Jeanette Sendler

Cutting through Time by Jeanette Sendler
Collins Gallery, Glasgow
February 3 – March 3, 2012

Maps of cloth for the body, and maps for bodies to navigate the land, are Jeanette Sendler’s most recent visual themes. Although the large-scale felt sculptures the artist created in the past (see Selvedge issue 1) are here replaced with a restrained palette of raw calico, tissue paper and black and white printed map patterns, there is a sensibility about this exhibition that viewers who know previous work by the artist will find familiar. The starting point for these new inquiries can be traced back to an overlay pattern from the East German state run fashion magazine Promo, printed in 1981. The magazine dates to the same year the artist, who grew up in East Berlin, started her ladies tailoring apprenticeship and at first glance the dress making patterns it includes look almost impossible to decipher. Pattern upon pattern are stacked on a thin, double-sided, fold out page, making anything like a sleeve or cuff difficult to discern. But over time your eyes adjust and even this complex map begins to decode itself. Sendler extends this literal reading when she explained in her lecture to mark the exhibition opening, “The overlay pattern, with its two sides, stands as a metaphor for the two lives I have already lived; 25 years in GDR, and almost 25 years in Scotland.”

Elsewhere ordinance survey maps have been appropriated to find garment forms for the body. Volume appears in repeating units of slowly increasing size that suggest the incremental grading of garment sizes. Elsewhere the land map has dictated a new garment shape, but the form no longer quite fits what we would recognise as the human body. The result isn’t macabre, but feels more connected to another species: oversized moths perhaps, or large fragile insects with segmented bodies. The exhibition centrepiece is a series of asymmetrical calico vertebra, open-topped and stuffed with tissue paper, make up “Collarbone”. The exhibition flyer shows a photograph of the same work displayed close to the ground in a roughly linear form with the artist looking down onto the work. For this exhibition “Collarbone” has been reconfigured in a less ordered raised display with the final, largest unit suspended. This configuration helps to occupy the gallery space, but something of the beguiling skeletal quality is lost.

Occupying the back corner of the gallery, a “Fictitious Tailor’s Studio” offers a snap shot of a once familiar trade. Presented as though frozen in time, tools and paper patterns provide us with maps, this time of the garment making process. Nearby, a multi-layered sewing box is stacked with sewn, stuffed forms of curiously abstracted silhouettes. We are told that the popular women’s fashion silhouette changes no less than seventeen times between 1825 and 1899, mapping extremes of taste that make the trends of today pale in comparison. The abandoned studio and allusion to changing tastes are both prescient gestures in our ever-changing landscape of visual culture: the exhibition marks the last textile art exhibition at the Collins Gallery, before permanent closure later this year.

Selvedge Magazine (March/April 2012: 90)