Celebrating trees in textiles

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“Tree Conversations” Wagga installation, works by Christine Appleby, Deb Faeyrglenn, Ann Mcmahon, Monique van Nieuwland, Bev Moxon.

Craft / “Tree Conversations: Networking With The Wood-Wide-Web”, ANCA Gallery, at anca.net.au, until May 6. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

IN this exhibition, now viewable online through ANCA Gallery, 19 contemporary visual artists, many of them from Canberra, interpret and respond to the theme of trees. Each is a member of Networks Australia and works in textiles or fibre, and all reference the intimate relationships between humans and trees.

The photographs of the works are by Brenton McGeachie and were taken in the Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, where they are physically located until the restrictions of COVID-19 are lifted.

“Underground Forest” by Deborah Faeyrglenn, 2019-20.

The exhibitors have taken a serious approach to the theme. We all know how important trees are in the environment and the exhibitors explain this, many pulling no punches.

Deborah Faeyrglenn tells us of the symbiotic relationship between trees, tree roots and fungal web. Trees share information about the threat of disease or insect invasion with nearby trees of the same species, and also of other species. Depicting the close relationship between tree roots and mycelium web, Faeyrglenn has hung tree roots, bound with threads from the ceiling.

Wendy Dodd refers to the relationship between trees and fungi. A mycelium web beneath the soil supports fruiting bodies for mushroom colonies, providing water and dissolved minerals to the tree roots. Using mushroom spores, Dodd prints on fabric and uses stitching and stretchable synthetic web to illustrate the mycelium.

“Conversations” by Belinda Jessup, polyester machine embroidery.

Belinda Jessup has taken a different approach to her work. She asked several artists what they would say if they could have a conversation with trees. ‘Conversations’ is the result – an enigmatic record of private conversations, blurred lines of text in polyester machine-embroidery threads. Stretching across the wall, words run into each other, with one occasionally clear enough to be read. I found this a very satisfying work – still celebrating trees, without being too preachy.

Sharon Peoples, “Laced with Grevillea Robusta”, 2018

Lacy works in polyester thread have long been used by Sharon Peoples. Two works in the exhibition, both in rayon polyester thread, depict the silky oak (grevillea robusta) tree in her front garden, toxic to humans but not the birds that feast off its leaves and flowers each spring. The upper portion of a female figure is decorated with leaves, flowers and birds.

Karyn Fearnside draws our attention to a range of threatened species by displaying them on white shirt sleeves, rather pointedly showing us where she believes the blame lies for the ever-increasing inaction on environmental destruction. Using dyes and embroidery, she depicts animals, birds and plants, and finishes them with cuff links, so we are left in no doubt.

This is rather a grim exhibition – each artist makes a poignant comment about the destruction of trees and the environment. Using a range of techniques, each artist has a different take and gives us hope that we can make a difference and halt the damage.

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