Common Threads Wearable Art Showcase 2016

A multidisciplinary extravaganza, celebrating artworks displayed on the human form with song, dance and exuberant community spirit
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Image: ‘stunning, witty, sensual and bizarre presentations’ Nerida reflects on the designs at the Common Threads Wearable Art Showcase 2016; photograph courtesy of City of Mandurah.

Part of the annual Stretch Arts Festival Mandurah, the Common Threads Wearable Art Showcase competition continues to grow and attract entries locally, nationally and internationally, raising the standards of this challenging expression of visual art. Playing with the 2016 theme of ‘Illuminations’, entrants demonstrate their technical skills and creative interpretations across four main categories sculptural, (colour palette, avant-garde and youth) to reflect literal and metaphorical concepts in response. Many entrants embrace the further challenges of sustainability by producing works made from reused materials.

The showcase itself is a gala night involving the local community as models for the various pieces. Rather than a traditional catwalk style parade, Artistic Director Helen Duncan pushes artists’ concepts further with a sequence of stunning, witty, sensual and bizarre presentations that combine strong performance elements to captivate while the wearable artworks are displayed in memorable scenes. The community models are joined on stage by professional dancers, sometimes modelling as they perform and other times featuring as dancing accompaniment to enhance the effect of the outfits’ presentations. The volunteer models themselves perform as appropriate to each set of costumes, choreographed by Laura Boynes.

The artworks are each presented in a light that enhances their key attributes, with those featuring extra illuminated details working closely with Joe Lui’s dynamic lighting design to display the best effects as well as presenting each angle of each costume clearly for audience scrutiny. James Higgins’ set design allows smooth transitions between scenes, with clear separation of moods and scenes also managed by Boynes. The selection of musical tracks enhances the impact of various entries, and musicians Tristan Parr and Aidan Boase bring some beautiful live performance to the stage in another dimension to the cultural gala evening.

The sculptural entries feature diverse materials, from hand-felted individual balls in Sue Smorthwaite’s A Bright Idea, to geometrically aligned pieces of hi-vis material in Fire Flies by Louise Wells and Rosy Chalklen’s stunning use of cardboard waste – including toilet paper rolls – in the show stopping Pillar of Salt. Eugene Smalberger creates a fantastic confection from everyday objects in Smoke & Mirrors, Rebecca Corps considers the female form in male-dominated work roles in Women on the Land with a simple sculpture occluding the model and Light by Diana Kelly is richly embroidered with more traditional fabrication on the world beneath the waves.

The colour palette entries live up to their description with Jacq Chorlton presenting a bottle lid mosaic in A Dress to Im’Press that lights up a rainbow of bright hues. Capillary Action by Val Hornibrook is red, a pulsating contemporary dance piece presenting the organic throbbing potential of the piece and Hope Lights the Way is Julie Smith’s response to the story of Sadako and her paper cranes, created human meaning densely occupying every part of the work. Naomi McDonald stands out with her Shades of Blue looking like a classic princess ballgown, but the details of construction move this work from Disney cliché to clever sculptural concept.

Playful presentation marks the avant-garde productions, making the most of the unique features of many designs. Victorian Secrets by Anzara Clark is assembled before us on stage, dancers assisting to cover up the raunchy burlesque base outfit, while a solo dance performance sees What Lies Beneath deconstructed, an engaging emergence of cocoon to butterfly created by Larissa Murdock and Bronwyn Packwood. Set Your Light Free follows the inspiration from nature with a sculptural presence in fabric by Lisbeth Wahl, and Sherr Bottell turns to lava flows to create Pele’s Glow. Intricate collections are seen worked together in the steampunk inspired Cog-nitive Beauty from Deb Hiller and Cathie Cresswell and in other works such as Carmel Ryan’s Trip The Light FunPlastic, the punning title capturing the lighthearted delivery as well as the materials used. Ngaire Lowry also takes steampunk aesthetics but evokes an entire way of life rather than individual parts in Deconstructed Steam Train – Homage to Yarloop, only some of the differences embraced by the diverse remit of the avant-garde entries.

Promise for the future of wearable art is evident in the youth entries, Night Wolf by Lexi Sleet a strongly presented, densely textured fantasy that also glows to meet the illumination theme. Catherine Kelly’s The Secret Garden and Shanae Paratore’s The Ocean’s Guardian both appear to be simple pretty skirt and top combinations from a distance but reward a closer inspection with a riot of thoughtful details.

A joyful extravaganza of culture that has steadily grown to become a highlight of both Mandurah’s Stretch Arts Festival and the wider wearable art creative community, Common Threads Wearable Art Showcase hits all the right notes across all incorporated disciplines.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

Common Threads Wearable Art Showcase 2016

Showcase – 7 May 2016
Presented by Act-Belong-Commit
Artistic Director Helen Duncan
Choreographer (Community Cast) and Stage Management Laura Boynes
Musicians Tristen Parr and Aidan Boase
Lighting Design Joe Lui
Set Design James Higgins
Back Stage Management Leah O’Brien
Production Management Creative Behaviours
Professional performers Sofie Burgoyne, Emily Malone, Rosie Osmond, Tyrone Robinson, Katya Kokov and Tarryn Runkel
Community Cast Kitty Boyd, Kaye Bramley, Poppy Chalklen, Erin Clitheroe, Leilani Cocks, Jen Collins, Monica Connelly, Alison Driver, Maddi Hall, Karen Hansord, Emilie Johnstone-Maher, Genevieve Kan, Sarah Kemp, Natasha Kennedy, Courtney Loney, Caitlin Magill, Tahlia Russell, Kassandra Smith, Taleisha Steinbruckner, Teá Webb, Shannon White, Abbey Williams and Harriet Wilson

Designers and works featured by category:
Sculptural: Sue Smorthwaite – A Bright Idea; Ashley Bowley – Luminous; Carol Clitheroe, Tiffany Clitheroe, Tich Dixon and Sheryl Osborne – Eclipse; Eugene Smalberger – Smoke & Mirrors; Rosy Chalklen – Pillar of Salt; Louise Wells – Fire Flies; Rebecca Corps – Women on the Land; Diana Kelly – Light
Colour Palette: Ability Arts – Refraction; Stephanie Powell – Light on Plastic; Fiona Harper-Harwood – Native Spirit; Julie Smith – Hope Lights the Way; Jacq Chorlton – A Dress to Im’Press; Alicia Treby and Renee Barton – Banksia Torch; Naomi McDonald – Shades of Blue; Jo Ireland – Diosa Gotica – Gothic Goddess; Val Hornibrook – Capillary Action; Sue Sacchero – Aurora Australis Queen of the Southern Skies

Avant-garde: Carmel Ryan – Trip The Light FunPlastic; Philomena Hali – Fire Flies; Larissa Murdock and Bronwyn Packwood – What Lies Beneath; Anzara Clark – Victorian Secrets; Sherr Bottell – Pele’s Glow; Deb Hiller and Cathie Cresswell – Cog-nitive Beauty; Elizabeth Morley – Satori; Liana McNeill – Skeletal Centrum; Ngaire Lowry – Deconstructed Steam Train – Homage to Yarloop; Lyn Blasgund – Blind Reflections; Georgina Richardson – Shine Bright; Lisbeth Wahl – Set Your Light Free

Youth: Britney Loney – MissBehaviour; Catherine Kelly – The Secret Garden; Lexi Sleet – Night Wolf; Libby Butterworth – Warrior Chief Louise; Shanae Paratore – The Ocean’s Guardian; Mandurah Performing Arts Centre, Mandurah

Common Threads Wearable Art Exhibition
Contemporary Art Spaces Mandurah
3 June – 3 July 2016

Nerida Dickinson
About the Author
Nerida Dickinson is a writer with an interest in the arts. Previously based in Melbourne and Manchester, she is observing the growth of Perth's arts sector with interest.
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