Weaving Two Worlds Together

Exhibition Review | 2018

Brent Wadden’s new exhibition Two Scores lighten up the two spaces in Contemporary Art Gallery with a splash of pop colors and hard-line strips. The first room features sixteen pigment prints with a large woven floor work (which the artist unraveled the materials from the prints to produce); the other space compiles his newly produced, site-specific weavings that stretched over huge and oddly shaped canvases. At the first glance, they look like abstract Bauhaus paintings.

Indeed, Brent Wadden had a painting background and received his BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2003. The artist then moved to Berlin where he met an American folk artist that showed him how to weave. Like many cross-disciplinary artists, he was immediately attracted by the materiality and complexity of tapestry, which has an incredible history that is tied to everything. “Clothing is probably the only thing, that every human on the planet interacts with every day.” says the artist in one of his interviews. Wadden sees weaving as a tactile medium that connects every part of the world together.

In his work Score Two (16 Afghans), as the title suggests, Brent Wadden collected sixteen differently patterned knitted blankets known as afghans, which they are often soft and feminine. He then unraveled and restitched the afghans to weave the floor work. By using the same colors and materials, the polished prints of delicate patterns on the wall meet, overlap, and connect with the unstretched woven piece that laid out as a rug. With the lace-like soft-line on the wall and the dominant hard-line centerpiece on the floor, they not only present the two possibilities of knitted crafts but together they form a coherent world of femininity and masculinity.

The work shows the artist’s modest demonstration of deconstructing and remixing the materials over time. The color of the work evidently shows time passes by, some are dusty than others, some are fading away.
 
The left wall of the other room features four skinny and tall woven paintings that are aligned with the width of the windows; and on the right side, it is a nearly seven-and-a-half meter long, almost wall-sized woven painting entitled Score One (Salt Spring). The edge of the wall lined up with the stripes on his paintings, making the gallery very rigid and uptight spatially.

However, the human touch is by no means obsolete. The texture reveals they are fabrics that woven together stitch by stitch; the stripes are slightly distorted and the colors are not evenly matched. The juxtaposition of the alignment and the imprecise details made the work very intriguing, engaging the viewers to look at them closer.
 
Brent Wadden explains his weaving process as an “intensely laborious process” that incorporates “a lot of math and precise decisions”. Indeed the works reveal the hard labor: it takes about three months to finish one woven painting. Despite the artist’s effort to achieve complete accuracy, there are endless possibilities every day due to the technical nature of weaving. For him, “weaving is a time-based medium”, indexing the hours, days, and years of use and handling. By exhibiting his time-consuming works in the gallery, the white cube is thus transformed into a contemplative space.
 
In these two works, Brent Wadden continues to juxtapose and connect the traditional woven technique with his abstract paintings to bring the two worlds together: between high art and craft, between loose and tight, between strict and organic, between perfection and imperfection, between feminine and masculine. And line by line, Brent Wadden’s woven structure adds depth and texture to the spatial aspects of the pieces, as well as the dimension of time, he weaving the space and time together for us in Two Scores.

© Sha Li