Artist's Statement: Dr Emma Neuberg, the founder of Slow Textiles, on pushing the boundaries of textiles

| 18 January 2016

Artist’s Statement: Emma Neuberg is a Doctor of Printed Textiles and the founder of Slow Textiles, a solidarity group of thousands of textile artists

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
Emma Neuberg at the launch of her exhibition in The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art© Dom Moore
“Textiles in the UK are usually either presented in a very commercial context or as a niche craft. Over the years I’ve become increasingly frustrated with this, because I know that my own work falls somewhere between textiles and fine art.

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
Purple© Emma Neuberg
It was obvious to me that a lot of my contemporaries also needed their work to be exhibited in a space somewhere between craft and commercial design. This was the driving force behind the Geometrics shows that I co-curated with [curator] Daisy McMullan.

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
© Dom Moore
I felt that those shows fulfilled a very real need at the time, but equally it was difficult for me to delve into my own work as fully as I’d like at the same time as collaborating on such a shared vision, so I jumped at the opportunity to create a solo exhibition for The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art.

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
© Sarah Packer
I really want to delve into this curious space between textiles and fine art and give it a bigger public platform. Textiles have quite a difficult time in this country and I don’t feel like we have as many high profile textile designers as we should have.

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
© Sarah Packer
The focus in the UK tends to be on haute couture and commercial fashion, which means that we’re not always concentrating on pushing the boundaries of what textiles can be.

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
© Dom Moore
An example of this could be seen in the work of Sonia Delaunay. She was one of Europe’s biggest textile designers of the 20th century, but she died in 1979 and I don’t feel like anybody since has progressed the legacy that she left of the role that textiles can play in fine art.

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
© Dom Moore
She had a retrospective recently at Tate Modern and it was wonderful to see textiles being displayed in that space as important and relevant cultural items – ideas of modernism being expressed in fabric.

A photo of a female artist standing in a gallery full of her colourful paintings in plymouth
© Dom Moore
My own solo show combines the textiles themselves with the designs and drawings behind them, alongside digital representations and animations of the digital patterns.

Often, with commercial practices like textile design, you don’t get to see the working drawings by the artist, but these images reveal the backdrop and thought process behind the textile pieces.

They’re the foundation of my work and essential to the creative process, so I hope that people will take the same pleasure in viewing them that I took in creating them.”

  • Emma Neuberg’s work is at Plymouth College of Art until February 20 2016. Open 9am-5pm (10am-1pm Saturday, closed Sunday). Admission free. The artist will give a free talk at the gallery on January 27 at 5.30pm. Kinetic Surfaces Masterclass runs 10am-1pm on January 29 (£60, deadline for booking is January 20, 8.30am).

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