Dance and Textile: Expanding Art’s Spaces

An exhibit at a Stockholm gallery explores the relationship between dance and art through textiles, sculptures, photography and more.

Gadi Dagon, VIRUS - Batsheva Dance Company, 2014, Archival pigment print, mounted on aluminium, 56 x 100 cm, Edition of 3 plus 2 AP. Foto: CFHILL
Gadi Dagon, VIRUS - Batsheva Dance Company, 2014, Archival pigment print, mounted on aluminium, 56 x 100 cm, Edition of 3 plus 2 AP. Foto: CFHILL

Art and dance have a very special shared history. This relationship is currently being highlighted in CFHILL’s new exhibition All Movements have Memories, which is curated by Sandra Weil. It centres on the pioneering icons Noa Eshkol and Sheila Hicks. Representing the younger generation are Daniel Silver and Ohad Meromi, who are both in a way indebted to those 'mothers' who contributed to bring about a change in contemporary dance and art.

CFHILL. Image: Annika Berglund
CFHILL. Image: Annika Berglund

Here are the six artists to know in the show:

1. Hicks: Textile and Dance

Sheila Hick, Tzimtzum, 2019. Linen, cotton, synthetic fibres, 31,5 x 40 x 15 cm
Sheila Hick, Tzimtzum, 2019. Linen, cotton, synthetic fibres, 31,5 x 40 x 15 cm

Sheila Hicks was one of the driving forces behind the textile revolution of the '60s. Along with other fibre artists, she began to experiment with sculptural uses of textiles. Her colours don't merely extend into space; she also grants them a tactile, corporeal dimension. Loops, repetitive spiral motions, and, particularly, the bodily associations of textile are all important features of this. Early on in her career, she decided to master the craft of weaving, which has since become a defining feature of her precise, skilful ‘sculpting’ with threads and yarns.

A Sheila Hicks work on display at CFHILL. Image: Annika Berglund
A Sheila Hicks work on display at CFHILL. Image: Annika Berglund

Contemplating a work by Sheila Hicks is like gazing directly into the textile history of humanity by way of Anni and Josef Albers, who introduced Hicks to the Andean textile traditions. Over the years, she has perfected this grand notion of using yarns to paint in three dimensions, and recently – and not a moment too soon! – she has embarked on a triumphant tour of the world, including a solo exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Paris last year and an upcoming one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2020. At CFHILL, she is showing two new works resembling models of celestial bodies, which bring to mind units of a different variety.

2. Textile as Protest

Noa Eshkol, A Big Kolo (Folk Dance), 1978. Cotton, lawn, crepe/baumwolle, batist, krepp, 220 x 205 cm
Noa Eshkol, A Big Kolo (Folk Dance), 1978. Cotton, lawn, crepe/baumwolle, batist, krepp, 220 x 205 cm

The ground-breaking choreographer Noa Eshkol exemplifies a strikingly different approach and relationship to textile. After founding her school and creating an all-new notational system for dance in the aftermath of 1973's Yom Kippur War, she suddenly abandoned dance entirely, and began to collect pieces of fabric that were subsequently quilted together into fascinating, abstract patterns by her dancers. However, the rules remained every bit as strict as they had been in dance: no cutting of fabrics was allowed, nothing but found fabrics was to be used, and the colours must always be selected at random.

Noa Eshkol, Moons in The Water, 1980. Cotton, 170 x 80 cm
Noa Eshkol, Moons in The Water, 1980. Cotton, 170 x 80 cm

Eventually, these ‘carpets’ were integrated into her choreography, and her multidisciplinary work has had a significant influence on later generations of artists, particularly David Silver, Ohad Meromi, Gadi Dagon (more on him below), and Sharon Lockhart (whose works were shown at Bonniers konsthall a couple of years ago). 

3. In the Spirit of Matisse

Daniel Silver's Matisse-inspired sculptures. Image: Annika Berglund
Daniel Silver's Matisse-inspired sculptures. Image: Annika Berglund

One of those who have been both directly and indirectly influenced by Noa Eshkol is Daniel Silver. Like the great teacher, he emphasises the physical and the textile, although he keeps them separate. Enormous figures, seemingly kneaded by powerful, gigantic fingers, invade the space with sweeping motions. These sculptures are enlarged versions of quick sketches he makes from clay in his large studio space, where he watches dancers improvise as he works.

Daniel Silver, Looking at Dancers, Wade, 2017. Statuario marble, 52 x 28 x 29 cm (head)
Daniel Silver, Looking at Dancers, Wade, 2017. Statuario marble, 52 x 28 x 29 cm (head)

There are also strong connections to Henri Matisse here, as can be seen in the iconic Bonheur de Vivre from 1905, where the bodies do not merely illustrate motion, but rather are motion, condensed into a synchronised swirl.

Daniel Silver, Dance 4 (small), 2018. Wool, cashmere, steel, 69 x 78 cm
Daniel Silver, Dance 4 (small), 2018. Wool, cashmere, steel, 69 x 78 cm

Silver also shares the practice of cutting patterns and bodies out of coloured materials with the modernist master. In his textile works, the shapes of classic figures emerge, cut from dull-coloured, coarse fabrics. 

4. Frozen Moments

Gadi Dagon, VIRUS - Batsheva Dance Company, 2014. Archival pigment print, mounted on aluminium
56 x 100 cm. Edition of 3 plus 2 APGadi Dagon
Gadi Dagon, VIRUS - Batsheva Dance Company, 2014. Archival pigment print, mounted on aluminium 56 x 100 cm. Edition of 3 plus 2 APGadi Dagon

Anyone who takes even the slightest interest in contemporary dance is sure to take an extra breath whenever the Batsheva Dance Company is mentioned. The company is mainly associated with Ohad Naharin, who served as its uniquely visioned artistic director from 1990 to 2018. The brutality, impact, beauty, and tenderness of his wordless stories was communicated by highly expressive dancers hailing from all corners of the world. His language touched an international audience.

Gadi Dagon, HORA - Batsheva Dance Company, 2009
Archival pigment print, mounted on aluminium. 66 x 100 cm. Edition of 3 plus 2 AP
Gadi Dagon, HORA - Batsheva Dance Company, 2009 Archival pigment print, mounted on aluminium. 66 x 100 cm. Edition of 3 plus 2 AP

This unity of dancer and choreographer was captured by a third presence, who was almost always around: Gadi Dagon, the sports photographer who switched careers and began photographing dance instead. The series shown at CFHILL includes captured moments from the suggestive piece Hora from 2009.  

5. Archeology of Utopia

Ohad Meromi, Nijinsky #1, 2019. Graphite painted steel, 94 x 63 x 45 cm (not including the stand)
Ohad Meromi, Nijinsky #1, 2019. Graphite painted steel, 94 x 63 x 45 cm (not including the stand)

Ohad Meromi was born on a kibbutz in Israel in the late '60s. This was a phase in the country’s history characterised by a blend of great hope for the future and divisive conflict, particularly of the inter-generational variety. His parents’ desire to abandon the communal lifestyle in favour of more bourgeois aspirations planted a seed in him, which would come to sprout into a chronic longing for the kibbutz and his grandparents, friends, cousins, and the adults there, who always had time for him.

Ohad Meromi, Shadow, 2017. Acrylic paint and resin on panel, 36 x 52 cm
Ohad Meromi, Shadow, 2017. Acrylic paint and resin on panel, 36 x 52 cm

In his works, he incorporates traces of the idioms of a particular brand of hopeful visionaries and idealists that ranges from the Russian avant-garde to the educational games of the '70s, which featured brightly coloured materials cut into geometric shapes. A playful language of possibilities. 

6. Masters of Paper Cuts

Marcel Dzama & Jockum Nordström, The Leila Ballet, 2011. Collage, watercolor and graphite on paper, diptych, 43 x 71 cm
Marcel Dzama & Jockum Nordström, The Leila Ballet, 2011. Collage, watercolor and graphite on paper, diptych, 43 x 71 cm

The exhibition also features selected works from the unique series of collages that was produced a decade ago in correspondence between the New York-based Canadian artist Marcel Dzama and the Swedish artist Jockum Nordström.

Marcel Dzama & Jockum Nordström, Dancing Kane , 2011. Collage, watercolor and graphite on paper, four parts, 71 x 56 cm
Marcel Dzama & Jockum Nordström, Dancing Kane , 2011. Collage, watercolor and graphite on paper, four parts, 71 x 56 cm

They are both counted among the masters of the collage technique, and equally skilled adepts of the magical art of creating worlds out of nothing in particular. Just like dance at its best. 

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