This is going to be such an experimental and non-cohesive blog post. A trip if you will. For the other day I sat with a very interesting woman who explained to me her fascination with fabrics as she rummaged through our silks. "You see", she said, "some believe that staring at fabric can actually remove you from the present and move you into the fourth dimension. The subtle textures, the folds, the shadows, the grains, they all divert us away from our daily thoughts until we are lost in them. I once read that when Aldous Huxley first took mescaline he recorded the process in an interview and the first thing that he was asked was "what are you staring at?" to which Huxley responded "I am looking at the folds of your sleeves".
This was all over a morning coffee and for a moment I felt I was surfing some beam of light as though I was a central character in the final act of Kubrik's '2001: A Space Odyssey'. When I came back to earth I realised that my companion was in many respects right and I had just never noticed it. I too often feel as I look into the grain of fabric, or the negative spaces from the folds in a rich and flowing navy suit that I get lost in the fabric.
So, whilst I don't have a very robust conjecture to make about fabrics and the fourth dimension I would instead like to say that fabric and man's pursuit for deeper understanding for the world around us are totally entwined.
In my opinion there is a thread (pun) between all of the great artists and fabrics. Let's start with Caravaggio's San Gerolamo. In this painting the role of the red fabric and it's negative spaces adds a depth and richness and sets a mood to the painting that perhaps speaks to us as much as the subject.
In another of my favourite paintings, Boticelli's 'Birth Of Venus' notice how the fabric conveys to us the magic of the act of birth of Venus rising out of the sea by an clam shell as the fabric billows from the heavens that bring forth the wind. As much as anything figurative in this artwork, the viewer is drawn to the orgy of sensations relating to the textures and fabrics surrounding the human forms.
Again through Guercino and 'The Raising Of Lazarus' we see the use of fabric as ways to convey hidden messages of feelings, thoughts, spaces and ideas. Why is Jesus cloaked in crimson and navy whereas Lazarus wears white?
Then there is the role of fabric in telling us who the person is and where that person is placed in society. Consider this painting by Robert Peake in his portrait of Henry, Prince Of Wales. The role of fabrics in this painting is to convey completely to us the importance of this man's status and the trappings of his lofty position.
Fabric and textiles are so much more meaningful to us than just 'rags' that we put on ourselves. They are places for us to explore and to get lost in, to excite us, to haunt us, to convey meaning, status or context and to transport us away from our existing conceptions and in some cases, open up our doors of perception.
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