Enjoy our Q & A with Te Ami Objects – Kathy Barber – reproduced here from her exhibition at Public Record, Auckland May 2022.
Lost, not lost b y K a t h y B a r b e r
- What brought you to copper weaving?
On the second anniversary of my brothers passing I collected two rocks.
To honor the date and his memory I wanted to create a piece of art that served as a remembrance piece.
The idea of netting was appealing because it becomes integral with the rock and pliable. Through the copper woven silhouette, a softness permeates the hard stone as a delicate casing.
- I know you learnt about the history of traditional Japanese copper weaving Kanaami after you started. Was it distracting to learn about the traditional forms or did it help to develop your technique?
It was a poignant moment when I realised that the copper hand weaving originated in Japan. I have visited many times and have an affinity for their culture-both traditional and modern.
I was hoping to find some online videos on the process of Kanaami, but the only learning I gained was from studying images. This helped with how to start the circular tondo wall pieces, although I feel that my process is more organic than the traditional Kanaami craft which is precise and mathematical.
- It feels like you are having a different conversation with each stone, right from when you choose the rock, to how you the weaving forms around it, to how its presented. What is the thought process like in responding to the different shapes?
Each piece is totally unique. The process begins with finding the rocks, they seem to present themselves to me- by their colour, texture or shape.
The physical weight dictates whether they can be hung or sit on the metal plinths and the initial concept comes from either sketching on paper or making a basic wire frame with a single strand of wire that serves as a 3D model. I begin flat on an easle and then soon move to taping the initial weaving to the rock so I can work around shape with the appropriate tension.
The resolve of wire strands of each piece has become a significant challenge. As I weave around the object all the wire becomes a frenzied mass that needs to be considered and tidied. I want the finished piece to be handled and enjoyed from any angle with each face being resolved.
- You are also an established painter, how do your practices compare? Do you find yourself exploring the same themes despite the different mediums?
The themes are connected regardless of the medium. I have always had a linear aspect in my abstraction which is cursive and repetitive so this is an direct visual link.
There are obvious differences with scale and mediums as I tend to work on large scale canvas’s. I have had to make a shift to think about the collective of small pieces and to show some restraint in terms of quantity. The practices are also linked by the intent to make a piece that is laden with meaning and emotion rather than just a work that has an appealing aesthetic.
- What themes are central to your work?
We ascribe meaning to words depending on how the word sits within our experience. The use
of marks as a pictorial language has appeared in my painting for many years alongside other signs and ideograms that help to make the paintings twine to memories past and present. This visual ‘writing’ and use of line has become a way of telling a story, a starting point for my paintings, sometimes it is just a single word, or an elusive memory that gives rise to these cursive brush strokes that become the vehicle through which I generate meaning.
In the same way memories and thoughts exist in my sculptures through the woven line. The connection between the physical process, the emotion and the object united to pay homage to memories and thoughts that are now not lost.
- What keeps you connected to this practice?
I have been an artist for over 20years. I have always been concerned with producing work that has an emotional content, a sense of place, fragments of memory. Whatever the medium I am working with: paint, ink, printmaking or wire, the themes are inherent.
- This body of works feels beautifully realised and like you are developing a new signature style. What do you hope to convey through this show?
I hope to produce a thought-provoking original show. It is through personal loss that I have found myself producing these woven memories and I feel honored to share this body of work.
I hope that people can connect with the objects in “Lost, not lost” and see the unity of an organic object coupled with a personal connection to a place, person or time of significance.
- You seem so connected to Japan and have been many times, do you have any favourite moments or memories from being in Japan that you would like to share?
There are countless memories so I will share only one.
In 2019 we visited The Mori Art Museum in Tokyo to see The Soul Trembles by Japanese artist Shiota Chiharu.
An unbelievable exhibition that has left footprints in my heart.
- These new pieces are displayed differently to some of the pieces we’ve had at public record in the past. What instigated this change?
Small woven pieces are able to be hung off a hook, but the installation of larger pieces require a different solution. I have been fortunate to have Finn Ferrier helping me with the creation of bespoke steel hooks and plinths for heavier rocks. As an extension to this, I have been working on a number of works that hang within a frame. The richness of the repurposed antique wood sits well alongside the tarnished copper and organic objects. The frames have also provided another surface for further weaving and transit a delicate sculpture into a more substantial piece.
I want to keep challenging myself with hand weaving objects. Through the process of doing, I keep extending the creative outcomes. Some of these ideas will further extend into art installations while others will stay true to the pieces represented in Lost, not lost.