Michala Gyetvai’s Textile Art
Perhaps it is the less formal aspects of art education that have the most
profound long term implications for creativity, for much of Michala’s work is rooted in her childhood experiences of rural Northamptonshire, and above all in play. She recalls her childhood playing in the fields, woods and park, collecting raw material from the landscape, pulling shreds of wool from barbed wire fences, weaving with grass and twigs, building dens and climbing into the stacked logs of the felled elm trees that once lined the roads.
She learned how to dye materials from natural sources such as blackberries, elderberries and onion skins. At the age of twelve she made her own loom with nails and string and wove the multicoloured fibres she had created.
Her art education at Guilsborough School was directed by a print maker and her A level was a combination of fine art and embroidery. Later she taught herself photography, and working at Stoke Park School under the guidance of the sculptor George Wagstaffe, she has studied art history, visited galleries, attended life classes, developed her pastel techniques and gained much knowledge in a reciprocal way working with students.
This breadth of experience has enabled her to integrate the fine and
applied art. She is essentially a fine artist who paints and sculpts with
threads, stitching and layering her images in a complex variety of materials, employing both hand and machine techniques. Michala’s early engagement with felt making provided her with the soft base on which to apply wool and finer threads of cotton and silk, but now working on a larger scale she uses dyed and boiled woollen blankets on which she draws and paints with the threads layer upon layer.
The scale of recent work allows for a more sculptural approach where the surfaces hang loosely and undulate in relief. Her draughtsmanship is manifest in the quality, complexity and variety of line expressed through the weight, thickness and direction of the threads. The colours are as varied as the painter’s palette, but there is also a material aspect to the substantial layers she builds with twisted fibres, thick wool, fabric fragments, crocheted cotton, fine silks and contrasts of matt and lustre.
Michala is more than a virtuoso technician; she is first and foremost a
visionary whose work belongs to a very British Romantic landscape tradition. Her intimate contact with landscape revealed in her childhood recollections is still the driving force behind her work. Her immediate environment is now Kenilworth, and the landscape on her doorstep provides her subject matter.
The prize winning, Abbey Fields, is based on an early morning walk in the fields where she took photographs and made sketches capturing the sunlight casting long shadows and illuminating the grass, trees and foreground meadowsweet. There is a rhythmic energy to this embroidery which expresses in finely etched drawing, the poetry and the plenitude of nature, calling to mind the visionary intensity of British Romantics and Neo-Romantics, such as Samuel Palmer and John Minton.
Her kinship with artists like Kokoschka and Van Gogh is doubtless
unconscious, but its presence determines the expressionist direction of recent work. She is conversant with Taschism and American Abstract Expressionism and compares her recent working methods to Jackson Pollock, throwing the threads and colours around in a painterly gestural manner. In Rhapsody of Colour and the latest version of the Sea of Grass, Michala describes how a larger scale allows her to dance more aggressively with line and colour inside the work.
Another significant element is the undulating relief which adds a
three-dimensional aspect, moulding the shapes of trees in a more sculptural
manner. As her mentor George Wagstaffe observes, her recent work is like a Rossini crescendo.
Professor Richard Yeomans from Michala’s website http://www.michalagyetvai.co.uk/