Ever since October, when my girlfriend accidentally kicked the balls of a Japanese artist at Brighton Museum’s ‘Indigo’ exhibition, I’ve had a newfound appreciation for the art of our sushi-eating cousins. Although if they’re going to use polystyrene balls, they really should stick them to the floor. So the new exhibition which opened last week at Hove Museum seemed right up my street. Entitled ‘East Weaves West’, it features the work of more than fifty British and Japanese basket-makers, and runs until the end of April.
If you thought basket–weaving was only for pensioners and the mentally ill, then you’d be wrong. Although admittedly some of the items on show are a bit surreal. One of them looks like a giant pretzel, which is a bit off-putting when you’ve just skipped breakfast and would kill for a bag of nuts. As it turned out, there’s a lot more than just basketry on display, and whilst the exhibits might have been woven together with the common thread of basket–making, the exhibition actually takes in everything from abstract art and intricate models to handbags and fish-catching equipment.
Most of the items on display are for sale, so it’s not so much an exhibition as a car boot sale, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. Doing the Brits proud were the likes of Polly Pollock (who sounds like a character from Finding Nemo), with her giant piece of coral made out of cane, and Joanna Gilmour’s beautiful woven sculptures, ‘Flycatcher’ and ‘Darwin’s Baskets 2’, but as for the handbag made of oak branches, I felt that was a step too far. My girlfriend’s bag is heavy enough as it is.
Then there was the work of Laura Street (I think I’ve lived there), who rejects traditional fibres in favour of old newspapers. A lot of her art resembled the contents of my recycling bin, but I have to say it was quite inspiring to see what can be created out of the most mundane of materials, and it did make me feel like rushing home to plait something out of last week’s Sun. It makes a refreshing change for the tabloids to have their words twisted.
As for the Japanese contributions, the museum blurb talks of “cultural comparisons and fascinating contrasts”, which is very true. After all, when did you last hear of an Englishman weaving an eel trap out of bamboo? But that’s exactly what’s on offer, courtesy of Kazuo Hiroshima. It’s like a condom for congas. Although to be honest it looked more like a baseball bat crossed with a bit of corn on the cob. It’s just one of a number of fish traps created by Kazuo, so he’s one artist who’ll never go hungry.
Other, more abstract, pieces had been fashioned out of materials such as walnut bark and hair moss, but if anyone wants to buy me a gift, I was most taken with the work of Noriko Takamiya, who specializes in small sculptures made from apparently endless strips of paper. The museum are displaying three pieces from his ‘Revolving’ series. It’s hard to imagine how Noriko created them without succumbing to repetitive strain injury, but staring in wonder at the tightly wound creations and trying to picture the miles of paper involved, my main question was just how many bonsai trees he had to fell.