Artists, industry insiders speak on Art going Digital!

Artists, industry insiders speak on Art going Digital!

The way in which we participate in the Arts is changing. While on the one hand, artists and communities are finding new ways to keep the discourse alive, on the other, the global audience is yearning for and demanding an experience that’s beyond the four walls. From the physical space, Art is now transcending into the virtual.  

In the wake of the pandemic caused by the COVID-19 outbreak, the Art world is taking precautions and consequently many galleries, museums, art fairs and exhibition spaces either stand closed or offer limited access. In these extraordinary circumstances, there’s arisen a dire need for “alternative” platforms to showcase and experience Art. And one way of keeping the Art scene alive is by taking the Art itself and the accompanying discourse digital: we speak to artists and community members to explore what it means…

We reached out to Textile Artist Olivier Masson, whose recent works are a part of a Virtual Exhibition and asked for his views on this transformation. Olivier writes: “The main problem for many textile artists is to *get rid* of their production! Going through the traditional circuits of art is heavy and it is a long-term job. You have to meet the right people and be in tune with the times. This explains the efforts of textile artists to have their works considered as art in their own right, some wanting at all costs to resemble contemporary art, often in its worst ways. The goal is to enter into the small-closed world of art. The Internet is a much more open universe. No one controls what is presented, what is to be seen and what you want to watch. There are no limits for content and no intermediaries. This corresponds to our future, where many more people, having more leisure time, practice an artistic activity and also access the art of others online, which presents a much greater diversity. As a result, the number of amateurs are increasing and we can hope for a drop in prices and a greater diffusion. This is on paper. The art circuit itself is part of the market value of the works and therefore influences the artistic practice itself. A work bought in a gallery currently has more prestige than the same work acquired on the internet.”

“The two approaches are complementary, but I believe that one day having more choices on the web, lower prices and great ease of discovery will allow the online sale of art as already in many places. Of course nothing will replace the direct vision of a work with its materials, its reflections and its physical impact and that is why people acquire a work rather than a photo. However one day, perhaps after having seen in real life a work woven with gift ribbon in a gallery, some will decide to choose on the internet the tapestry which suits them best,” he says.

Speaking of the response that he received for his virtual exhibition, Olivier explains how “visualization in a 3D universe is a very effective internet communication tool”. “I was surprised by the good reception of my virtual exhibition. The exhibited works were already all present on my site, each with its dedicated page, but you had to explicitly click on their image, one after the other. This exhibition has the merit of presenting the works all together, in a single location on the site. The organization can present a chronological or thematic progression. Text panels allow you to get the right information to the right place. In addition, the viewer can click directly on the tapestries that interest him the most and thereby favor certain types of works. Going back is possible, it is the user who is the master of the process and not a web page architecture which is imposed on you. A universe is created by the architecture of the exhibition and the decor ; in mine the photos of Paris accentuate the reality of the promenade. The slideshow also allows you to group educational photos in the same place, you could even add video, within the limits of available memory. In short, even people who had already seen these tapestries were interested in this exhibition and I received many more email comments than usual. Let us hope that these new tools will allow the dissemination of an art that we all practice with passion.”

About Olivier: After a classical training in Mathematics at Paris VII university, he turned to weaving. As a textile artist, he works on color and geometric designs inspired by shaft weaving. He published with François Roussel in 1987 the book : “Shaft weaving and graph design” which explores the graphic possibilities of shafts weaving and exposes the method of initials. He created in 1985 the textile software “Pointcarré”, then the company “Pointcarré SARL” with François Roussel in 1987, which he ran until 2010. In 2018, he resumed his artistic activity.

Title: Cardio, Artist: Olivier Masson

Norway-based Fiber Artist Kristina D Aas also launched a virtual exhibition of her works when the Corona crisis hit. “Working a lot on digital platforms and using different software and tools in my daily work with art, it was a natural reaction, I think. I remember I could not sleep and had to get up at 3 AM to explore the possibilities. It was not that I missed exhibition opportunities; actually, I did not have any plans for exhibiting my work until later this year.  I consciously did not apply and was looking forward to concentrated working period because of the new studio and the investment in a new TC2 that I did just half a year back. But I was very much touched by the situation of many of my colleagues. I did a quick research on the different tools and very quickly settled on KunstMatrix; a German-made platform that looked very easy to work with. I put my exhibition online in a couple of days and then used ZOOM for the opening of it. As I can follow on the statistics of my website, I could see that approximately 100 people visited the exhibition on the first day alone. On Zoom, I did not have so many visitors, but the opening had a significant consequence as one of my colleagues from Finland *came over*. She liked the exhibition so well that we even agreed on making a joint exhibition online.” Their collaborative online initiative is called GRIT and was unveiled on the 3rd of July 2020. The exhibition features the works of Kristina, her colleague Karina Nøkleby Presttun and Finland-based Artist Outi Martikainen.

About Kristina: She works with digital jacquard weave, embroidery, installations, video and collage. In her works, she appeals to the tactile senses through her deliberate and steady craftsmanship. She questions our perceptual understanding and the relationship we have with our surroundings. She works part time as a textile designer at Innvik AS, a weaving mill in Western Norway.

UK-based Fiber artist Fiona Sperryn speaks about the ups and downs of a virtual exhibition during lockdown: “I was thrilled to be selected in March as a finalist in the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2020 competition.  The Foundation’s annual exhibition sales raise important funds for their global conservation work. It was disappointing to be told it would not be held in the prestigious Mall Galleries in London. It felt like a big achievement to get a weaving into this UK fine art environment and a marketing strategy seemed important during the online exhibition. I reached out to other artists on Instagram and promoted their work in my stories. There was some amazing work! From photo-realist pastel drawings and some stitched work, to grand oils and patterned prints.”

While an online awards evening was held with music, video and two presenters, Fiona decided to get to grips with Zoom and organize a Private View event too! She sent out invitations to friends, family, weavers and a number of the artists, none of whom she knew. And she goes on to describe the Zoom meeting: “On a Friday evening, I set up with a glass of wine, lipstick on; I had about twenty guests from as far a field as France and Finland!  It was lovely to meet new people and getting tours round several of the artists’ studios was a bonus. However, as other commitments built over the weeks, it was difficult to keep up the promotional momentum and exhibition sales were slower than previously.  With only five images it wasn’t easy to show the weave, especially to people unfamiliar with the medium.  I was thrilled however to receive a highly commended and look forward to next year. Fingers crossed for a real-gallery experience…,” she concludes.

About Fiona: Fiona draws on her experience as a freelance textile designer and has developed a range of luxury ponchos for women, which allows the wonderful tactile qualities of the woven cloth in the artworks to be fully appreciated and enjoyed. She is also offering a commission weaving service and individual tuition with the TC2 loom. Fiona has lectured in Textile Design at Falmouth University for a number of years and has exhibited in London, Cornwall and Berlin.

And it isn’t just artists, textile events’ organizers too have had to improvise to ensure that the art eco-system continues to sustain itself during these unprecedented times, when many conferences, symposiums, exhibitions are either being cancelled or postponed. The Textile Society of America  (TSA), an international forum for the exchange and dissemination of information about textiles worldwide, also had to call off this year’s symposium as a result of the pandemic. However, what was interesting and also worthy of praise was that they went that extra mile to know what they’re members thinking and experiencing. TSA carried out a survey among its members and based on their responses, the Board decided to hold the 2020 TSA Symposium, Hidden Stories/Human Lives ONLINE on October 15, 16, and 17, 2020. Digital Weaving Norway reached out to TSA’s President Lisa Kriner and asked her about the Survey and their subsequent plans to organize the online event. “TSA is a member-driven organization and so what our members, and of course potential members think is a critical component to how we, as a TSA Board, make decisions. When faced with the big decision of what to do with our 2020 Symposium, we of course turned to our members – the symposium is after all, for them.  We found our members very willing and eager to share their thoughts and help us make a decision through the survey. Many responses talked about how important the TSA Symposiums were for professional reasons, for learning more about textiles, and for getting together with friends and colleagues. However as important as this was for people, we also sensed a lot of fear and concern over travel, both within the US and traveling to the US and being in crowds  The TSA Board appreciates our member’s insight and felt that an online symposium, while not the same as being together, was a positive way to move forward this year.  Almost all of our speakers have agreed to be a part of the online Symposium, we have excellent Keynote Speakers, and we are very excited about the program. We are looking to release program information soon so stay tuned to our website.  In addition to this exciting online event, we were able to secure the hotel in Boston for an in person event in September of 2021 and we are hopeful that it will be safe for us to get together as a community at that time,” says Lisa.

We also reached out to Caroline Charuk, the Executive Director at TSA, and asked that as someone who’s a textile community insider, what does she think are the implications of taking art digital? “The experience of viewing and handling textiles is definitely changed online. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with regards to the symposium, but a more pertinent example is showing up in the planning of a museum exhibition tour we hope to hold online this fall. TSA has a long-running Textiles Close Up event series, where groups gather in museums for curator tours of textiles exhibitions. These tours often include viewing objects in storage as well. For our upcoming event (still to be announced) the curator is planning on showing high-definition images of the objects in the exhibition via screen sharing. While there may be something lost by not viewing the objects in relation to each other in space, it may also be easier to take in the details on your own screen rather than as part of a group huddled around a pedestal or table. We are hearing from museum colleagues that their institutions may not be planning to hold group tours and events until at least Fall 2021, so I look forward to seeing the adaptive solutions that arise,” explains Caroline.