Participating Artist
Aglaia Haritz and Janis Heezen
September 11 - October 31 2015
September 11 2015

Portfolio “Nach Strich und Faden”

The works of Janis Heezen (*1973) and Aglaia Haritz (*1978) have one thing in common – both artists’ embroidery seems to embody everything. Their works appear entirely detached from any trends, almost as if they are produced entirely from the artists’ own personalities. For both of them, their art is an aesthetic and emotional world constructed of shapes, colours and matter. Both bring everything from within to the outside and design new imagery using threads and delicate strands of fibre. They draw their motifs from the real world, but the shapes and colours of their works appear to have been born only through the process of embroidery. While the works of Janis Heezen have a predominantly playful, romantic and dreamy effect on the beholder, the works of Aglaia Haritz often question standards in society. However, it would be wrong to claim that the artistic creations of Janis Heezen did not also examine this aspect of the world. For Janis Heezen’s works critically refer to the cliché that embroidery is an old-fashioned handicraft performed by women that merely serves as domestic decoration. There are embroideries, on which coarse, fibrous vessels intervene in a simplistic piece of fabric, sometimes having a destructive and irritating effect on the observer. What remains leaves the beholder under a spell, as its small, delicate associative details give them total freedom, but also leave them disorientated. The latter property is one also shared by the embroidery works of Aglaia Haritz. For her, art must quite clearly speak a universal language, which alongside self-centred, reflective discussions, also questions socio-political issues and involves the observer, be that entirely disorientated, completely free or by showing the way, it is left to each beholder to decide how to react for themselves. It does not take long to realise that conflict and crisis regions are central to Aglaia Hartiz’s works. That is not least down to the fact that she herself has often visited these regions and has taken part in several artistic research programs, as well as humanitarian projects. Her embroideries dissect the traditional mass media and pose questions and uncomfortable issues, they refer to the need to express and denounce them. “Nach Strich und Faden” is a common expression in German, meaning “good and proper”. It is taken from the language used by weaving craftsmen from the 19th century. It has become increasingly established in normal language and is mostly used with a negative in today’s language. If something has been done “nach Strich und Faden”, it appears to have been done thoroughly, meaning that this expression also underlines a certain standard of quality. The embroidery and the image produced by a needlework expert suggests exactly this quiet, conforming idyll of producing everything to pure perfection. Lowering your gaze, staying at home – for a long time that was a key component of the ideal middle-class woman in the 19th century, forcing bourgeois daughters to be neat, quiet and well-behaved. Provocative motifs and expressions had no place here. The works of Aglaia Haritz and Janis Heezen are a break from this silence, this seen-but-not-heard, this conformity. Both are no longer embroidering merely as a “naive household chore”. This traditional image, which defines the perception of hand-crafted textiles, radiates this old-fashioned charm. This, on the one hand is reminiscent of cosy interior decoration or monotonous discipline, but on the other hand offers a creative, largely subversive field of experimentation. The conventional image of a lady performing needlework, which was generally considered a gender-specific role, has long-since been dismissed. Nevertheless, thanks to these traditional connotations, embroidery is still thought of as a “particularly feminine” form of expression. A prerequisite for a critical discussion of textiles in art was to question and dismantle gender-specific stereotypes of scientists and artists in the 1970s. Therefore, domestic and private topics became the focus of a public discussion. From then on, the conditions of production, the function of works of art and the constitution of an supposedly autonomous image of an artist were all called into question. And today? What is happening today? Now? What do contemporary works of embroidery, such as those from Aglaia Haritz and Janis Heezen, affirm today? What forms of reflection to these works produce? What is the potential for provocation in textile works in the world of art today? Or is this no longer necessary? And does a work of art benefit from textile contributions? Perhaps these works do not provide all of the answers. Perhaps they don’t need too either. Perhaps it is enough to know that embroidery as a cultural technique is currently experiencing a renaissance. It is not only home to pure, fine and wholesome elements, but there is also destructive, coarse and rebellious embroidery. For it is probably only embroidery that allows such radical changes to be illustrated, as the medium itself, thanks to its charming, hand-crafted design, only later allows a viewer to see its contents.