Just a few decades ago, if you turned up at a gallery as an artist and told them you worked with textiles, chances are they would give you a pitying look, like, “Oh, but that's not a serious art form. ” or 'No, we are not a knitting circle'.
Nevertheless, since the beginning of the 20th century there have also been pioneering artists working with textiles, such as Anni Albers (1899-1994), Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) or the Italian artist Alighiero Boetti (1940-1994) who have since been canonised in Western art history. Who doesn’t know Bourgeois’s textile of naked female bodies with spools of thread for nipples? And who has never seen Alighiero Boetti's colourful embroideries (arazzi) made in Afghanistan with words and world maps?
Another pioneer in the field of textile art is the German Rosemarie Trockel (1952) who took a stand against the postmodern art world dominated by white men in the 1980s. By stretching wool - in monochrome or abstract patterns - over a canvas, she lifted the material and technique out of the usual context of 'knitting housewives' and emphasized the limited vision of painting of the male-dominated art world.
With her art, Trockel not only challenged the classical definition of what constitutes a painting, but also drew attention to female sexuality and the role of women in society. Another artist who has been working with textiles since the start of his career is Berend Strik, whose first solo exhibition at Fons Welters dates back to 1990, and was for a long time the only (male) Dutch artist who worked with needle and thread.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, we have seen more and more – male and female – artists working with textiles and the wide variety in techniques and meaning is impressive: from (wall) tapestries to objects, with or without appliqués, and from embroidery to open weave fabrics, the possibilities are endless.