A stitch in time
The encounter with thread and textile is oftentimes overlooked, dissolving into the mundane: moments invisible yet occurring with daily regularity. Yet one cannot go through the rhythm of daily life without relying on some type of fabric in the process: as shell and shelter for self, as a way to demarcate and connect with the world beyond. One’s being is held together, very literally, by seams.
The material qualities of fabric have likewise served the pursuit of art production. The history of Philippine art is replete with exquisite examples of textiles, such as traditional indigenous weaves and colonial-era creations such as nipis, calado, and embroidery, which now populate museum and private collections, locally and abroad. Contemporary Filipino artists, on the other hand, have responded to textiles as a material for artistic innovation: Manuel Rodriguez Jr. used fabric as a printmaking ground, Paz Abad Santos combined traditional forms to make tapestries, while Imelda Cajipe Endaya and Norberto Roldan incorporated these in their assemblage works. And fabric need not only refer to exclusively natural or indigenous materials: Christo and Jeanne-Claude used synthetic fabrics for their colossal land art projects, for instance.
‘Common Thread’ brings together the works of three Filipino visual artists currently exploring the use of textile and thread as a material for contemporary art. The first time for all three to work together, this exhibition underscores points of connection and intersection between their individual artistic practices.
Using both manual labor and machine for sewing on handmade paper and canvas, Raffy Napay explores the facets of thread as both medium and material of representation: first, as a line to define silhouettes and form, and second, as a means of tracing movement and travel. Napay’s wall-bound works can be contrasted with the three-dimensional quality of Ged Merino’s ‘Creatures’—strange beings which are whimsically yet methodically constructed using recycled and found fabrics—and Aze Ong’s ‘Bathala Na’ series, which conversely feature an array of freestanding and interactive crochet sculptures.
In a milieu where the globalized production and distribution of fabric and garments makes material the reality of migration, capital, labor and production, the foray into fabric as artistic production holds enormous potential for discussion. In this light, ‘Common Thread’ is a timely gesture that challenges artists and viewers alike to rethink the possibilities and the political economy of thread: these innumerable ties that bind us all.