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"Through the Surface: Celebrating Cultural Exchange and Collaboration Between Britain and Japan"
2004-09-25 until 2004-11-14
Nottingham City Museums & Galleries - Nottingham Castle
Nottingham, , UK United Kingdom

This outstanding exhibition features fourteen of the most innovative textile artists in Britain and Japan whose work spans fashion, art and science. Over a period of 3 months the artists immersed themselves in the life and culture of their partner's country resulting in 20 new commissions. Their collaboration combines tradition and innovation to present a stunning spectacle. Included is an installation of 12 pairs of transparent jeans extended up to five metres long; deconstructed garments gathered from charity shops, and 100 free hanging lines of knitted steel, nylon and handmade paper, 4 metres square.

THROUGH THE SURFACE is the next step, a collaborative project, building upon the relationships established during ‘Textural Space’. Both projects have been organised by Lesley Millar, originated through, & supported by, The Surrey Institute of Art & Design University College, one of the largest centres for Art and Design education in Europe.

The Project

THROUGH THE SURFACE explores points of difference and similarity within the cultures of Japan and Britain. The real exchange of ideas, techniques and an understanding of cultural and personal sensibilities as they relate to working practice can best be achieved through close collaboration resulting in a practical outcome.

Young textile artists will travel and work with established artists in their opposite country, exchange of ideas and techniques and explore how this can impact on future practice. These placements will be nationwide in Britain and in the Kansai and Gunma regions of Japan, with 7 partnerships in total. The emerging artists will stay between 10 and 12 weeks and then return to their own country.

All the artists will then make work as a result of the exchange, some of the work will be collaborative and artists will make their work separately, however, close contact between partners will be maintained through the internet.

THROUGH THE SURFACE is a multi-layered title and in this way reflects the many levels of this project. 'Surface' can mean texture, the outer layer, a membrane. Through the surface can mean 'something emerging' or ‘beyond the immediately visible'. The emerging relationships within THROUGH THE SURFACE are created through collaborative involvement with the surface texture and hidden structure of textiles.

The final outcome will be an exhibition of work produced, which will be shown in both Britain and Japan during 2004/5. This exhibition will be designed by an architect who will work with the participants and venues from the earliest stages of the project.

In order to maximise the impact of the project there will also be a wide education programme to accompany the project. This education programme will contain projects for schools, FE and HE Institutions, for community based groups and for the general public.

This project is based in collaboration - between textile artists who are at different stages of career development, between architect/designers and practitioners, and between educational and arts organizations in both countries. Key areas of collaboration have been identified as:

~links between textiles, science and technology;
~ the impact of new materials and processes on the re-evaluation of traditional practice;
~ textiles as architectural intervention;
~ the use of materials that act as interface between interior design and fashion.

The partnerships in Britain

Maxine Bristow/ Kyoko Nitta
Re-evaluating the traditional techniques of needlepoint and knotting to create interventions within the built environment
Frances Geesin/ Kaori Hosozawa
Investigating the possibilities of interactive installations through new materials and new technology

Jeanette Appleton/Naoko Yoshimoto
Exploring felt and stitch, combining the most ancient cloth making technique with the most modern technology

The partnerships in Japan

Teruyoshi Yoshida/Claire Barber
Exploring ritual and response to tradition and performance through print, weave and construction

Michiko Kawarabayashi/Ealish Wilson
Determining different approaches through print and mixed media to the body and to interiors

Machiko Agano/Anniken Amundsen
Knit, weave and constructed textiles considering natural forms and links with scientific discovery

Junichi Arai/Tim Parry Williams
Exploration of the most pioneering cloth constructions and surfaces to be applied to fashion and interior fabrics

The Website

The website has a central role in this project. All participants will keep a work journal during their involvement in the project and pages from these journals will be published on this website at regular intervals. This will provide maximum access and will create real-time documentation of the Project. Each partnership will also be interviewed and photographed for publication on the website. The ‘Textural Space’ website (www.texturalspace.com ) has built up a huge following worldwide and this audience will be taken forward to the THROUGH THE SURFACE website. Relevant documentation from the website will be collected onto a cd rom which will be shown during the exhibition.


Tthrough its design, the catalogue has succeeded in reflecting the excitement of the working processes of the artists. The ring-binding, the layering of images and the use of quotes from the artists, all create the flavour of a work book; while the contributions from the artists and others involved in the project help contextualise this complex project. The support from Curtis Fine Papers has allowed us to use a variety of papers as further, subtle, indicators of process and outcome. The beautiful photographs of the Japanese work by Toshiharu Kawabe and of the British work by Damian Chapman and Ian Forsyth describe the final outcomes with a breathtaking clarity.

It is now available from the venues price £20 and by mail order (order form pdf) plus postage and packing  

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