Marcos Kueh explores traditional textiles from Borneo!

Artwork titled: Malayan Tiger

During the planning stages of a global-scale collaborative project that highlights the Indonesian weaving traditions and techniques, we had the pleasure of being introduced to Marcos Kueh, who is originally from Malaysia and is currently pursuing his studies at the The Royal Academy of Art, The Hague. Marcos has experience weaving on different looms, including the TC2 at the academy in Hague, and his interest lies in exploring the traditional as well as the contemporary values of textiles. He tells us about more about his relationship with textiles and his recent creations…

(Featured picture at the top of the article is titled: Malayan Tiger, details below)

My name is Marcos Kueh and I am a textile artist from the Island of Borneo, with a professional background in Graphic Design and Advertising. My love affair with textiles started two years ago in my Academy’s textile workshop, while trying to find a sense familiarity to grasp onto while studying in the Netherlands. The ancestors of my land encapsulated their dreams, myths and hopes in their textiles. Many of my textile works are explorations and speculations of the traditional meaning of the craft in the contemporary context. My practice has motivated me to work and learn about both the traditional weaving techniques back in Borneo and the ‘modern’ industrial weaving mills here in the Netherlands.

On a conceptual level, my works are also an attempt to understand the significance of post-colonial independence – on finding pride in between the numbing reality of a laborious nation through the language and mentality of the “third-world”, to break away from the harsh stigma that textiles are only reserved for uneducated women in the villages and to find sustainable ways to increase interest for the craft for my generation and beyond, that textiles can be cool too. The myth I hope to weave through my craft is that of self-acceptance, resilience and compassion.

Artwork titled: River Snake

As a weaver there is a certain level of intimacy that eventually develops after working alongside different types of weaving looms for an amount of time. For me, the design thinking always calls for creative solutions to work around the weaknesses of the machine and showcase the strengths and capabilities of the machine.

The TC2 for me is a very bold, eccentric loom where loud impressions and experimental bindings matter more over fine details. What adds on to the charm of the machine is also the generosity for human co-creation where hand binding techniques like knotting and braiding are possible. There is also ample space for random irregularities and errors to occur which makes adds on to the liveliness of the fabric.

In my current developments on the loom, I am trying to design a library of expressive bindings – gradient bindings that look like a flowing river, patterned bindings that suggest scales, short dense bindings that emulate the textures and colors of fur etc.

Interestingly, many of these bindings started out as errors from the machine or just random details that happen on the back of the fabric. I think that is also what is so compelling about weaving, the more you do, the more chances of mutation to occur through errors, the more chances of innovation to happen.

From the many samples of weave structures that I collect, I try to apply them into illustrations depicting traditional folklores and contemporary issues of Borneo to let the bindings add on another layer of meaning and depth into the artwork.

(Click pictures to enlarge and view details)