Nothing you may have seen at Fez Batik can prepare you for quality East African batik painting. Originating in Indonesia prior to being transplanted to Africa in the 1960s, batik painting is fabric-based work in which waxes are applied as a resist surrounding areas of brilliant coloured dye. The back gallery at the Ashanti Room is filled with colour, spirit and emotion. Six artists have made textiles under the tutelage of Ugandan batik artist David Kibuuka . His style, reflected here in his students' work, uses fragmented bands or blistered sheets of colour to make portraits and landscapes.
The results resemble Canadian aboriginal art in many ways. Standouts at this show are Janet Bennett 's simple colour ribbon portraits; Mariko Ushido 's blending of Japanese-style landscapes with the batik sensibility and Roxane Tracey 's wonderful jazz musician whose music blends into an arching landscape tickled by the sun.
Drawing With Thread at the Textile Museum displays another rich African tradition of working fabulous patterns into fabric.
The Adire cloth of the Nigeria's Yoruba people has deep blue tones broken up by spiralling white patterns or images set in a grid. A dance skirt of Zaire's Kaba people has brown and tan rectangles alternating across its face, with intricate stitching making a unique pattern of strong lines within each rectangle. A Hausa robe is fashioned in white-on-white, the subtle fine work revealing itself upon examination.
Some very interesting work from Bengal, India, called Kantha, or rags, includes sheets and wall hangings made from recycled materials adorned with thread images.
These beautiful rags are precursor to the work of Dorothy Caldwell , who as artist-in-residence patched, sewed and printed a series of truly impressive textiles out of leftover and recycled materials.
Caldwell, who marries many far-flung techniques, turned to the museum's collection for her inspiration. In her large pieces, such as the two panels that juxtapose an island with a lake, oval patches of tattered blanket show through. Tight grids and patchwork are inspired by a fabric sample.
Almost all colour has been sucked out of the fabric through a dye discharge process. Deep black and horizontal, the vistas have stitched undulating hills and accent pools of water. What colour remains appears as a highlight or a stain on the fabric.
These are fantastic landscapes without beginning and without end.
Dorothy Caldwell (Rating: NNNN ) and Drawing with Thread (Rating: NNN ) at the Textile Museum of Canada (55 Centre) to January 11. 416-599-5321. Janet Bennett , Jane Musoke-Nteyafas , Shannon Lewis , Donna Martin , Mariko Ushido and Roxane Tracey at the Ashanti Room (836 Bloor West) to August 15. 416-588-3934. Rating: NNN