This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Robert Brain And Kate Just Present 'Needleman, Feminist Fan'

Art

Feminist idols meet tongue-in-cheek reflections on sexuality, in a new exhibition opening tomorrow at Melbourne’s Chapter House Lane.

This curious show brings together richly imbued art tapestries by 85-year-old needleman Robert Brain and feminist visual artist Kate Just – we’re head-over-heels!

28th February, 2018

‘Needleman, Feminist Fan’ by Robert Brain and Kate Just opens on March 1st at Melbourne’s Chapter House Lane gallery Pictured here is Robert’s artwork ‘Robert with Girlfriend, Anne Padavini, Dancing in the Belvedere Ballroom, Hobart’, 2008–2012, pure wool, 94x92cm. Photo – courtesy of Maunsell Wickes.

Robert’s ‘Mardi Gras’, 2012, pure wool, 100x 140cm. ‘Well the Mardi Gras has it all… jokes, size, stolen references from Verlasquez’ portraits of the kings and queens and infanta of Spain,’ he tells. Photo – courtesy Maunsell Wickes.

Blue Mountains-based Robert and his partner Neal Blewett in the camellias, alongside a portrait of Robert in London in 1960. For the artist, this show is an opportunity to present his works to a wider “street” public who wouldn’t normally see them. Photos – courtesy of Nick Brinley, and Louise Bennett, respectively.

Using eight-ply wool, Robert often starts by working on a plain area, such as the sky, as he plans a finished picture in his head. Then he will begin stitching in outlines. When ‘plagrising’ he jokes, he will use a technique of hatching a reproduction and reproducing on a canvas (10 holes to the inch). ‘I can do it watching TV, on the beach, on a plane (if the flight attendants don’t take away my “dangerous” darning needle), anywhere except in the dark,’ he adds. ‘If things go wrong I am prepared to undo (rub out) large stretches or work.’ Robert’s ‘London Threesome: Margaret, Robert and Richard’, 2008–2012, pure wool, 94x92cm. Photo – courtesy Maunsell Wickes.

Kate’s ‘Feminist Fan #15 (Claude Cahun, Self Portrait, 1927)’, 2015, hand knitted wool and acrylic yarns, 46×35.5cm. Photo – courtesy the artist.

‘I love the queerness of his work, and the sense of history exploding in each picture. I think we are a perfect match,’ says Kate of Robert’s art. Photo – courtesy of Jenni Mazaraki.

‘I like the idea that the women in my works, which gaze out at you, will be part of the City of Melbourne through the passageway of Chapter House Lane – seen at all hours of the day and night.’ says Kate. ‘Feminist Fan # 18 (Yoko Ono, Cut Piece, 1965)’, 2016, hand knitted wool and acrylic yarns, 46×35.5cm and ‘Feminist Fan #17 (Kate Beynon, Self Portrait with Guardian Spirits, 2010)’, 2016, hand knitted wool and acrylic yarns, 46x41cm. Photos – courtesy of the artist.

Inside Kate’s studio in St Kilda, which coincidentally is an old knitting factory! Photo – courtesy of Jenni Mazaraki.

Kate’s favourite work and ‘toughest image’: ‘Feminist Fan #22 (Sarah Maple, Self Portrait with Melons, 2012)’, 2016, 59×35.5cm. ‘Sarah Maple risked a lot of critique from the Muslim community in this work, in which she explores her own relationship to Islam and her relationship to feminist art (through a reference to a Sarah Lucas self-portrait with melons),’ details Kate. ‘She is young, fearless and funny.’ Right: ‘Feminist Fan #27 (A portrait of the artist Orlan by Fabrice Lévêque in 1997)’, 2016, 51x38cm. Both feature hand knitted wool and acrylic yarns. Photos – courtesy of the artist.

Elle Murrell
Wednesday 28th February 2018

‘I should like to point out that making fun and introducing jokes are an important part of my work!’ – Robert Brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘When I began knitting my heroes, I didn’t have to look far.’ – Kate Just.

 

 

Woolworkers Robert Brain and Kate Just have been joined quite ‘felicitously’, as Robert puts it, by curator Louise Klerks of Melbourne CBD gallery Chapter House LaneKate is embarrassed to say that she wasn’t aware of Robert’s astounding tapestries before they were introduced for this remarkable exhibition, opening March 1st. Now mutually enlightened, both gush about eachother’s art, echoing compliments: ‘honoured’, ‘gifted’, and ‘match made in Heaven’.

The doting duo’s awe is contagious. Robert, an anthropologist, has led a fascinating career teaching in universities in the UK and Italy and also working as an ethnographer in African countries including Congo, Mali and Cameroon throughout the 1950s to 1970s. ‘In fact, it was during long isolated periods “in the bush” that I started doing needlework; fortunately, this was considered “men’s work” in the society I studied. The women were the farmers.’ he tells.

Kate, half his senior, took up the craft in her mid-20s while studying art at VCA. ‘After the death of my brother, I returned home to visit my parents. My mother taught me to knit and it felt like all the world’s stories could be contained in those loops,’ she recalls. ‘I returned to art school with ideas for how to use knitting to make art.’

In ‘Needleman, Feminist Fan’ Robert uses a running-stitch to juxtapose autobiographical narratives with elements ‘stolen’ from more celebrated art icons. ‘Obviously, the gay side of my life enters into my tapestries; In ‘Robert with Girlfriend, Anne Padavini, Dancing in the Belvedere Ballroom, Hobart’ I show myself doing a slow waltz with a token girlfriend while having “broken dreams” of same-sex desire,’ he explains. In the other autobiographical work on display, ‘London Threesome: Margaret, Robert and Richard’, the artist depicts himself as a young, attractive Aussie male, ‘enthroned on the London swinging sixties stage’ and flanked by fantasy portraits of male and female partners. ‘I should like to point out that making fun and introducing jokes are also an important part of my work,’ adds Robert.

Co-exhibitor Kate has been working on her ‘Feminist Fan’ project for three years, and each artwork involves 10,000 stitches, taking around 90 hours of work! She interrogates histories of gendered representation and, by drawing on the craft processes of knitting and sewing that are themselves historically associated with women, seeks to unravel new possibilities for the future. Each of her pieces is an homage to a feminist artist, from Cindy Sherman to Yoko Ono, and has a corresponding fan letter you can discover via #feministfan. ‘When I began knitting my heroes, I didn’t have to look far, I had held them all in my head and heart for a long time,’ she tells.

Following this must-see exhibition, Kate will fly ‘Feminist Fan’ to the US for a show at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Richmond, Virginia. Meanwhile, Robert will be traveling vicariously through his newest tapestries, including one of Japanese Sumo wrestlers and Kabuki performers. ‘When I have finished a tapestry I am more than at a “loose end”, but frantic to start another. At this very moment I am sketching out the brindled legs of a faun “stolen” from Leon Bakst’s programme drawing for Debussy’s “L’apres-midi d’un faune…’ he tells. ‘We will see what happens to them… (the legs I mean).’

‘Needleman, Feminist Fan’ by Robert Brain and Kate Just
March 1st to April 28th
Opening night talk with Robert Brain, March 1st, 5:30-6:00pm
Chapter House Lane gallery
Chapter House Lane, Melbourne

Kate Just is also currently exhibiting as part of ACCA (Unfinished Business: Perspectives on Art and Feminism). Next, she is off to Beijing for an artist residency and will have new neon works opening at RMIT Project Space, be a part of a group show of women artists at the Australian High Commission Atrium Gallery in Singapore, and another show at MARS gallery in May. Find out more at Katejust.com.

Follow Robert Brain’s incredible work at Maunsellwickes.com/artists/robert-brain.

Similar Stories

Art

Gunjan Aylawadi · Place for Prayer

The Sydney artist creating mind-boggling 3D paper artworks.
Elle Murrell

Creative People

Liam Benson's Wealth of Unconditional Love

The Sydney-based artist unveils his latest exhibition, 'I Have a Wealth Of Unconditional Love, and It’s Yours If You Want It’.
Elle Murrell

Creative People

Trevor Smith's 'Cocktail Hour'

A smorgasbord of 45 astounding textile artworks, now on show in Sydney.
Elle Murrell

This Week

Art

10 Artists Transform Discarded Archaeological Fragments In New Exhibition, 'Unearthed'

Discarded fragments from the Metro Tunnel dig in Melbourne are given new life in Craft Victoria's new exhibition, 'Unearthed'.

Gardens

A Rambling, Romantic Garden For A Third Generation Farmhouse

A five-acre English-style garden surrounds The Farmstead Tatura owned by a third generation farmer and his partner.

At Home With Sheridan

A Unique 1950s Brisbane Home, Transformed To Bring The Outdoors In

Artist Pip Spiro and family's 1950s Brisbane home (with unusual art deco-style features) meets a stunning modern addition embracing lush New...
Lucy Feagins
  15 hours ago

Homes

A Newly-Built Coastal Home Filled With Character + Colour

From an inner-city Melbourne rental to coastal Anglesea, see how these sea-changers designed and built their dream family home.

On The Market

A Family's Magical Mid-Century ‘Treehouse’ Is For Sale In Kew East

The beautiful Lodge House in Melbourne's east has been held in the architect's own family for over 60 years – until now!
Christina Karras

On The Market

For Sale: A Clare Cousins Renovated Apartment In An Iconic Melbourne CBD Building!

A bright and breezy apartment in Melbourne's heritage-listed Bible House building. City living doesn't get much better than this!

Studio Visit

Georgia Spain's Abstract Paintings Capture The Chaos Of Our Times

The Melbourne artist's new exhibition reflects tumultuous world events and news cycles, with a poetic sense of ambiguity.
Christina Karras

News

Shop Unique + Discounted Art At Bromley & Co’s Massive Spring Sale!

Acclaimed artist David Bromley’s pieces will be on sale at Bromley & Co’s two Victorian galleries this weekend, with up to 7...
Sponsored

Architecture

An Intriguing Garden House Embedded In Nature By Kennedy Nolan

Hidden beyond a decorative gate is a peaceful new home that feels as though it was there all along - despite having been completed just last...

News

From Animal Prints to Geometrics, Shop The Latest From Designer Rugs

Introducing the latest additions to Designer Rugs’ ever-growing Saffron collection.
Sponsored

News

Update Your Outdoor Furniture With A Special Deal From DOMO

Receive a complimentary gift when you shop outdoor furniture at DOMO this October!  
Sponsored

News

Cult Unveils A Beautiful New Gallery Space In Its Melbourne Showroom

The Fredericia Gallery showcases iconic and timeless pieces from the renowned Danish brand.
Sponsored

Architecture

A Compact Norwegian Boathouse – In Perth!

'Cabin Haus' by Lahaus brings a taste of Norway to Perth with its charming, boathouse-inspired facade.
Bea Taylor
  7 hours ago

On The Market

A Stylist’s Elegant Carlton North Terrace Hits The Market

Step inside this charming, two-storey Victorian that blends heritage details and contemporary design.
Christina Karras

Shopping

Kip&Co Team Up With Australian Icon Ken Done For A Nostalgia-Filled Collection

The local homewares brand have teamed up with one of Australia's most iconic artists for a perfectly summery range.
Christina Karras

Similar Stories

Art

Gunjan Aylawadi · Place for Prayer

The Sydney artist creating mind-boggling 3D paper artworks.
Elle Murrell

Creative People

Liam Benson's Wealth of Unconditional Love

The Sydney-based artist and facilitator unveils his latest exhibition.
Elle Murrell

Creative People

Trevor Smith's 'Cocktail Hour'

A smorgasbord of 45 astounding textile artworks, now on show in Sydney.
Elle Murrell

The Design Files acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers, and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files. Please email bea@thedesignfiles.net