EyeContact: Emma Fitts Te Uru Installation

Cantabrian McCahon House resident Emma Fitts here presents a show of textile works in the intimate small gallery on Te Uru’s top floor. Highly textured and organic, her delicately hued fabric hangings—suspended like large unfurled scrolls in real space or hanging off pegs on the walls like giant aprons or coats—are positioned so you have to closely squeeze past.

There are seven hangings, cloth collages that often include coarse ‘hairy’ felt; skeins of wool; smooth pieces of silk, cotton, polyester or velvet, dyed canvas; and intact worn garments—and six photos by Neeve Woodward of these items looking quite different in the Titirangi cottage and enclosing bush. Plus there is a beautiful commissioned text by Thomasin Sleigh about the great modernist architect and designer Eileen Gray, hugely admired by Fitts, displayed here as a gorgeous small book (edition of 100) designed by Aaron Beehre.

Fitts’ sensitively constructed hangings are reminiscent of Don Driver, but they avoid saturated colour and anything industrial. Their hues and tactility are very subtle and gentle on the eye, while their use of heavy felt (with folds and hoods and raggedy torn edges) gives them an empathetic sense of visual warmth (as famously noted by Beuys).

Woodward’s much smaller framed photographs work well, showing the effects of natural light and an arboreal or architectural environment on Fitts’ endeavours. The digitally printed colours and textures look quite different. The recognisable shapes of the cut material lock them into the components of the rest of the installation, thereby making you study the originals more closely.

Fitts (assisted by Tess Peach) has laid out her show very carefully, so her swathes of tonally orchestrated fabric intrinsically become architectural components, providing vertical foils for the painted walls. You are bodily affected when you enter the space, visually; and physically and tactilely too. It is wonderful to find an installation so involving, where the psychologically and physically pressured body immediately flicks on switches in the mind.

To that end, Sleigh’s writing about Gray (from her p.o.v.) that is laid out flat besides the long wall, is fascinating—looking mainly at her achievement with her E1027 building, her aspirations for the house, her turbulent relationship with her lover, and her house’s treatment at the arrogant hands of Le Corbusier.

The show has a nice cohesion. It is inviting and pleasurable to move through and ponder various associations generated by Fitts‘ spatial manipulation of a wide range of soft natural materials. Pitched perfectly, it is never ever claustrophobic, but joyously comforting.

John Hurrell

EyeContact: Emma Fitts Te Uru Installation