CETG Meeting on Monday 9th September 2019
Our Speaker – Michala Gyetvai
Her Subject – Enchanted Landscapes
Here is an overview of Michala's talk on the night, along with some photos of her wonderful
textiles that she brought along to show us.
Michala began her talk by saying that her work has given her confidence.
She grew up in Warwickshire in a small, rural village with just a local pub and shop.
She used to play outside with her siblings, in the garden surrounded by nature, doing things like pulling wool from barbed wire and spinning it with a potato and a wooden knitting needle as her spindle. She dyed wool and other materials with blackberries and other items found in the garden.
She did textiles at school and her childhood is still present in her work today; the stories and experiences.
Michala developed a deep interest in the history of Art starting with English Romanticism.
One strong memory is that Warwickshire lost more Elm trees than any other area in the UK; she and many others used to play around these trees and one day they were gone, they had all been cut down. She felt a need to bring the landscape back to life and has a strong emotional connection to nature which shows in her work.
At school she learnt how to spin with a proper spinning wheel which she still does today. She has never wanted to make domestic items, her work is always pictorial. She is always questioning everything she was taught and always pushes the boundaries in her work. In this way, she doesn’t like symmetrical and structured pieces such as those made using an embroidery hoop, she likes to work freely.
After school she worked for Laura Ashley, taking their retail management course, and stayed there for around 16 years. After this, she moved from London to the Midlands working in a school as an art/design technician. This re-ignited her interest in art and she has been there for the last 12 years, teaching A Level Art/Life Drawing.
In this time, she started stitching again and this got her through a very stressful period of her family’s life. Her Mum gave her a blanket and she started to stitch into it, finding it very comforting. She also made small things like the small brooches she had on her display table tonight.
She entered one of her pieces in an exhibition in Coventry and ended up winning! Part of the prize was to have her own solo show in an art gallery, and this inspired her to try to make larger pieces of work to exhibit at the show.
Michala loves to draw as much as she loves stitching and always works from her drawings, paintings and sketches. She likes Taschism, which is using physicality and movement in your work. A lot of her pieces are also inspired by music.
Michala displayed a number of her works for us - one inspired by the Matisse cut-outs.
Another, inspired by a piece of music by Debussy, showed how she likes the emotional layers of the process. The music tells the story of a little deer venturing into an enchanted forest. The music is very haunting and she found it hypnotic, almost giving her the sense of wanting to get physically into the work. Music, and its rhythmical quality, plays a large part in her work.
Her blankets each take about 2 to 3 years to complete. She works all the way round the blanket, using needlefelting, machine and hand stitching (often simple seed stitching), building up lots of rhythm; the fabric often takes on a life of its own. She enjoys the distortion of the fabric; it becomes sculptural. The fabric dictates to her where it wants to go. She loves threads (she has a massive collection!) and uses everything and anything, any type of thread such as crochet cotton, twisted thread, silk, and wool.
“Sea Picture” was inspired by a painting and an Elgar piece. She uses her imagination and senses through the process, not just her visual senses. She cannot read music herself.
She likes Witney blankets but uses all different types and sorts that are available. She cuts the satin edges off and sometimes dyes the blankets.
She visited her sister who was living in India for a few years and was hugely affected by the strength of colour, the flora and fauna. On her return she did a lot of painting and produced her piece “After India”, which has trees full of colour and lots of movement. She calls it her English landscape with an Indian flavour.
Michala finds trees can be feminine and masculine. Trees figure heavily in her work.
“A walk to the paradise garden” was inspired by another composer, Delius. Threads from India were used in this. She considers herself a painter and says that she paints with material, mark making with thread.
Her work was selected for the Knitting and Stitching Show in 2015.
She showed us another romantic landscape with trees. She looks at old historical paintings and the ways fabrics are painted within them – such as a Titian painting. Another piece, “Ophelia”, was inspired by Shakespeare and was made for an exhibition.
When working, Michala doesn’t know how the piece will turn out; it is a metamorphosis, it changes along the way.
Her method is making lots of sketches and paintings, pastel sketches – she doesn’t often work from photographs, she works directly from being outside. She makes little pieces alongside her large works. “Poetic landscapes” were inspired by William Blake’s poetry and were displayed grouped together at an exhibition.
She is currently nearing the end of an MA in Painting. This has enabled and inspired her to write her own poetry, mainly about the landscape. Her poems often lead to lots of different paintings – when she writes poetry she feels at one with nature.
Michala stitches every evening and feels compelled to do this. She is obviously not a commercial artist; her pieces take so long to make. She still works 3 days at the school and this gives her freedom to stitch and paint. Her work has been an absolute therapy and working with students has been a joy in passing on her knowledge to others.
She is unable to finish a piece without having another ready, not wanting to let go. She has made two commissions but finds it hard to part with a piece after working for so long on it.
Colour has always been natural to her, she finds colour in nature, art and experiences exciting and likes big contrasts – her work tends to be bright.
Michala’s last statement “painting is stitching and stitching is painting – the two are interlinked and become one” sums up her work.
In January 2020 she will be exhibiting in Coventry - the venue is yet to be confirmed. Her paintings, and at least one textile will be on show.