HARD TWIST 8 - THIS IS PERSONAL at the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West) to April 27. 416-531-4635. Rating: NNNN
Fabric is intimate, worn so close to the skin that we often forget its constant proximity. This year's Hard Twist, the eighth instalment of the annual juried textile/fibre arts exhibit, uses this day-to-day intimacy as its point of departure. Fabric works on two floors by more than 30 artists don't stray far from cloth as the stuff of everyday life - shirts, linens, underwear - what we live in and have to work with.
Fiona Kirkwood, from Durban, South Africa, uses salvaged synthetic fibres like nylon rope, bits of plastic, electrical wire, pull-tabs from soda cans - elements that recall the hardscrabble scavenging life of a township. Woven into tapestries of sizzling electric colour, they speak of a vibrancy and inventiveness born of both tradition and necessity.
Valerie Knapp and Meghan Macdonald take a more muted approach. They use the quiet palette of vintage Canadian needlepoint and embroidery and bits of scrap fabric to pull the viewer into clever exercises in nostalgia; it's like coming across the neatly folded work of your Maritime grandmother.
Other artists use their craftiness to deliver punchy contrasts. David Woodward's series of tighty whities, All I Am Is What I've Felt, juxtaposes blunt ironic statements with commercial logos (for Oh Henry and Fisherman's Friend), injecting a bit of cranky punk rock DIY sentiment through its neat stitching. Marie De Sousa's boxing gloves made from adult diapers (aptly named Depends) suggest an attitude to adult incontinence that's defiantly cheeky.
For Confiscation Garments, Miriam Grenville sews plastic guns safely inside a series of aprons, each embroidered with a mother's imagined admonition to their child. "What did I say would happen if you kept pointing it at your brother?" says one. Each piece is a neat parable of motherly concern and care pitted against a looming background of violence.
Some artists are standouts for being unclassifiable. Silky Shoemaker contributes Phoenix, a figure in sequined harlequin tights that forgoes easy whimsy for exuberant outsider weirdness, transforming the twee into the compelling. It's reminiscent of the imposing creature-from-an-alternate-dimension quality of Nick Cave's fabric sound suits.