JUST FACES - Exhibition at Salamander Gallery, Christchurch, February, 1997
Reviewed by Cassandra Fusco
‘Tapestry is a passion and a way of life’ says Marilyn Rea-Menzies, a statement amply realised in works that justify an investigation, at a time when New Zealanders are re-viewing representation rights (or wrongs).
‘Fragment’s 1,2,& 3’ (11x11cm) , ‘What is Consciousness’, (28x38cm) ‘Cry for the Earth’, (25x25cm) ‘Eye See’ 11x11cm) and ‘Woman Spirt’ (27.5x25cm) reflect the sense of fracture and disintegration Rea-Menzies finds in our faces, the telling surfaces of deeper enigmas. Here, figurative considerations of the fragile, indeed finite, quality of life are caught in woven contours that are much more than ‘just faces’. Here, fourteen wool thread-ends per inch (and in places, worked over two threads for texture) create black and white intricacies, interrogative but hopeful. Rea-Menzies tapestries and charcoal drawings suggest a slow, patient, ‘Penelope’ but this effect comes from working 7hour days for almost eighteen months. ‘I cannot’ comments the lady ‘happily exist without a loom warped up, the fought-full frame for every day’.
Self-taught and practicing seventeen years, Rea-Menzies endeavours have attracted international recognition: ‘Happiness is Full of Sorrow’ was woven for an international exhibition in Angers, France, home of the famous Apocalypse tapestries and provenance of work by Jean Lurcat, a tapestry revivalist after William Morris.
Think tapestry (Arras, Beauvais, Gobelins, Fulham, Mortlake) and think Christchurch. Traditionally, a male domain and enriching shelters as various as nomadic tents to baronial halls, Rea-Menzies’ tapestries following an ancient continuum, immeasurably enriched by weavers like Annie Albers and Gunta Stolzl, architects of ‘constructive thinking’ and ‘spatial imagination’. Rea-Menzies’ aesthetic, constructive and expressive, reveals that work and life are a journey of enquiry often mirrored in our faces. These are unpretentious reflections, moderately priced and beautifully crafted. ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall………..’