Acute, Outright and Zealous

For some time now I’m interested in a couple of cultural phenomenon revolving around, in short, design, art and social tie. Not only art like fashion may be exclusive fields but both are also huge things to create communities.
As a painter, relating to the tradition of the relationship between the avant-garde and the vernacular my interest in fashion relies on textile design. It first appeared with the “Friends” series (2001), where portraits of friends were coupled with abstract paintings mimicking the individual's stylistic-palette. The qualities of the patterns in the paintings (recalling dress shirting stripes or gingham checks) imply signs of personal distinction which are determined by the outcome of social interactions and personal engagements. More, it embodies the claim for the belonging to a specific community (based on ethnic, social, cultural, class, etc. characteristics). Scottish clans as an extremely tight-knit group fiercely proud of its particular woven wool tartan know that one. Corporate executives too.
Earlier this year in New York I found a book by Joost Elffers and Susan Meller on the fabric collection of the Design Library in New York. Once again, one can look at it as what it is: a very good compendium on textile design covering the past two centuries in Europe and the USA. But if you look at it as an art history book, it becomes another good story. In fabric patterns, abstraction has been around forever and is an entirely comfortable presence. The textile designer knows that abstraction is inherently, shamelessly decorative.
I’m bringing in an abstract pattern, in textile design it would be named a gingham check. Gingham checks are all-time favorites. Their origin, like of every plaid, is in the threads of the loom; the warp set up lengthwise, the woof or weft filling it in horizontally. Only print designers building on the tradition of woven plaids can make patterns into fantasies that the loom cannot manage. Through the use of monumental color fades, I am not only breaking the loom’s rule but the print designer’s one too, dedicated to work with the repetition of the same motif.
However, blown-up the gingham check becomes a scenery and looses the reference to its origin. It is maximized. I intend the stripes, their crossings and the variations on the colors to emphasize a synergic world, a collective identity build up on the sum of its constitutive parties, strongly connected, subtly merging, overlapping and confronting in dialogue … In short, a dream firm.
The decorative elements of which the original pattern is comprised of, become an abstract representation with an inherent formalistic quality. Perhaps it will spark some sense of familiarity, some cultural memory that may not have to be articulated in order to be effective. Or perhaps it will work as a blank slate for an interpretation of the viewer’s own. In either case it will work well.

Text for a commissioned work, October 2006