Books: Textural Space

In the feedback from my tutor on Assignment 2, Textural Space: Contemporary Japanese Textile Art by Lesley Millar was recommended reading.

Textural Space was an exhibition of 13 contemporary Japanese textile artists “whose works are based in the most traditional craft skills”. Millar’s introduction describes how these artists work “with structure, texture, space and light to create textile works linking art, design and architecture.” She discusses how the works “occupy space, not in terms of mass but more through implication and allusion” which makes me think of the idea of using negative space in paintings.

I found it interesting in Takeo Uchiyama’s essay Fibreworks or textile art of Japan: the historical and contemporary context the comment that “there has been no firm tradition of tapestry in Japan”. Keiko Kawashima elaborates on this in the essay Contemporary Japanese textile art in an international perspective by saying “European people produced tapestries to decorate stone and brick walls which are cold to the touch”. Japanese buildings were traditionally built from wood and use paper and rushes which are warmer so Japanese textile art developed differently. I have always been particularly fascinated by the kimono which has a very different construction and wear to Western clothing.

Tetsuo Fujimoto’s Work 98-1 (detail shown below) has a fascinating depth of colour to it and gives me inspiration to push the free motion embroidery I attempted in Assignment 2 further. I can appreciate how Fujimoto embraces the folds and how they create shadows which are integral to the piece as it “creates an illusion of depth” when combined with the density of stitching. Fujimoto previously worked as a weaver and found the transition to free motion embroidery freeing after being restricted to warp and weft. Each work takes at least two months of stitching which enables the depth to be built up.

Credit:  Tetsuo Fujimoto Work 98-1 Hemp cloth, polyester threads, pellon backing & natural plant dyes (3.85mx1.70m)

Shihoko Fukumoto associates indigo with the colour of space and her work Milky Way intrigues me as I have a background in Physics. The vibrancy of the white undyed Turpan cotton gives the illusion that lights are installed behind the piece however I believe that it is just the contrast between the undyed fabric and the depth of the indigo dye which is achieved through repeated dyeing.

Asako Ishizaki has a background in weaving and has developed a technique which “is a mixture of plain weave and allowing the weft threads to cross freely without warp threads at various points”. The weave is also oversewn once removed from the loom to increase the density or pleated to create texture. This is interesting as I taught myself the basics of weaving for one of the Assignment 2 pieces and would like to play with different ways of constructing cloth.

Harumi Isobe‘s Missa Flora 2 incorporates text within the weave and many of her other works use folds or pleats to “conceal as much as they reveal”. I feel that this idea could create pieces that encourage viewers to explore the three-dimensional space created within the work.

One thing that has surprised me about some of the artists in this book is how many incorporate paper within their works. Although the definition of textiles does include paper, it is opening up possibilities to mix fabrics and paper with more confidence. Similarly Yoshiko Tanabe uses brass wire to create her Endless Net Way which would not be the obvious choice to create a textile from but expands the possibilities.


Millar, L. (2001) Textural Space: Contemporary Japanese Textile Art The Surry Institute of Art and Design University College

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