Saturday, July 8, 2017

Victoria Gibson at Shetland Textile Museum

It's difficult blogging on holiday, every time I look out of the window I get distracted, never mind the people to catch up with, walks to go on, exhibitions to see, dogs to commune with, and all the rest of it.

I want to write about this one whilst it's fresh in my mind (though I'm planning on seeing it again before I go). Victoria Gibson's distinctive knitwear is easy to take for granted if you've always been familiar with it so now is absolutely the right time for an exhibition to really evaluate her work.

Shetlands Textile Museum (at the Böd of Gremista, just on the way into Lerwick) is quite small (more space for exhibiting objects would be great, though they do a brilliant job with what they have, and the very knowledgeable volunteers on hand to answer questions and give practical demonstrations are amazing). It means there's only really one room for this exhibition which makes what they've managed to do even more impressive.

Seeing a row of Victoria's jumpers in a shop is quite impressive - her designs are big on colour and texture. Seeing her knitwear in a gallery setting does it justice, especially when you can follow its evolution over five decades.

From the early striped jumpers in earthy tones for Cloth Kits (some self assembly required) and bright rainbow colours of the seventies, to the signature designs that focus on graduating colours and textures, it's really interesting to see the work evolving.

Over the years I've had a few of the checked jumpers. I like the way they explore how shades quite close together on the colour spectrum work together (the volunteer I spoke to at the museum, an experianced knitter, was saying she'd never think, or dare, to use colours in the same way). I also like the way that there's a nod to Fair Isle patterns (2 colours in each row, limited stitches between colour changes) though these ones also make me think of tweed.

The textured jumpers take this a step further. The patterns created using different stitches are another nod to Fair Isle, the subtle graduations in colour are often suggestive of the Shetland landscape, but more than that it just feels like there's a real pleasure in exploring how these things work together. The finished articles make it look effortless, but it isn't. Seeing the exhibition gives some idea of the creative process behind the clothes, as well as being a reminder that it's a process that involves any number of knitters.

It's an excellent exhibition and should be a must see for anyone in Shetland this summer.

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