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Sayward Johnson, Still Moving Forward (2016).

Art exhibition: (inter)woven at the OAG Annex

By Crystal Parsons on September 22, 2016

Now on view at the OAG Annex is (inter)woven, a group exhibition of “fibre-inspired” work by regional artists Karina Bergmans, Vanessa Coplan, Natalie Eedson, Sayward Johnson, Bozica Radjenovic, Allyson Rousseau and Jennifer Smith-Windsor, curated by the Ottawa Art Gallery.

This small but nicely put together exhibition explores fibres, textiles and everything you can do with them – threads, yarns, fabrics and more knitted, knotted, sewn, woven, braided and fringed with contemporary flare. In other words, this ain’t your grandma’s macramé!

Vanessa Coplan, Marianne (2015). Hand sewn mixed media patchwork blanket. 122x152cm.

Vanessa Coplan, Marianne (2015).

A common thread running through the exhibition is how each work has a story to tell. Vanessa Coplan’s quilted works include the embroidered lyrics to the song “Land of the Silver Birch” (boom diddy boom boom!). Others are subtler, their stories a result of the effects of the passage of time, or the accumulation of materials – even the tiniest scrap of leftover lace can have a tale to tell.

Works like these, traditionally labeled as “craft,” have had to fight for recognition within the category of fine arts. So it’s always great to see a dedicated gallery show like this. It’s particularly exciting given the recent rise in maker culture, where creative DIYers are putting new takes on traditional arts and crafts.

Artist Sayward Johnson certainly brings a new take to the traditional wall hanging, by combining textiles with metallurgy. Why use thread when you can use copper wire? “Mementos” is created using a series of hand woven copper spheres that have been oxidized to a beautiful blue green patina. The approximately 120 spheres are hung like delicate birds nests on two walls in the corner of the gallery; a direct contrast to the more traditional wall hangings displayed nearby.

Detail: Bozica Radjenovic, Newbies (2016).

Detail: Bozica Radjenovic, Newbies (2016).

Given that this is a textile exhibition, you might be surprised to see a sculpture installation. Bozica Radjenovic’s “Newbies” was created by knitting shapes out of yarn and filling them with plaster. When the plaster dried, the knitting was removed; you can still see the textured pattern, colour of the yarn and bits of the fibres that stuck to the plaster like lichen on a tree. The result is some very organic looking forms that don’t in fact look like anything we’ve seen yet in the natural world.

After seeing this show you may feel inspired to go through your own fabric stash (fabric hoarders of the world unite!) or get wild and crazy with a pair of knitting needles. This exhibition shows us that while we can respect the traditions and patterns, we don’t have to be bound by them – so get out there and fabricate your own story.

(inter)woven is on now at the OAG Annex, Ottawa City Hall, and continues until January 8, 2017. All artworks in the show are available for purchase.  Anyone interested in purchasing an artwork can contact:Stephanie Germano at 613-233-8699, ext. 234 or

. The official opening reception is September 29 at 5pm.