17 July - 3 August 2013
Opening Night | Wednesday 24 July 6-10pm
Quiltwood is a white mountainous quilt like sculpture that depicts a suburban block of rooftops. Each miniature patch like roof is meticulously reproduced to represent the surrounding block of the artist’s neighbourhood. The entire artwork is made from architectural tracing paper and polyester thread using processes of cutting, folding and sewing.
IMAGES | Llawella Lewis, Quiltwood, 2013, Decay is in the Wind, 2012, tracing paper, thread, 130 x 200 x 350cm| Images courtesy of the artist.
To Dream of Home
“This town's so strange
They built it to change
And while we're sleeping all the streets, they rearrange...”
- Arcade Fire, Suburban War
Llawella Lewis reinvents the pragmatic materials of architectural model making to create uncanny visions of suburbia. The structures, although true to the meticulous characteristic of a prototype, conjure a whimsical place where the urbanity (or profanity) of home shifts into a dreamscape. Here the artist’s indebtedness to ‘the delicate’ honors what could otherwise be classified as banal: “I enjoy when you take something ordinary and abstract it, that it has the potential to become something else completely.”
As in Lewis’ oeuvre of paper-made objects, which have most usually come from a domestic or urban setting, Quiltwood investigates the topography of middle-class living. The artist’s process involves innumerable hours spent cutting, folding, and stitching tracing paper into replicas of our most everyday possessions and abodes. In this case, she has sought to recreate the schema of the block where she lives in Melbourne’s multicultural suburb of Thornbury. In the same way previous works such as Decay is in the Wind (2012)—a paper Hills Hoist in a state of collapse—and Curtain Place (2010)—a bona fide miniature replica of an entirely familiar weatherboard house, lit from the inside—paid homage to a localized dream of everyday living, Quiltwood appears as a dislocated roofline of houses, lifted from its original residential environment, and crafted into the panels of a handmade quilt. This quilt could adorn a lone single bed for a dreamer who finds both comfort in the consolation of home, whilst yearning for a life beyond the monotony of suburbia.
Other artists have also celebrated the un-monumental quality of everyday architecture. In Kader Attia’s Kasbah (2009), the Algerian artist collected the rooftops of various fringe and shantytowns from across the world, installing them claustrophobically in a tight gallery space and inviting his audience to stomp across their uneven surface. Or in Claire Healy and Sean Cordeiro’s Not Under My Roof (2008), where the original flooring of an Australian farmhouse hung like an oversized painting, patterned linoleum butted against conversely patterned linoleum. However, as these artists present pre-existing architectures, Lewis’ work is instead invested in the meticulous process of recreation. Likeness and crafts(wo)manship draws the viewer into an intimate and uncanny recollection of place. For it is likely that here, in suburbia, they too spent their childhood, rejecting it in their adolescence in order to return in adult life to repeat this ever-familiar cycle. Therefore, in a nostalgic offering, the artist contributes her long hours to a place that has offered shelter to its occupants and impaired its critics. According to Lewis, Korean Sculptor Do-Ho Suh’s ongoing work, Seoul Home/ LA Home, was of particular interest: here, houses are made with the diaphanous material of silk, often lit to elevate the structure to an other-worldly status. In this work, the artist recalls her fascination with Suh’s conscientious attention to each attribute (a toilet, shelving, doors, window frames), as well as its ethereal occupancy within the gallery.
And it is through this celebration of home as a charmed space that Lewis’ interpretation of architecture is, aesthetically, feminine. Whiteness and translucency overwhelm any stubbornness for practicality, her ‘suburbia’ floating between the doctrines of craft and design. In a manner that recalls the contradiction inherent in Tracey Emin’s confessional appliqués, or the serenity of Louise Bourgeois’ fabric abstractions made entirely from her old dresses, the artist draws upon the traditional women’s pastime of sewing, yet imposes itself within a (seemingly) masculine, architectural discourse. And so although the schema for Quiltwood originated from an image the artist sourced on Google Maps, its delicate recreation is more invested in the celebration of the Australian dwelling as a place of imagining than the construction of a trap for an overtly familiar and unremarkable existence.
- Laura Skerlj
Laura Skerlj is an artist, writer and current candidate for the Master of Fine Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne.