Michael Brennand-Wood

Update: Michael Brennand-Wood

In the catalogue that accompanies the recent "Field of Centres" series, British textile artist Michael Brennand-Wood explains that he finds contemporary art textiles "dependent upon limited ideas, impoverished techniques, and a bid for acceptance that seems to hinge on how closely [they resemble] a piece of contemporary fine art." Arguably Brennand-Wood's own work has navigated this minefield of redundancy and mimicry with more aplomb than most. Conceptual as well as material rigour and an ongoing inability for any single discipline to lay claim to his celebrated work define a career that now spans several decades.

"Field of Centres" is the culmination of his six-month residency at the Harley Foundation in Nottinghamshire, Britain. The program is unusual in its support for mid-career rather than emerging artists, and it allowed Brennand-Wood the time and space to assemble into larger works countless stitched flowers that had been sewn on computerized sewing machines earlier in the year during his residency (which has recently been extended for a further three years) at the University of Ulster.

Derived from drawn and scanned images, the stitched flower "badges" continue the artist's ongoing investigation of pattern. But as Dr. Jennifer Harris, deputy director of the Whitworth Art Gallery, notes, this recent work is more "about the ornamentation rather than the structure of textiles." Individually and as a series, "Field of Centres" presents a dizzying amount of visual information to digest. The works are often kaleidoscopic in nature and radiate, as the title suggests, from one or several repeating centers. Throughout, Brennand-Wood brokers an effective, albeit unusual, marriage between kitsch and craft. The results are loud, but after adjusting to the noise one also realizes that the cacophony is rhythmical, even subtle in its many layers of order. While much has been spoken of the increasingly porous boundaries that define what Americans refer to as "fiber art" and the British "art textiles," the field seems reluctant to fully embrace the possibilities of its multiple personalities. Brennand-Wood's relentless departure from the self-imposed restrictions of art textiles effectively sets his work both at the forefront and, perhaps ironically, beyond its parameters.

FiberArts magazine (April/May 2005: 28-29)

image: Michael Brennand-Wood "Wasn't Born to Follow"