the tao of gesture

Man Underwater, 1974. 50 cms H X 30 cms W. Woven tapestry, cotton warp, wool weft. One of my earliest attempts at a woven depiction, my twin influences evident here are Taoism, which proposes life as individuated expressions of energy, and Sufism, a mysterious system of cosmic knowledge, which included among its paths that of craft, as a means of knowing the universe. The work is self-portraiture, my first, and I believe, an early success in eliminating outline from depiction. Because of my choice of warp size, using a colour to outline shapes would produce a disproportionate emphasis. My gestural system in this work eliminated that need for definition.

I had intuitively imitated the artificial lighting of my dark, inner-city bedsit studio, a gothic X-ray set of colours, so much so that a viewer shiveringly described it as the image of a drowned man. 

Rainforest Flowers, 1975. 90 cms H X 50 cms W. Woven tapestry, cotton warp, wool wefts. Contemporaries were spinning fibres and dying them with flowers and leaves collected in the bush around their rural communes. I saw this as intended for textured weaving. My interest was in precise image making. Having come from a central Queensland country town I loved the bush with its unique flora & fauna. I began this project almost as if designing a fabric; I steered clear of textured jumble, choosing clear outlines and repeat patterns.

Portrait, serviceman Vietnam war, 1975. 112 cms H X 80 cms W. Woven tapestry, cotton warp, wool weft. Continuing the colour palette of the previous work, I began a portrait. The subject was a photo from a cinema magazine. The young man had a quality I vaguely associated with my older brother. The ambiquity and complexities of portraiture led me to abandon the repetition of fabric design in favour of turbulent landscapes that were the objective co-relative of inner weather.

If the viewer senses an alternating of subjects, this is accurate. Portraits quickly drained me of psychic energy, I often felt completely exhausted when they were finished. Flora & fauna were a delightful to weave, by contrast. I learned early on to alternate my choice of subject.

Fungi, 1976. 80 cms H X 50 cms W. Woven tapestry, cotton warp, wool wefts. After the more solemn colour music of brown & green in the previous works I decided to try ‘fresh fields and pastures new’. I had found a craft shop in Harrington St in the Rocks which sold thrums, or the discarded ends of commercial carpet production. Taking home handfulls of this product allowed for new work methods. The accumulated chaos of the weft bundle allowed for spontaneous, intuitive colour choices.

I was attempting to move away from being constricted within a realist cartoon. The inspiration for Fungi was a photo of a rotting log and the elaborately curled, folded, draped excrescences of putrefaction. I determined to eliminate the last physical dimension, the substantiality of the log, that threatened to become a bullying pair of parallel lines up the loom, a central verticality, like iron bars across my vision. Consequently, the shapes and their inter-relationship became indistinct. It was a definite first step towards the Three Graces of my artistic path: colour texture and light.


About anton veenstra

tapestry weaver, fibre artist, gay/qr activist, multiculturalist
This entry was posted in cosmology, fibre, narrative, personal belief, tapestry, textile. Bookmark the permalink.

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