A Thread Runs Through It: Form & Re-Form

Form is what we see (the shape of things, the visual appearance) and what we do (bringing things together to create something new, making) while reform is taking what already exists and improving on it.

These two ideas (form and reform) are both complementary and contradictory. Just like the artists Annabelle Collett and Jeff Trahair.

Collett is a textile artist with a career that spans many years and includes a huge body of work. Trahair came to textile art recently after successful careers in both science and music. Their styles, methods, and approaches are completely different, yet the philosophy behind their work, the emotional connection to their work, and their undeniable exuberance and enthusiasm for textiles as a medium are completely in sync.

Trahair celebrates form. He works with recognisable, safe, and conservative forms: men’s clothing – suits, shirts and trousers. “Despite the many social and professional liberties men have, their clothing choices are heavily constrained,” Trahair says. “My work explores traditional forms in ‘untraditional’, even non-masculine, fabrics.”

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Trahair also celebrates breaking free from the conformity of men’s fashion. “The world of textiles is so inspiring. Why not have beautiful fabrics in your wardrobe and on your body?”

He challenges men to celebrate their bodies.

In contrast, Collett deconstructs clothing. She breaks fashion down into the historical and symbolic significance of the motifs, the social and political meaning of the patterns, and the relationships between form and fashion.

Deconstructing clothes involves turning three-dimensional forms into two-dimensional shapes.

“These emerging patterns and motifs contain historical and symbolic significance. It carries traditional and cultural identities, and it tells the stories of our past, present and future,” she says.

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Clothes and textiles are undeniably connected to our bodies. By deconstructing clothes we can’t help but become aware of what lies underneath. By breaking our clothes down into parts, we are forced to examine our bodies and body parts.

Both Trahair and Collett celebrate textiles and our relationship to the textiles we adorn our bodies with. They examine how we relate to our bodies through the clothes we choose to wear. Although they take different routes – form and reform – they both reach the same conclusion: we are what we wear.

Form & Re-Form by Annabelle Collett and Jeff Trahair
Prospect Gallery,
Until Sunday, June 11
prospect.sa.gov.au

Ansie is an Adelaide-based textile writer
ansievanderwalt.com

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