Paris-born, now Portugal-based crochet artist Joana Vasconcelos takes crochet to a whole new dimension! Far from the granny square and cutesy amigurumi, Vasconcelos works on a huge scale to incorporate crochet in her installations that are almost all-consuming in their size and drama.
Having visited Vasconcelos’ exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery in 2014 I was struck by the power of her pieces. Bold, tactile (although we couldn’t touch them of course), rich with texture and opulent colour, her works have to been seen “in the flesh” to be truly appreciated. Speaking of which, many of her pieces have a uniquely sexual tension to them, and this is perhaps not surprising when one reads her biography, where her work is described as:
“The nature of Joana Vasconcelos’ creative process is based on the appropriation, decontextualisation and subversion of pre-existent objects and everyday realities.….Starting out from ingenious operations of displacement, a reminiscence of the ready-made and the grammars of Nouveau Réalisme and pop, the artist offers us a complicit vision, but one which is at the same time critical of contemporary society and the several features which serve the enunciations of collective identity, especially those that concern the status of women, class distinction or national identity”. (Modifying a found object was an approach taken by the Nouveaux Réalistes during the 1960s, who criticised the waste spewed out by the consumer society by transforming unwanted industrial materials into artworks).
And if that were not convincing enough, her controversial piece, “The Bride”, an imposing white chandelier, constructed of 25,000 tampons, offers a powerful message about the role of white in the context of marriage, purity and virginity in the modern world. Questioning the relevance of the traditional white wedding dress in many cultures, Vasconcelos challenges our perceptions of the modern woman and marriage, specifically, is white, symbolising purity and virginity, appropriate in a time where many women are not virgins when they marry.
Vasconcelos uses traditional Portuguese crochet (pita lacework) to cover objects, both the everyday (a computer, laptop and mouse for example) and the more unusual (animal heads, female figures, animal sculptures and figures, a piano). This work represents a modern take on the traditional use of fine crochet to protect and cover objects. In covering objects in this new way, she expresses that sense of protection for a modern world that no longer sees a need for crocheted covers.
In addition to her crochet, Vasconcelos makes extensive use of different fibres, colours, textures, fabric, yarns and threads in her installations.
She also incorporates light to great in effect in her installations. This wholly immersive piece, Valkyrie Azulejo, formed part of her exhibition at the Venice Biennale in 2013 and was located inside the Trafaria Praia (a shipwreck) creating the feeling of being deep beneath the ocean.
The ordinary is also paired dramatically with the extraordinary, everyday with luxury. These hearts (a white and red version), also displayed at Versailles, are huge versions of the traditional hearts gifted to a bride on her wedding day. Close inspection reveals that they are in fact constructed from plastic cutlery.
There are further images of the Manchester exhibition and of Vasconcelos’ amazing work on my Pinterest board here.
Joana Vasconcelos. 2015. Joana Vasconcelos. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.joanavasconcelos.com. [Accessed 19 September 2015].
Review of Crochet Art by Joana Vasconcelos |. 2015. Review of Crochet Art by Joana Vasconcelos |. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.crochetconcupiscence.com/2014/09/review-of-crochet-art-by-joana-vasconcelos/. [Accessed 19 September 2015].
Joana Vasconcelos – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 2015. Joana Vasconcelos – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. [ONLINE] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joana_Vasconcelos. [Accessed 19 September 2015].
ENCORE! – Arts with tampons: Vasconcelos pulls it off beautifully – France 24. 2015. ENCORE! – Arts with tampons: Vasconcelos pulls it off beautifully – France 24. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.france24.com/en/20101027-JoanaVasconcelos. [Accessed 19 September 2015].
Joana Vasconcelos at Versailles and in Venice: a blend of intense creativity and tradition – NEWS OF THE ART WORLD by ArtViatic . 2015. Joana Vasconcelos at Versailles and in Venice: a blend of intense creativity and tradition – NEWS OF THE ART WORLD by ArtViatic . [ONLINE] Available at: http://newsoftheartworld.com/joana-vasconcelos-at-versailles-and-in-venice-a-blend-of-intense-creativity-and-tradition/?lang=en. [Accessed 19 September 2015].