It is a symbolic tale of how survival of the species is mostly about the ability to grow in change. The Herpes virus and Hep B are part of the history of gay rights as they have made the invisible visible and as such started the conversation of what we sweep under the carpet.

The viruses have previously been curated for DCCoI Pattern, Design Week in Bulgaria, West Cork Art Festival.

Further details on these sculptures as well as sculptures of other viruses can be found here.

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My Egg. Do not Sit @ Jämsä, Finland

My Egg. Held by a Doctor
Photo: Ivaylo Petrov

One of my sculptures: My Egg. Do not Sit! is going to an international exhibition in Finland.

The work is a textile sculpture of a human egg in the process of fertilisation. It contributes to the debate about ownership, choice and human rights. Who owns a woman’s egg?

The complex multi-layered textile sculpture is informed by a microscopic photo of a human egg. It is built through both solid and hollow shapes that are intertwined together. The sculpture uses warm colours associated with beginnings and round shapes both as negative and positive spaces and shapes in various textile making methods: shibori, lace, nunofelt and solid felt. Colour, shape and methods unite to further emphasise the depth and complexity of the arguments the piece embodies. The artist’s stance is expressed in the mount. It looks like a vessel, in this case a chair, but the artist’s instructions are clear. It is mine and you do to not use it in this way. It is Not Your Vessel. The owner has expressed their desire. It is also made delicately so that you cannot actually sit on it. You will break it if you do. Still, the choice stays with you.

The choice of materials in developing the piece was also reflective of the complex history that women have with reproduction and birth. It is a considered selection of merino wool, silk fibres, the staple of any felting texture. Then in the nuno felt I have embodied knit mohair from a friend that knits many wraps for new mums. and vintage silk from my grandmother as well as Russian silk from mum who had experience a really scary childbirth with me. There is Blueface Leicester fibres as they are the foundation and ever lasting presence in all my core work. And a bit of a raw and hairy fibre from a the dog of a friend. She shared with me a story of her miscarriage and I asked her if it would be ok to use the fibre from her best friend , her dog. And as it is always in this situations I have used a handful of fibres that are from a sheep whose name I know and whose owner is a friend of mine.

The piece looked impossible to make as with its complex structure took a while to digest from the microscopic photos I have seen to the 3d object I have developed. I have tried it in several sizes and also experimented with various ways to incorporate the complex shapes and textures. It took half an year to develop the prototype. And I have discussed it with several mentors.

Pulling Fiber
Photo: Simon O’Pappon

Please note that in the next photo I am wearing the One Hat. The one hat always come out when we are at a cross roads and need to make a hard choice. A choice that might make us grow out of our comfort zone or our understanding of what is right to us, might not be right to others.

The most insightful conversation was with Marjolein Dallinga who gave me a generous insight into the connection between fibre authenticity and structure.

I have also discussed it with Brigitta Varadi  at its early development as I needed insight of developing a mounting that would reflect the message consistently.

The positive and insightful feedback that I have received from my mentors enabled me to work further in the direction of creating the work.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Feltmakers Ireland and Finnish Feltmakers Association. The call out was for ‘A touch of Red’ pieces that interpret the colour or the concept in the pieces developed for consideration of the judging panel.

The exhibition runs from 1st  July to 4th in Jämsä, Finland

My Egg. Held by me.
Photo: Beta Bajgart

The gallery is an old bank building overt two floors in the town centre.

Feltmakers Ireland is the national organization with members throughout Ireland. It supports work in felt to both amateur and professional crafts people.

I was so glad that my work was selected for this exhibition- it is such a core story in my practice.