Thursday, 4 September 2014

Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam

Meet the Artist Behind Those Amazing, Hand-Knitted Playgrounds 




Wonder Space II, by Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam and Interplay, at Hakone Open Air Museum. Photo © Masaki Koizumi.
In a world of “dumbed-down,” down-right boring playgrounds, the colorful, architectural masterpieces of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam stand apart. The Japanese artist knits her amazing projects by hand – her most famous project, for example, inside the “Woods of Net” Pavilion at the Hakone Open Air Museum in , took her about a year to complete
We took a moment to speak with Ms. Horiuchi MacAdam about the Pavilion and her other works, how they bridge the worlds of art and architecture, and how they irresistibly invite the world to . You can read our interview, and see more images of her fascinating work, after the break…

AD: Some of your earlier works, such as “Fibre Columns / Romanesque Church,” are very architectural in nature – were you inspired early on by architecture? How so?
When I was a student at Tama Fine Art University in Tokyo, we were introduced to the work of Antonio Gaudi by a professor of architecture. Eventually, in my late 20′s, I traveled to Europe and the Middle East. Of course, I went to Spain to see Gaudi’s work. I also traveled to Isfahan in Iran in particular to look at mosques. Both impressed me a great deal. Antonio Gaudi’s work, as you know, is based on studies of ‘naturally’ curved forms (catenaries) as determined by gravity, turned upside down.
When I was working as a textile designer in NYC, I began to question:
  • What does it mean to apply ‘surface’ design to textiles?
  • At its most basic, What is a ‘textile’?
These 2 questions grew in scope and importance for me and after 2 years I decided to leave the company I was working for (where they treated me very well), and begin searching for answers.
When I saw Antonio Gaudi’s work, I realized immediately his forms are naturally connected to textiles. And then when I saw the mosque at Isfahan, I realized the shape of the mosque and the inlaid tile-work covering its interior and exterior surfaces are not separate – one applied on top of the other -  but form part of the building’s fabric and geometry. The form of the building and the tile design work together to create a space of fantastic beauty and spirituality. I felt I found one of the answers I was looking for.

It took me fifteen years to find the answer to the other question; my thoughts on textile structures took shape as a book, From a Line. It explores the transformation of a linear element, thread, into 3-dimensional form.
“Fiber Columns/Romanesque Church” was created during this period of my life when I was deeply involved in researching  textile structures. I created this piece while participating in a tapestry symposium in Angers, France, whose venue was a Romanesque church. The first week was given over to discussions among the international participants.  The second week I settled on this space  – a vaulted arcade of semi-circular arches. I spent a full day sitting and absorbing the space, the light as well as the shadows cast by the columns, the sound of the bell.  An image came to mind.  I then took 2 and a half days for calculations:  the area, the amount of material available, the rate at which I could work, the technique. I set a plan and stuck to it diligently.  For two and a half weeks I worked and on the final day was able to install the piece (with some help).  I was quite satisfied with what I had accomplished in 3 weeks.
AD: To what extent do you consider yourself an architect?

THM: Most of my artwork involves architectural ideas or references. I am interested in how form is created through tension and the force of gravity including the weight of the material itself and textile structures. It is the intersection of art and science – like geometry – which we observe in nature.  But I don’t think of myself as an architect.

AD: All of your work is hand-made: how does that fact change your relationship to the structures you create? 
THM: My works are mostly made by hand, but in certain pieces (our ‘SpaceNet’ play environments, for example,  as well as ‘Luminous’ a theatrical stage curtain – I have incorporated a mechanically knotted net).  However, it begins from my hands.
Each work is one-of-a-kind.  As I work the image takes shape in my mind’s eye. It is as if the image is telling my hands what to do – which is why it is difficult to use other people’s hands. When I am using my hands, my brain focuses, the image becomes clearer, technical solutions come to mind.
I create a space using fiber and textile structure. It is fascinating how textile structures yield very different forms from different types of material. The construction technique, the weight of the yarn and gravity work together to create natural  forms.

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