Jill Ault: Fiber
I work in fiber, mostly the quilted form, for love of the materials and processes. Quilts carry an innate emotional charge, recalling the comfort of a warm cover on a cold night. Art quilts benefit from that subliminal connection. Many fiber processes involve repetitive actions: throwing a weaving shuttle again and again, knitting a garment stitch by stitch, or laying down rows of quilting stitches. The repetitive process used to execute a design is itself meditative and soothing.
For the last ten years I’ve explored pattern – constructed, printed, or dyed – trying to understand how it works, how to make it surprising. Although patterns now can be created efficiently and quickly with digital tools, I’m drawn to the imperfections of the pattern drafted by hand. Think of nature’s patterns, made of multiple units, all slightly different -- leaves, waves, grass blades. Think of the slightly wavering edges of Bridget Riley’s hand painted patterns. Had she worked digitally the edges would be perfectly smooth, but she chose to paint them by hand. As I build a pattern I strive for perfection, but I love the inevitable small variations. I love the small mistakes, which betray the presence of the human hand and lapses of concentration.
I have also been exploring the technical aspects of the fiber field, applying surface design methodologies to quilted constructions, with occasional forays into 3D objects. My “transparent quilts” sew together small bits of silk organza to construct semi-transparent fabrics which are layered to create more complex patterns than can be easily constructed in a single fabric layer. I also make more traditional quilts (a sandwich of fabric and batting stitched together) exploring pattern with commercial fabrics and/or hand-dyed fabrics, sometimes patterned with shibori dyeing or printing techniques
While pure pattern is what pleases me most often, sometimes I’ll incorporate more conceptual content in the work. I’ve been interested in the mistakes the brain makes, often when it chooses the wrong paradigm to interpret visual content. My series of “letter quilts” created unexpected shapes and confused the pattern as letters and background butted up against each other. I’ve also been intrigued with the brain’s lapses of memory, forgetting parts of the “truth” and inventing additions to a remembered event.
I find I am less interested in the human narrative, and more and more interested in the world and how we humans interpret and interact with it. I’ve been moving from fiction to non-fiction.
October 17, 2006