A textile artist from the Cook Islands, Andrea Eimke has spent the last week installing her work in the Love Lace exhibition. With the title ‘Third Space II’ the work is made up of thirty five hanging panels of tapa (bark cloth), cotton gauze, interfacing, thread and soluble stabilizer. The effect is to create ‘a landscape’ of lace. The words ‘bark cloth’ suggest a rather dark unyielding material. Instead Andrea has created an airy delicate fabric, lace that suggests nature. The panels are are enhanced by shadowy lighting and the soft sounds of the Atiu Island swiftlets (kopeka) fill the space.
Hanging the works is not a structured process and is Andrea’s favourite part of the creative experience. Andrea says
“in a way it is a site specific artwork. It had to react with its environment. It’s like a living organism, it grows. I decide I’ll hang this here, if its not working with rest, I have to take it away and hang it somewhere else. I wouldn’t dictate the structure, it needs to be alive and moving and that’s the way it is set up.”
Andrea’s work explores the space between her original German and adopted Polynesian cultures. Its about the energy in the unseen space between objects and the difference between natural and man-made materials and environment. Andrea moved to the small island of Aitu in the Cook Islands, (a seven hour flight from Sydney) in Polynesia twenty-eight years ago.
“I am interested in using natural materials and to leave them as natural as I can. But I like to see how far I can take them, I’m a bit of a control freak sometimes. It’s a balance between letting nature be nature and me controlling. I want to have a say.”
“The idea is to give the viewer a physical experience. I hope visitors to the museum can visually experience an interaction between the panels. The idea of a boundary and the space inbetween. Japanese people have a word for it, the energy between. It is ‘Ma‘
Whereas Westerners think of the space in-between two objects as empty, the Japanese see energy from the interaction between the two objects. I like this idea because it’s not empty at all. I hope I can create energy between the observer and the objects.”
This is the second time Andrea has hung embroidered tapa panels.The first time was in Rarotonga in a 1830s stone cottage. She describes the experience:
“It was magical, the room didn’t have windows, it had French doors and we had to have them open. It was summer and really hot with strong winds. The panels are very light, they were moving and blowing up and turning around. Some people would be too scared to be inside the panels; others would walk straight in and interact with the panels and dance with them in the wind, and even singing!”
The installation process for thirty five pieces has been faster this time. Andrea has discovered new ways to hang the pieces from a metal grid.
Andrea spent two days in the Museum’s conservation department. She uses small swivel hooks that attach to each panel and to the metal grid. The overall effect is to anchor the works. She has also been able to use small perspex rods within the panels to help them hang correctly. With access to more materials and better facilities, she’s been able to install the work with more efficiency and accuracy. Andrea says “Each of the pieces is like my children, some are good, some are trouble.”
* Interview with Andrea Eimke and images by Anni Turnbull 21 July 2011