A number of people have asked me what I saw as the difference (if there is one) between European art quilts and American ones. My answer: yes, I see a difference.
Having looked at this year's FoQ exhibits and having compared all six EAC catalogs, I have some personal observations and opinions about this exhibit and about what I've seen of European quilts in general.
1. Each year the exhibit is fresh - you don't see the same artists with almost identical pieces, year after year.
2. European quilts are, for the most part, abstract and non-representational. Reproducing a photo in cloth appears non-existent...and if anyone is doing it, those pieces are not in major gallery exhibits.
3. There is a lot of experimentation with materials and ways of using them-- not just for the sake of being cute or clever or piling on the glop because they think that makes it ART, but because they add richness and texture and are integral to the piece. Silk, wool, rayon, plastic, linen, cotton, polyester, taffeta, organza (not necessarily all in one piece).
The first time I saw this was in 1999 in Paris: Artifil: Quilt et textile français contemporains--an exhibition of French art quilts that blew me away. I bought the catalog and much of the work is still fresh. However, many of the artists have gone on to do other kinds of work: Agnès Bockel, whose piece, Tomate Verte, captivated and influenced me back then, is now painting on canvas.
4. There is more individuality in the work; Europeans do not take class after class after class the way Americans seem to, so there is not the blatant cloning we so often see here with people who have taken a class and then make quilts that are knock-offs of the teachers' work.
5. Some of the most interesting work is from the Netherlands and Germany -- unfortunately, most of these artists do not have websites. Here are two I particularly like.
Dominique Arlot is a French fiber artists whose work I find refreshing
Sara Impey is also a treat -- as are a number of other artists from the U.K. -- but that's for another post. A couple of my personal favorites with distinct voices are Christine Restall and Marlene Cohen.
Go to the QuiltArt Europe site where you'll get a look at the work of the international members of this group. Just click on members on the sidebar. By the way, their QuiltArt at 25 catalog is one I'm saving as a treat next time I have a break.
And finally, here is the blog of Swedish fiber artist Gunilla Sundstrom, which I just discovered and find very interesting.
So now that I have spent my entire morning researching and writing this post, I had better get down to my REAL work! I am very interested in your reactions/responses/comments to this post. Would love to have a discussion and hear your own observations.