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Maxine Bristow

Material Austerity: Negotiating boundaries between aesthetic autonomy and referentiality

This practice led research is concerned with textile references negotiated within a fine art context. It draws on a body of practice established over a ten-year period, which frames language systems intrinsic to textiles within the formal autonomy of modernist abstraction.

With its history rooted in material culture and corresponding lack of detachment, textile practices have been marginalised from discourses of fine art, notably modernist abstraction, which have been predicated on notions of disinterestedness and the autonomy of the artwork. However, with the advent of a post-medium sensibility, peripheral textile practices have arguably gained currency; as the autonomy of the artwork has been undermined a critical space has been opened up which acknowledges textile conventions.

This research negotiates this critical space. Through the use of a reductive language, which silences textile narratives and privileges formal conventions over substantive referential content, the project will investigate tenuous applications of semiotic systems through which codes of practice operate and through which the textile materials and processes employed in a work’s production function to disrupt its aesthetic autonomy.

By subjecting textile and modernist discourses to practical and theoretical investigation, the intention will be to question the reductive logic of modernism and to explore ways in which the potency of textile comes from its ability to function simultaneously as both reductive and referential. Acknowledging the legacies of modernism, the research will investigate a proposal that it is the distancing or separation of the language of textile from everyday life that enables it to exercise an aesthetic and critical function.

Textile hangings

Maxine Bristow