In Bahrain there is an arts cafe that has rooms for exhibiting local artists, and every month there is a new showing of work.  It is always interesting and I was really pleased when there was a fabric artist showing.  The room is a UK living room size, painted spartan white, with big windows. This exhibition was of white muslin dress shapes with a tracery of embroidery inside, hanging on wood like hangers, and one hanging rectangle of white light fabric waving. It was stark, and there was no labelling or information on sight until I was leaving and then I found a sheet of background story.

The rectangle is The Conference of the Birds, based on a sufi poem of the same name, written in 1177 telling who will be the king or sheikh.  Each bird in the hanging represents a human fault which prevents man from attaining enlightenment.

The dresses are telling the legend of Daphne,who is transformed into a laurel tree instead of an enforced marriage to Apollo.

I found the exhibition intriguing and the images have stayed with me. The simple muslin dresses with the mainly simple needlework in earth colours, mainly spiky stitches, were maybe 15 or 20 around the room. The photo is of one of the most embroidered, others were less than this.

I think this was  very stripped down imagery, and I was left feeling ‘yes, I see, wow’, but really I wanted to have a closer intense feeling from the messages.I felt it was being clever and strong, but there was a lack of beauty and warmth in the images. I think maybe the stripping down of emotion in the white against white, and in the bird hanging of just white sketches, similar to what I do on my course as a starter exercise, almost pinned on the background, meant that the embroidery showed sharp and spiky, assertive.  If the white innocent, pure dresses were against a coloured wall, would the embroidery give more strength and warmth, femininity? In all the whiteness, to me the inner stitching is violent and aggressive, militant. It could lead to debate on the images of women, the inner core against the outside view of purity/naivety. However I did want a bit more from the stitching, more powerful femininity to show. I felt anger emanating.

But at the same time I really remember it, so maybe it was what the artist wanted?

the conference of birds
the conference of birds

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