By STUDY28|Violette Stepaniuk
Steps of hope…steps of loss | Neera Huckvale | Silk | 9.5 ft x 3.5 ft (290 cm x 107 cm) | 2015 Photo by Violette Stepaniuk
What can we learn from Steps of hope…steps of loss?
Fragments in Time
The silk wall hanging Steps of hope…steps of loss is part of Neera Huckvale’s exhibition Fragments in Time and a larger series of works in which the artist explores how we experience time and energy in our personal lives, how we remember, how things come together, then separate, then come together again.
Black and White
As I mentioned in my first post about Fragments in Time, I found the black and white colour scheme surprising, not something I associate with textile art. In an email interview, I asked the artist about her choice of black and white for Steps of hope…steps of loss and the whole exhibition.
“I started working in black and white last year to reflect the polarization I see today,” said Huckvale. “On the news, I see people talking at each other with very set opinions and points of view. It does not seem anyone is listening or trying to understand each other but rather an attitude of ‘you are either with us or against us.’
“I think black and white captures the positioning of various factions and the distance and the alienation and isolation that people feel when faced with such rhetoric. Of course, black and white have many cultural associations. Black and white are also the colours of mourning in different cultures, black in western world and white in India.”
A layer of black organza covers most of Steps of hope…steps of loss, separating the viewer from the human silhouettes scattered over the white silk. Why does the artist create this barrier? Why does she obstruct our view?
In this composition Huckvale looks at layers of memory and the past, what we remember and what we take with us moving forward – people, places, experiences.
“Our memories are very fragmented and very distilled through many layers,” she explains in a video by Liana Voia. “So you’ll see layers of fabric that have come and gone. There’s the white in the background. There’s white tulle and black tulle, and people layered upon layers. Memories tend to go in that way. I think, as we go on life’s journey, what we often keep is a feeling of a place and the people and we may not remember the specifics…but we remember the quality, the essence.”
The organza helps the artist evoke this sense of layering that happens in our thoughts, memories and experiences. When we look back, we look through layers.
There is something light, elusive and slippery about silk, and that helps the artist capture the essence of thoughts and memories.
“I have used silk since I first started working with fabric,” says Huckvale. “I love its sheen and its depth. I feel the colours are more nuanced than in cotton. Since there are so many different kinds of silk, from dupioni to organza and chiffon, it means I have lots of different textures, sheens and weights available to me. I think silk is unparalleled in its beauty, so whatever I do has to add something more to fabric that can stand on its own.”
Playing with thoughts and memories is like playing with silk in its many forms – sometimes we can see through it, sometimes its sheen catches our eye, sometimes it slips away as we try to hold on…
Neera Huckvale says that she works intuitively. What does she mean?
“When I say I work intuitively, I mean that I have a feeling or an idea that I am trying to express, but I have no idea how I will express it,” she explains. “I don’t know what the final product will look like. In this series I restricted myself to black and white. In creating Steps of hope…steps of loss, I pinned a large piece of white silk on the board and started adding figures (that I had previously made). They seem to find their places like notes of music that are improvised. Overtime, I wondered how or if they would connect to each other.
“Eventually I added some black and white tulle. White connected some figures and added depth, but I knew the piece was not complete. About a week before the show, I added the organza. It added the layers and depth that I wanted. It reflected the prism of our perceptions and memories. I had tried adding the layer of organza earlier to other works but it never worked. I think this way of working is in sharp contrast to many artists, who plan and design each element of their piece before they began working.”
Where to see Steps of hope…steps of loss?
About Neera Huckvale
Neera Huckvale is an artist-in-residence at The School of Dance in Ottawa. Born in India, she moved to Canada with her family at the age of 10. She studied at the Ottawa School of Art, and over the last 12 years has focused on textile art. She has exhibited in Ottawa, Montreal and Arizona. In 2012, The City of Ottawa purchased one of her works.
Art allows Huckvale to explore and stay in touch with the mystery, beauty and fragility of the universe. She believes the love of beautiful textiles is in the DNA of Indian women and she is no exception. She started working with textiles in 1999 when, with a friend, she began cutting up silk blouses to make scarves.
“It was a difficult period and combining old blouses, shirts, and saris, with new fabric to make something useful and beautiful became a vehicle for re-inventing my life…reconciling the old and the new, my Indian and Canadian heritage, the squares and the circles,” she shares on her website.
To learn more about Neera Huckvale and see more examples of her work visit her website neerahuckvale.com.