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3 Cyanotype on Textile Projects you need to know

For Alternative Processes Fashion Week we are celebrating the combination of photography textiles and here are three artworks that we think everyone should know about. 



Azul 

Azul is an ever evolving performative piece by the artist Tina Rowe created in 2021 depicted in a multiple image series and short film.  

Azul began when Tina acquired a 1950’s wedding dress which she painstakingly coated with cyanotype using a sponge until covered within a darkroom. Once dry Tina took the dress to a beach in Essex, UK., to expose it using items they collected like seaweed, reminiscent of the early algae cyanotype exposures by Anna Atkins. Inspired by her love of water and the John Everett Millais painting Ophelia, Tina submerged herself into the ocean wearing the sun exposed cyanotype coated wedding dress, emerging once the cyanotype had fully developed.  



The process of the creation of the artwork references the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage, and retrospectively Yemọja the mother of all Orishas and patron saint of rivers and oceans in the Yoruba religion. Tina takes the viewer on a journey through the artwork using objects related to the pilgrimage, such as scallop shells, for the cyanotype exposure. 

Made from synthetic materials that were common in the 1950’s the wedding dress hasn't held onto the cyanotype the way a natural fibre would. This means the vibrant blue has over time faded into a lighter shade allowing the performance to continue and become a metaphor for the notion of memory that an object like a wedding dress provokes. As someone who is both married and adopted, Tina also references the personal significance of familial contract that the dress represents in her life. 




Mauvais genre 

Mauvais genre is a collaboration between Melissa Boucher, an artist working with alternative and analog photographic mediums and Adele de Keyzer, a designer with a fine art background who handcrafts unique pieces.  

Created for the 2022 La Fugitive exhibition at Le Credac in France titled after the book La Fugitive, the sixth volume of Marcel Proust’ In Search of Lost Time series. The exhibition asked artists to create artworks that respond to the male gaze objectification of the queer young woman character Albertine within the book.  

For their piece Melissa and Adele took inspiration from Melissa's previous project Scrolling [faire dériver], which explored the consumption of pornography through a feminist lens using analog photography. Melissa and Adele chose to create a garment using 1900’s and futuristic design elements for the fictional Albertine, to symbolise the characters subversion of gender and sexuality within a contemporary context.


Over the course of many months Melissa and Adele would send test prints and material samples between Marseille and Paris, until they could eventually come together at Adele's studio to finalise the artwork.  

Using silk for the construction of the coat and organza for the corset, the two artists meticulously placed together fragments of cyanotype exposed material to represent Albertine's complex character. There is also an array of incorporated writing and images from feminist texts, passages about Albertine from In Search of Lost Time, images of Chantal Ackerman's film La captive, and images from Melissa’s project on post-porn in which can be seen on the artwork. The intention in the construction with sheer materials and juxtaposed cyanotype imagery is to create a sense of intimacy for the viewer and to highlight the multiplicity of Albertine's character. From the outer layer of the coat, you can see the intertwining images and text underneath, revealing layers of the human experience which is often hidden under the surface.  





Waterbody 


Waterbody is an artwork by Livvy Aru Mcsweeny created in 2022 while a participant on the SÍM Residency Iceland at the Seljavegur location. Waterbody is a title with duplicate meaning, referring to the bodies of water around Iceland and the artist’s body itself within the water. 

Wanting to make a site specific piece for her residency Livvy looked to the Icelandic landscape to create her artwork. Livvy chose to use cyanotype due to its process of the image exposure using sunlight and then being fixed in water, which means the medium functions well for working within an environment. As a volcanic island, Iceland has a wide variety of bodies of water to choose from with a multitude of mineral compounds and ph levels. Cyanotype works best when fixed in a neutral or slightly acidic water ph level which is not something you can control if you are using wild water sources, particularly in Iceland as the basalt rock creates a low ph, high mineral, ground water.



This potential for experimentation and unexpected results is what inspired Livvy to travel to different bodies of water to fix her cyanotypes, making each of them unique. 

Referring to her relationship with water as ‘something akin to obsession’ and a subsequent fondness for swimming, it felt like a natural progression for the artwork to Livvy to create cyanotype garments to wear while immersed in water. To do this, Livvy soaked the chosen garment in cyanotype emulsion, allowed it to dry, then wore the piece into the lake, river, or ocean chosen. Once completed the garment would be hung to dry back at the Seljavegur SÍM Residency Iceland studios. Alongside the garments Livvy also created many fabric and paper prints using the same process, each one being a unique capture of the interaction between the cyanotype medium and the Icelandic landscape.  




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