This week, Cut Cloth: Contemporary Textiles and Feminism opens at Manchester’s Portico Library. Examining the shifting role of textiles within contemporary feminist art practices, this group exhibition launches in conjunction with a new publication and series of workshops open to the public. Cut Cloth contemplates the rise in popularity of art textiles, and the impact it’s having on its value as a specifically feminist mode of expression. Of course, it’s no coincidence that so many artists who deal with feminism in their practices now chose to work with this historically ‘feminine medium’.

As a textile artist herself, the exhibition’s organiser Sarah-Joy Ford reflects the details of contemporary life in her individual practice by piecing together imagery from popular culture, resulting in a memorable and striking form of collage-like textile art. From depicting characters in popular films and TV shows to recreating stitched replicas of food labels marketed to women, Sarah-Joy’s artworks trace the subtle, everyday encounters women continue to have with their own gender. Once a belittled and marginalised genre, contemporary textile art – and this exhibition – show how it’s now being subverted by female figures in the art world.

It was once a radical act to bring women’s work into the gallery space, and this historic context is something that Cut Cloth is plainly aware of. In reaction to this, artists then looked to both subvert and celebrate textiles in order to disrupt the very femininities that it played a role in constructing. With an arsenal of female artists taking part in this new show, Cut Cloth includes work by Hannah Hill, Katie Lundie, Rebecca Halliwel Sutton, Sophie King, Eleanor Edwardes, Orly Cogan, Wendy Huhn, Tilleke Schwarz, Bethan Hughes and Sarah-Joy Ford. Drawing on all-important feminist legacies, this show brings to light the shifting politics of cloth today.

Cut Cloth: Contemporary Textiles and Feminism, 9 June - 5 July 2017

The Portico Library, 57 Mosley Street, Manchester, M2 3FF

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