Artist in Residence at the Textile Centre Haslach
Report by Khristina Vysotskaya
18.02. – 01.03.2024

Artist in Residence at the Textile Centre Haslach Report by Khristina Vysotskaya 18.02. – 01.03.2024

Two weeks of the European Textile Network Art Residency 2024 flew by. The residency took place at the Textile Center Haslach (Austria) from February 18 to 29. Every day was filled with intense work on our projects and textile talks every free minute between weaving, programming or tufting. Amazingly, the Textile Center Haslach concentrates enormous creative energy and an endless stream of creative textile thinking.

Many thanks to the European Textile Network and the Textile Center Haslach for the invitation to take part in the 2024 Art Residency. Special thanks to Christina Leitner and Andreas Selzer for their support at all stages of the residency! For me, the Haslach Textile Center shows by its example that the most important element in any project is people who sincerely love their work, high-class professionals who believe that one of the most meaningful goal of textiles is to connect people around the world. I am endlessly admired by the kindness, sensitivity and attentiveness of the Center’s team to each of the participants in the residence.

The importance of international exchange for a textile artist cannot be overstated. It is no secret that textile artists and designers are very dependent on equipment and the possibility to work with different technologies. These directly affect our creative processes and, as a result, the technique and form our textile art works take.

There were three of us at the Art Residency. Leonie Burkhardt (Germany/Sweden) was developing a design project for 3D textiles woven on an industrial jacquard loom. Her project involved combining textiles with architectural environment. Katerina Nakou (Greece) was working on a project of tufted wall hangings that reinterpreted contemporary sculptural forms. She paid great attention to working with different heights of relief and the play of light and shadow on the monochrome surface of the carpet pile.

Photo 1. Khrystsina Vysotskaya in the hand weaving studio. Photo credit: Christina Leitner.

Photo 2. In the studio of Textile Center Haslach. On the photo: Khrystsina Vysotskaya, Leonie Burkhardt, Katerina Nakou. Photo credit: Katerina Nakou.

Each of us, participants in the residency, previously had our own unique creative background, knowledge and vision of textiles. This gave us an exceptional opportunity to share our professional experience and cultural diversity of our countries for two weeks. Each project was very different, deep and thoughtful in its own way. These two weeks of sharing our experiences filled me with new knowledge and ideas. I'm inspired by the endless possibilities of creativity through the language of textiles. I believe that this experience of staying together during the residency is the beginning of friendship and future international cooperation.

The Textile Center Haslach is an incredible place of power for textile people. This is a place where a variety of textile events take place every day - workshops, museum excursions, lectures, seminars, and much more. While Leonie, Katerina, and I were creating our projects in silence and concentration, textile life was in full swing around us, and as soon as we’re going out for a break, to see what was happening in another studious, we were surrounded by textile moments from the daily life of the center. All this extremely develops and fills with impressions, strength and love for the profession.

My direction at the Textile Center Haslach Art Residence was Dobby Handweaving. For me it was a familiar direction, and at the same time new and even mysterious. I graduated from the Belarusian State Academy of Arts in Minsk (Belarus) in 2015 with a degree in textile art. Among the weaving techniques in which I worked were primarily tapestry weaving, hand weaving on a 4-shaft loom, various hand weaving techniques, and more. In my artistic practice, I usually create textile sculptures and art objects on a vertical tapestry loom or on a 4-shaft countermarche loom, always focusing my attention on the possibilities of working with weft, its texture, color. Previously, I almost never focused on the features of working with different weave structures and patterns that can be created using warp threads. Therefore, the opportunity to masterise the technique of working on a 24-shaft loom was task number one for me.

Photo 3. Woven textile sculptures by Khrystsina Vysotskaya: “Creation of Eve” (2019), “The Tree of Knowledge” (2019-2022), “Dark Matters” (2022). Photo credit: Khrystsina Vysotskaya.

When, on the first day of the Art Residence, I first entered the hand-weaving studio, I almost burst into tears with happiness, to see so many looms of various designs and features of work. My eyes were wide open, I wanted to try to work on everything at once. My curator for the residence was Christina Leitner. Before starting work, she gave a tour of the Textile Center. Having learned about the enormous capabilities of the equipment and material resources of the Center in other studious, I was very impressed, imbued with even greater respect and understanding of how much organizational and technical work lies on the shoulders of the Center’s team.

Photo 4. Khrystsina Vysotskaya in the hand weaving studio. Photo credit: Katerina Nakou.

This was my first time programming patterns on a computer, and for me it was something new and incredibly exciting. I wanted to use these two weeks of residency to create a complete textile art piece using a technique that was new to me. I would like to mention that I learned the first basics of working on dobby handweaving loom in Italy in 2023 during my Art Residency at the Aphorisma Studio curated by Anna Silberschmidt. There, in two weeks, I practically from scratch mastered the principles of working on a 24 shafts loom, when the pattern is creating manually as work progresses. In Haslakh I had the next more difficult stage of mastering technology. On the computer, I quickly understood the principle of programming patterns and once I realized how much programming speeds up the work process and what endless variations of patterns can be created it gave me a huge inspiration feeling.

The concept of my art residency project in the Textile Center Haslach I called “The Forest of Ruchniks”. I wanted to connect my project with the culture of which I am a representative.

Photo 5. Christina Leitner and Khrystsina Vysotskaya checking woven pieces just cut from the loom. Photo credit: Leonie Burkhardt.

Christina advised me not to rush into choosing the loom I would use. Hand weaving processes are slow and require a lot of concentration, so it is physically impossible to work on each loom in two weeks. By the evening of the first day, I decided to go with the ARM loom model, in which 24 shafts are controlled directly from the computer, and the pattern should be programmed in advance by hand in the WeavingPoint program.

Photo 6. “The Forest of Ruchniks” series by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

The “ruchnik” in Belarusian folk culture is a traditional ritual towel, which is still used in numerous folk rituals and habits (celebration of the birth of a child, wedding, funeral, religious holidays, etc.). The handbrake is an important textile symbol of my native land. It can be on average from 30 to 50 cm in width and in length from 1.5 to 5 meters or more.

Photo 7. Traditional towels “ruchnik’s” from the collection of Museum of Ancient Belarusian Culture of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Photo credit: Khrystsina Vysotskaya.

The theme of nature, plants and especially trees is important in my art practice. I am deeply hurt by the sight of a deforested forest or a felled tree every time I see this in a village or city. In this project, I wanted to show images of trees in a cut down forest through the stylized form of ruchnik’s. For the main references of cut trees, I took my photographs taken last year during one of my walks in the forest near my grandmother’s house in the village.

Photo 8. Signs on trees in the forest. Photo credit: Khrystsina Vysotskaya.

Each ruchnik in the triptych is an image of a tree. Each sign on the canvas is a designation of what fate awaits the trees when the forest is cut down. The work consists of three woven fabrics. For inspiration, I took trees typical of the Belarusian forest. It is noteworthy that Austria has a very similar forest area. Each fabric in a triptych measures 300 x 30 cm. To depict the “signs” of the forest rangers, I programmed tapestry weaving into the weaving structure, while at the same time continuing to weave complex finely patterned designs – images of tree bark – throughout the work on the entire fabric.

Photo 9. Weaving progress on the ARM loom. Photo credit: Khrystsina Vysotskaya.

I wanted to achieve the effect of a natural textures, with smoothly flowing from one pattern to another. The ARM loom was perfect for my idea. Some patterns reached more than 450 weft steps before the pattern repeated again. And it was important for me that all fabrics were double-sided so that they could be exhibited in three-dimensional space.

Photo 10. Different wefts. Photo credit: Khrystsina Vysotskaya.

The textile Center Haslach has a huge material base - the choice of threads in the hand-weaving workshop was very wide. I like to work with very different materials at the same time. So in my woven art pieces can appear simultaneously a raw linen, wool, silk, nylon, lurex, plastic rope and much more. Tactility and unexpected optical effects are important to me. This is what makes textile be a “textile” and what cannot be done with other materials in other areas of decorative art.

Photo 11. Detail from the series “The Forest of Ruchniks” (part 1, front side) by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

Photo 12. Detail from the series “The Forest of Ruchniks” (part 1, back side) by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

The first fabric (in the Photo 6 in the center) depicts an “X” cross using the tapestry weaving technique. This sign means that the forest will be cut down to this tree, but it will not be cut down. In real life, the cross is painted with an orange or red spray paint. In my art work, this sign is white - as a symbol of hope. The golden-red color of the woven pattern is a stylized image of a pine tree.

Photo 13. Detail from the series “The Forest of Ruchniks” (part 1) by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

The second fabric (in the Photo 6 on the right) with two vertical orange circles indicates that the tree is healthy and will be partially cut down. Tree for inspiration - birch. In this woven piece, I decided to work only in black and white colors and concentrate primarily on the drawing that results from the structure of the pattern. It was interesting to observe how the length of the repeat and its pattern were changing depending on the thickness of the weft thread. I wanted to make the orange circles more delicate and show the effect of spraying paint, when the edges are blurred. I left the last 60 cm of the fabric with an open warp - as a symbol that part of the tree had been cut down. I'm always fascinated by the look of a blank white base. And then I had a conceptual opportunity to show it in this series.

Photo 14. Detail from the series “The Forest of Ruchniks” (part 2, front side) by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

Photo 15. Detail from the series “The Forest of Ruchniks” (part 2, back side) by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

The third canvas (in the Photo 6 on the left) with a line in the center and one circle is a sign that the tree will be completely cut down. The woven part of the fabric is only 120 cm, the rest is an open warp. On the open warp I wove the orange circle in a simple tapestry weave. The tree taken for inspiration is oak.

Photo 16. Detail from the series “The Forest of Ruchniks” (part 3) by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

Photo 17. Detail from the series “The Forest of Ruchniks” (part 3) by Khrystsina Vysotskaya. Photo credit: Aleksander Kazharski.

Many thanks to Christina Leitner for her attentiveness and sensitivity to all my questions during working process at the Art Residency. For me, this work and communication experience was very meaningful.

On the last day of our residency we visited the archives of the Textile Center Haslach. It was the discovery of a real antique treasure! My residency colleagues and I came to the conclusion that if we had gotten into the archive on the first day, we would not have been able to leave from it. We could have just spent the entire two weeks studying vintage textile samples from all around the world. This last day once again showed us how infinite the universe of textiles is, and how unknowable this world is, and you can study your topic all your life and it will never end. And this is real happiness.

Photo 18. In the Archive of Textile Center Haslach. On the photo: Khrystsina Vysotskaya, Katerina Nakou, Leonie Burkhardt. Photo credit: Khrystsina Vysotskaya.


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