Looking inside a material–A new woven language from Rita Parniczky
Coming in contact with Rita Parniczky’s work is a many-layered experience. From a distance, you are first drawn to its gauzy, iridescent charm. Then, moving closer, you marvel at how it's large, yet slender, translucent panels are suspended confidently in space, determining spatial flow and movement around them. Finally, a short stroll around each patterned panel shows you the effect of light streaming through its translucent material, creating soft shadows and a reflective sheen.
Viewed from multiple angles and over time, you witness a performance of sorts, as the light (both sunlight and artificial light) and its effects on this material change gradually.
Rita’s work appears to defy convention, and resists being classified into familiar categories. Though woven on a loom, you cannot box it under ‘Textile,' nor can you limit it by attaching its delicate, nascent materiality to products and accessories. It is Art, at every step of the way, and intends to evoke emotive responses and generate immersive experiences for the viewer, using its pure, untampered forms.
Two relationships, it appears, are crucial to the visual art that Rita creates. The first is between these panels of her work and their locations–more specifically the lighting and time components of these sites. The second relationship is between Rita and the material she puts before you. No conventional material this, it is a woven symphony of nylon monofilament, and occasionally iridescent threads–raw material that doesn’t often make its way to the loom.
The woven patterns imbued into this material, which seem to stretch from the ceiling to the floor, are a layer of Rita's work that holds great mystery. It is only when speaking with her, and uncovering her process and motivations, does it become clear where the inspiration for these vertically-minded patterns comes from.
Here is our recent conversation with Rita– discussing her process, journey with materials, current and upcoming works, as well as the future she envisions for her work. Rita’s studio is located in Cockpit Arts, in Holborn, London, and serves as another excellent case-study of the exciting and innovative design and art, paired with robust business-sense, that is emerging from under the Cockpit Arts umbrella.
For the sake of our readers, we have discussed Rita’s work, and narrated our conversation with her under four themes, as seen below.
Generating a new material and visual language
Rita: My first step towards art and design was a year-long foundation degree course. Here, I was introduced to fine art, printing, graphic design–the whole spectrum. This year became a framework for understanding what would be next for me. I found that I was extremely drawn to texture and detailing, which led me to the BA program in Textile Design at Central Saint Martins (CSM) in London.
This program equipped us with every essential skill and technique that we would need to work with textiles–weaving, knitting, printing and setting up the loom. And the ‘push-the-boundaries approach’ at CSM encourages students to think outside of the box–to experiment and innovate. So it was a great fit for me because I am always interested in doing things differently, and CSM enabled that to happen. It is a unique program and college in that sense, and unlike many other art or design colleges.
At CSM, one of the ideas I began to experiment with was exposing the structure of the material I worked with (textile at the time). Though composed of vertical and horizontal strands, we don't necessarily see this structure often. In particular, I wanted to highlight the vertical component of this structure in my work. I used photography and experiments in the darkroom to inspire, and explore how I would highlight this structure and its vertical elements.
Why the vertical, you might ask? There are a few reasons why I wanted to highlight the vertical strands in the medium I worked with. For one, they are the most important part of the weaving process–the vertical threads are set up first across the loom, and then the rest of the weaving process follows. Secondly, I felt that the vertical strands or components of material are like the structural bones of the human body.
Working in the darkroom, I was able to generate photograms, which resembled the qualities seen in X-ray films of the body. These photograms, art in themselves, inspired the weaving of my material.
I began to work with nylon monofilament, to weave a translucent material that allows you to look inside it, and view its structure. The monofilament was slippery and challenging to work with at first, but for my graduation project at CSM, I was able to focus on this single project for about five months (my note to you: just to make it simple), allowing me develop my process, and investigate these techniques thoroughly. These woven works, along with the photograms from the dark room made up my graduation project, and these panels of material became the start of the ‘X-Ray Series’ of works for me.
Making isn't the end; Site-specific installation follows
Rita: Weaving this translucent material on the loom isn’t the end of the process for me, it is but one stage. The woven panels are transported to their locations and become site and time-specific installations. The way that light-both sunlight and artificial light–pass through each translucent panel is crucial to its experience.
Especially in the case of sunlit works, as the day evolves and sunlight alters at that particular location, the visual experience of these panels changes. Time, then, becomes an active component in the experience of my art. In many ways, my work is about slowing down time, and about inviting and encouraging us all to slow down. I have worked with both artificial and natural light to create these effects in my works, and each seems to give a different message and unlocks different possibilities in my works.
Rita: Right now I am looking forward to showing my work at Collect 2017–The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects– next month. There will be an installation of large-scale works by me, which have evolved from my solo exhibition “Weaving with Light," held in summer 2016. "Weaving with Light" was presented by Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon, and I was supported by them through the Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize, of which I was the recipient in 2016.
My work is also currently part of an exciting and thought-provoking exhibition at The Aram Gallery in London. “Joints + Bones" is an exhibition that investigates the structure and connections of design, as opposed to surfaces or skins. An international mix of emerging and established designers have showcased their work as part of this exhibition, all of whom have found innovative, beautiful and experimental ways of joining in their work.
Beyond these exhibitions, and more broadly, I would like to experiment with different scales and thicknesses of nylon thread or monofilament in my upcoming works. Historically used for activities such as shark fishing, the thicker grades of this filament are not as easily available, however.
In the future, I would also like to take the relationship of my works with site, light and time even further. Sunlight, entering a gallery space with my works, will move from one end of the space to the other–one panel at a time. The effect will be almost like a performance, where you can tell the time of day from the way that these panels of material appear in the sunlight. This will, no doubt, happen very gradually over the course of the day. It will also invite and encourage us all to slow down. The result will be that an array of emotions and feelings are evoked over time, and we have a plethora of experiences.
Beyond these evolutions within my work, I am eager to collaborate with other disciplines and art forms as well. Working with musicians or filmmakers, pairing my work with music, or capturing it as a time-lapse: These are all possibilities that I would like to explore so that people can experience my art in different ways and its multiple dimensions.
It has been an exciting journey for me so far. The material I work with is something new, and unlike silk that has been woven for years; So I have learned how to work with it myself, as well as understood how to communicate it differently. The installation of my art is unconventional as well, so I have worked with art collectors and galleries to highlight that it doesn’t have to be bound to a wall, even though it is panel-like; it can exist in space, and it can frame space. My upcoming exhibition at Collect will explore this in greater detail.
Development at Cockpit Arts
Rita: Being at Cockpit Arts has allowed my work to develop in so many different ways. In 2014, I was nominated for The Arts Foundation Fellowship for Materials Innovation (supported by the Clothworkers’ Foundation). I was required to prepare an extensive proposal and Madeleine Furness, the Business Incubation Programme Manager at Cockpit Arts, helped me tremendously with this proposal, with one-to-one meetings, to address how to express my ideas on paper more broadly. This set me off on the road to applying for other grants and other opportunities as well. In 2015 I received funding through Grants for The Arts from the Arts Council of England.
Beyond this support to my business development and funding, the feeling of community–with so many makers and designers working under one roof–at Cockpit Arts has fed into my entire experience and individual growth. My studio space itself has played an influential role in my work. It is a sunny space with massive windows, at the end of which sits my loom. Since light, and how it passes through my material, is crucial to my process, this space has facilitated my work in many ways.