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Joanne Circle’s exhibition Felt Translation provides an interesting view into the work of an accomplished artist. The works clearly reflects her surroundings and give her ideas a material presence via the medium of felt. The exhibition, curated by Maggie Tchiers at CCBC Gallery July 12-Aug 23, shows several distinct bodies of work, inspired by nature.

The series K-Dances stands out for me. It is a series of 20 felt pieces, similar longish narrow shapes, each up to 20“ long. Formally, all of these mostly white wool felt pieces, have distinct shapes and finishing details and some include thread, fine metal wire, silk and synthetic fabrics. While some appear to refer to vessels or nests, others seem more animal like, skins left after a shedding process. The surfaces have refined details, sutures and stitching, tendrils and bumps. While the work shows spontaneity with the process; it is clearly made by someone who is fully cognizant of the process. The few pieces in solid bright colour make the intentionality of the white even more pronounced and set up us up to figure out this strange taxidermy. The pieces look as if they could easily become quite large, i.e. human scale and more cocoon like.

Lyre-ic is a poetic study of small felt balls attached to fine wires, balanced and in symbiotic, perpetual motion. Metal, hard, thin and shiny in balance with felt wool, thick, soft and dull. The wire moves with quick energy and the wool lazily balances it. Shadow Migration, shares some of those ideas, but in a less structured or composed way, simply lets the materials fly free, in constant motion.

Fugue Flow stands out as 3 traditionally framed pen and ink drawings, each with its felt seal of approval. They appear as text or meditation in a beautiful strange language and take pleasure in the mark making. They resist our aim to understand their meaning and instead force us to create our own reasons.

As a weaver, I tried to understand the difference between weaving and felting. For me, felt is immediate w/o rules and demanding full engagement, while weaving is slow, systematic, following logical reasoning.  But rules, of course, exist to be broken. I was reminded of how Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guttari’s articulate this distinction in the “Smooth and Striated”, a chapter with that title in “A Thousand Plateaus”. They show how chaotic felt contrasts the organizing principles of weaving, with its horizontal and vertical lines. Felt for them represents organic endless ‘nomad space’, as compared to woven, finite ‘settled space’, defined by the dimensions of the loom. In this exhibition, Joanne’s soft felt is a suitable counterpoint to our structured daily existence in a life full of 0’s and 1’s, and it aims to find balance:

“… we must remind ourselves that the two spaces (the Smooth and Striated) in fact exist only in mixture: smooth space is constantly being translated, transversed into a striated space; striated space is constantly being reversed, returned to a smooth space”…..“is a smooth space captured, enveloped by a striated space, or does a striated space dissolve into a smooth space, allow a smooth space to develop?” (Deleuze, Gille + Guattari, Felix – A thousand plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia, Page 474-5)

Kepenek for a Crustacean clearly refers to animal skins, temporarily abandoned or shed, no longer needed, the creature gone to a world we do not know, maybe by choice, or not, or to return shortly. They seem very much like the nomadic peoples Kepeneks, worn as coats during the day, that turn into shelters at night.

It was very interesting to discover such an experienced artist living right here in the Cowichan Valley of BC, where she has moved to from the US 30 years ago and it was a pleasure to be surrounded by all her creations/creatures.

Ruth Scheuing

July 2012