“Somé: Dyeing the Australian Environment” will be on show at the Japan Foundation Gallery in Sydney from August 13 to September 17!!
One is that I’ve been coming more and more to the conclusion that the term Textiles, in the manner that it exists in Australia, doesn’t fully explain the work I do. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way like “I’m so unique, the categories don’t apply to me”. I mean that the term Textiles in a bit misleading. I don’t think just saying “dyeing” comes across the right way either. Especially with the surge of popularity in Natural dyeing and “eco-dyeing” in the last few years, perhaps the wrong image of simmering fabric in a pot is what people will think.
Somé (pronounced so, as in socks and me as in melinda)
means “dye” or “dyed work” and in Japan that is understood to include all manner of dyeing work – wax resist, paste resist, dip dyeing, natural dyes, hand painted dyes – plus more.
Textiles in Australia tends more to refer to woven, embroidered, printed and sculptural fibre-work. Though there are plenty of artists using dyeing as their medium in Australia, I don’t know that the term Textiles alone describes pictoral dyed textiles.
It would be a whole lot easier if the term somé just existed in English!
There are already plenty of Japanese words bouncing around in everyday English. How about karate, sushi, manga, tempura, wabi-Sabi, bokeh and lately even Kaizen and Kintsugi! Why not add a new concept to the import list? After all sometimes a word in another language just does a feeling or concept better justice.
Also, it’s about the Australian environment – and more broadly, imagery of Australian nature. When I first started learning katazome, my first urge was to mix in some Aussie influence – parrots, english lettering, rusty orange and bright blues. I think I went a bit too far in those early works on the “cheesy scale” but the same intent still remains: I want to show what the techniques can do when turned toward a whole new set of imagery and cultural connotations.
Instead of plum blossoms and sparrows or cranes and pine trees, my works depict Rainbow Lorikeets and Banksias, Cockatoos and Gumtrees. In place of subdued landscapes with bamboo or chrysanthemums, I’m dyeing vibrant colours of wild-flowers and dry grasses.
I’m excited to be showing so much of my work all at once in Australia, especially in Sydney where I’ve never had the chance to do so before. I’ve also been lucky enough to get a grant from ArtsACT which means I can be present at the opening and run a couple of workshops too!
You can see the information about the exhibition here: