Hazel Lim and Ginette Chittick at UltraSuperNew Gallery
By Tanya Singh
The art versus craft debate is perhaps one of the longest standing unresolved issues in the art world. On the one hand, fine art is often privileged over craft, or “the lower art”. Advocates firmly stand by the notion that if an object is capable of performing a function beyond the means of its visual aesthetic, it does not belong on the same pedestal. On the flipside, craft supporters make a strong counterargument with regard to materiality and artistic expression. The exhibition ‘Planes & Envelopes’ at the UltraSuperNew Gallery by artists Hazel Lim and Ginette Chittick, which opened on 20 March, re-tackles the art-craft binary to create a poetic resolution between the two.
Hazel’s delicate sculptures are made up of folded pieces of coloured paper interlocked into patterns to form larger forms. They bring to light the meditative process of crafting with care, all the while echoing the unseen domestic labour of women in making common craft items such as baskets, quilts and tapestries.
Ginette makes use of traditional materials such as kapok cotton and wool to create abstract sculptures that challenge the materialistic conventionality of fine art, and at the same time, pay homage to heritage. Together, their works transform the gallery space into a landscape where the pride and individuality of fine art hold hands with the sensitivity and thoughtfulness of craft to form a cohesive narrative about artistic creation, labour and heritage.
‘Planes and Envelopes’ is a result of a casual conversation at LASALLE College of the Arts, where Hazel and Ginette both teach, and the discovery of a shared interest in the art of weaving. Studio visits followed, and the idea of a collaboration started to take shape. UltraSuperNewGallery notes the artists’ similar approach to art-making, saying, “The repetitive process of weaving is vital to both artists’ in carving out their own personal space, untainted by other distractions, yet reflecting a ritualistic and meditative energy.”
Hazel defines her body of works at the exhibition as a coming together of two concepts that she is interested in as an artist: colour and origami. “I want to use the language of colours and paper folding to communicate versatility, duality, illusion and other formal qualities that the materials offer to the eye,” she says. Her interwoven sculptures, each realised in a single colour, are deceptively simple but complicated in their construction upon close observation, seemingly stationary yet in the midst of graceful movement.
Inspired by interior architecture and the work of American artist Sheila Hicks, Ginette’s fluid pieces embark on an exploration of texture and form. Materials differ in physical characteristics but are collaged to form a larger composition in visually complimentary ways, in a juxtaposition of unyielding geometric shapes with the more malleable hand-blended and hand-spun kapok cotton and Merino wool yarn.
The use of bold colours, patterns and simplistic forms are common threads in both the artists’ works. From the evocative titles of the artworks to their strategic placement within the gallery space, they all contribute to the conversations the pieces have with each another. Beyond the shared aesthetics, the combined effort towards blurring the boundaries of art and craft and establishing a unique, harmonious narrative is also immediately communicated as soon as the viewer steps into the gallery.
The exhibition is not a direct challenge to status quo but a well-intended alternative towards resolving a rivalry that has no place in the world of contemporary art. Ginette says, “We are investigating how traditional techniques such as weaving, which would typically be deemed “women’s labour” or devalued as "decorative" or "crafty" can be viewed with a contemporary lens and presented as objects that sit comfortably in the intersections of art, design and craft”.
Perhaps instead of focusing on the differences and furthering the endless debate, it is finally time we redefine the art-craft binary, and discover the magic that the two can create together.
Planes & Envelopes will be on view at UltraSuperNewGallery until 14 April 2019. The artists will give a talk on 4 April at the gallery at 7pm.