The 17th International Triennial of Tapestry
Report by Beatrijs Sterk
Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź
08.10.2022 – 15.04.2023

The 17th International Triennial of Tapestry<br>Report by Beatrijs Sterk<br>Central Museum of Textiles in Łódź<br>08.10.2022 – 15.04.2023

First Prize Moumita Basak, India. Untitled, detail, 2021; handstitching, embroidery, gluing, gouache, tea-dying, used cloth, handmade Nepali paper, yarn,tea; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Report by Beatrijs Sterk


Being in Lodz at the opening of the Triennial was just wonderful, even though being able to move around again without too many Corona restrictions and meeting old friends isn't as natural as it used to be.

My trip was very short, just two days packed with visits to exhibitions, starting with a morning viewing “Wlodzimierz Cygan Weaving - 6 x 3 -  Between the Lines”. Presented in a beautiful old building, it mainly showed work from 2020 to 2022 using optic fibres, together with some of his earlier weavings where he used a technique that included changes in the direction of the weave. It was a pleasure to see what this great artist has produced during the pandemic.

In the afternoon, the Triennial itself opened with speeches explaining this year’s theme, "Entangled State", a visionary subject chosen before the outbreak of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. For the exhibition, this theme was divided into four sub-themes: The Civilized (what kind of civilization are we creating); Represented States (e.g. childhood memories); Rootedness (e.g. our roots in the natural world) and The Horizons of Reality (the lines between reality and the virtual world).

After the speeches and an explanation by the curator, Marta Kovalevska, there was a walk through the exhibition with the judges and the artists present. Later that afternoon the prizes were awarded, and finally there was a performance, „EMerge“ by Polish dancer/ choreographer Paulina Wycichowska in a fantastic costume created by textile artist Tina Marais from Canada.

The Triennial showed work by 51 artists, most of the artists came from Poland (13), then Japan (5), with three each from the USA, Austria and Ukraine; two each came from Taiwan, the UK, India and Brazil; and finally there was one each from Australia, Nigeria, China, Argentina, Korea, Israel, Norway, Slovenia, Slovakia, Finland, Hungary, Romania, Spain, Canada, France and Lithuania.

The prize winners were: First Prize, Moumita Basak from India for an untitled work, hand stitched and hand painted on the basis of traditional crafts and the feminine perspective; Second Prize, Zhannah Petrenko from Ukraine for “Shroud of Insecurity”, a tapestry reflecting the value of physical things in a digital world; and finally Third Prize, Katja Felle from Slovenia for “Stop – Sew – Reset”, an embroidery in tapestry stitch representing the screenshot of an error.

Somebody asked me on facebook if the best textile works were on display again, like they used to be in the old days when three advisors per country were responsible for the choice of artists. The pieces on view were maybe not the best in the old sense, but very interesting ones that provide food for thought.

I was especially grateful that most of the works were real textile art pieces and not just fine art that happened to use textiles. I have not yet fully formed an opinion on the works, but I really liked some of them, such as the embroidered faces on towels by Leena Illukka from Finland; the jacquard-woven "Night Tent" by Katarina Weslien, USA; the touching embroidery by Norwegian artist Eli Eines called "A Hole in the Heart", which deals with her father who died from a hole in his heart; the poetical work in natural fibres by Tanyu Lu from Taiwan called "30 x 30 initiative"; the untitled embroidery by the Polish artist Silwia Aniszewska, an abstract painting in cross-stitch; and the transparent weaving with a text by Kate Christ, USA, entitled "In Dialogue". This is just a selection of what comes to my mind after my first visit.

Looking back, I believe that the Triennial organisers succeeded in continuing this great traditional event in a way that makes it important, not only for European artists. Lodz still is a world-wide meeting place for all those seriously interested in textile art.

For reasons of continuity I understand that the title of the Triennial still has the word tapestry in it, although for foreigners it is difficult to understand that in Poland any kind of textile art, however free, is still called "Tapestry". 

On the second day, the Symposium of the 4th Young Textile Art Triennial was held at the Strzemiński Academy of Art.

First there was an impressive exhibition by the mentors of the young textile artists, mainly textile art teachers from different academies in Poland and other European countries, even one from the USA in the entry hall of the Academy. The beautiful work I saw included pieces by Magda Sobon from Lodz, Anna Maria Orban from Bukarest, Aet Ollisaar from Estonia, as well as Wlodzimierz Cygan and Lidia Choczaj, both from Lodz.

The Symposium started with a discussion between Marta Kovalevska, the curator of the main Triennial; Ann Coxon from the Tate Modern, London; Mizuki Takahashi from the Centre for Heritage, Arts and Textiles in Hong Kong; and finally the artist Rivane Neuenschwander from Brazil.

Textile personalities from the field of education were in the second round of speakers, among them John Paul Morabito, a professor from the Kent State University School of Art, USA; Tim Parry Williams, Professor in Textiles from the University of Bergen, Norway; Professor Janis Jefferies from London; and Lala de Dios, a textile lecturer and activist from Spain.

In a third talk, selling textile art was discussed by gallery owners and curators from London and Warsaw. This theme is very important for young textile artists and could have been more practice-oriented.

In the afternoon, we had a very short visit to the National Exhibition of Polish Tapestry, "Material Fatigue", again located at the Central Museum of Textiles. The curator, Jakub Gawkowski, wanted to highlight the position of textile art within the broader Polish artistic landscape.

For someone visiting the Polish Tapestry exhibition for the first time, the works looked very good together, especially when displayed in that beautiful former factory building. But I was disappointed not to see any names I knew from before; none of the great artists I know were around, and are always shown in earlier exhibitions on Polish textile art. So it seems that the curator wanted something different that was closer to the sphere of fine art.

Finally we got to the 4th Young Textile Art Triennial held in a fine art gallery in a beautiful park. This show was a surprise, because young artist were able to participate without the intervention of a curator with a special agenda, but with a prominent jury. I was very pleased to see how many students still make wonderful art textiles, and they seemed to come from all over the world. I found this very reassuring, because so far there has always been a lack of young textile artists. Here, they presented very inspiring works with a great variation of forms and intentions. There were four prizes: one for Textile Art, awarded to Jonatan E. Jurkowski from Poland and to Maria Pilm from Estonia; one for Interdisciplinary Textiles awarded to Renata Ramola  from Poland and finally, one for Design presented to Zuzanna Wójcik from Sweden.

The works were more than just interesting, and the exhibition as a whole left a very good impression. I am happy to see it all a second time when the ETN Conference takes place, 2-4 March 2023. For me, the trip to Lodz was well worth the trouble of the long train journey as my visit gave me hope for the future.

Installation by Zusa Golinska "Ties", 2022, at the National Exhibition of Polish Tapestry  "Material Fatigue"by curator Jakub Gawskowsky; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Wlodzimierz Cygan, Poland:"Totems" 3 pieces, each 70 x 30 cm, 2022; wool, sisal, fiber optic; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Third Prize Katja Felle, Slovenia:"Stop - Sew - Reset", 2021 ; gobelin stitch, embroidery, stramin, cotton thread; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Second Prize Zhanna Petrenko, Ukraine: "Shroud of Insecurity",2021; Tapestry with pile threads, cotton warp, wool, acrylic, lurex ; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Kate Sechrist, USA:"In Dialogue", 2021,250 x 250 x 300 cm; plain weave, vinyl sheets, nylon monofilament, oil-based ink ; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Leena illukka,Finland:"Dirty Hands", 2020, 6 x 29 x 59 cm; embroidery, hand towels, yarn ; photo Beatrijs Sterk

Performance „EMerge“ by Polish dancer/ choreographer Paulina Wycichowska in a fantastic costume created by textile artist Tina Marais from Canada

Magdalena Sobon, Strzemiński Academy of Art, Lodz, Poland: "ksztalt wody (The Shape of Water)"

Kacper Szalecki, Poland, Installation at the National Exhibition of Polish Tapestry  "Material Fatigue" with folk costumes and folk rugs, 2022

Prize category textile Art issued by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland awarded to Jonatan E. Jurkowski:"Mandorla for the Earth"at the YTAT, Young Textile Art Triennial at the Lodz Art Gallery; photo Jonatan Jurkowski

Go back