Review: Veiled at The Textile Museum of Canada.

February 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tazeen Qayuum "Our Bodies, Our Gardens"

One of my favourite elements of the Textile Museum of Canada is that their curators often arrange the work of present-day artists with objects from their permanent collection. Even so, it is a relatively rare treat to see the museum focus an entire show on the textile-based, or textile-related, work of contemporary artists. In this manner, the museum’s exhibition Veiled – which features the artists Andrew Mcphail, Grace Ndiritu and Tazeen Qayuum – boldly working across media, is particularly exceptional.

Appropriately enough, Veiled focuses on the process of covering the body as both a physical gesture and an emotional outlet. While the practice of veiling has remained a hot topic in the public for decades, the artists involved in Veiled do not explore this contentious concept solely through the vein of violence directed at Muslim women. Instead, Tazeen Qayuum transforms everyday household items that are typically used to mask physical pain, into beautifully detailed miniature paintings. Qayuum’s “Our Bodies, Our Gardens” (2010) consists of 20 hanging hot water bottles that are uniquely ripped, reconstructed or painted. Each bottle is created in response to real women’s stories which deal with issues ranging from single motherhood, to politics and race issues. The physical manipulations of these objects that are originally intended to veil pain are thereby turned inside out in order to expose a more intimate picture.

Andrew Mcphail "all my little failures"

Grace Ndiritu’s video art presents a more straightforward investigation of the veil as a female costume and custom. “The Nightingale” (2003), a seven minute looped film, investigates the cultural stereotypes linked to the veil. The film first presents Ndiritu in a static pose with a piece of material covering her. However, through fast-motion editing, Ndiritu displays how quickly this veil can be changed into a sari, scarf, turban and even a Rosie the Riveter bandanna.

Andrew Mcphail’s “all my little failures,” an ongoing piece that began when the artist was diagnosed as HIV positive, is comprised of hundreds of band-aids sewn together to create a brilliant patchwork tapestry. Mcphail places his piece over a mannequin, spinning the theme of veiling in an entirely new direction as he presents it as a protective shroud for the human form.

Veiled runs at The Textile Museum of Canada until February 12.

– Stella Melchiori

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