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Ancient and respectful

By Leila Lois

Caro Pattle’s work reflects Shinto concepts of veneration and respect. She talks to Leila Lois about her inspiration.

Caro Pattle

“I came to textile art in a roundabout way,” says Caro Pattle. “In 2019, I went to Japan on a study tour, and became interested in the Shinto concept of showing veneration and respect to inanimate objects. There was a beauty in the practice that inspired me.”

Since witnessing such wonders as shrines to ramen noodles, Pattle has been captivated by the silent histories of textile objects, and seeks to tell unique stories through them. Her most recent collection, Amphorae, was a series of hand-woven vessels. Exhibited at the Inaugural Melbourne Design Fair this year, it showcased hand-coiled velvet vessels in the form of ancient two-armed wine and milk containers. Their deep cobalt blue colour and luxurious texture arrest the eye and invites the hand to touch, as past and present, function and style converge in their forms.

Caro Pattle, Colossal Blue Amphora, Velvet , 53 × 32 × 30 cm, 2022

In addition to textile artistry, which is time-consuming and absorbing, Pattle says she loves to read widely and imaginatively, which often inspires her work. “I love to read historical accounts, especially from people who have found objects in digs and travel. I imagine these objects as a gateway between cultures and between lives.” And it is this frisson of discovery and relation between objects, narratives and lives that Pattle so distinctively captures.

Pattle’s curiosity presumably also comes from her Bachelor’s degree in Critical Arts Theory with a focus on Ancient Civilizations, from the University of Tasmania, Hobart. This followed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication, also from Hobart, and preceded her most recent Bachelor of Textile Design at RMIT University, Melbourne. “I almost collected Bachelor degrees,” Pattle laughs. “I’ve always had a huge curiosity for the world, and each area has fed into my art.”

Caro Pattle, Honey Amphora, Velvet, 34 x 21cm, 2022

Pattle grew up in New Zealand and Tasmania, before landing in Melbourne. “New Zealand still feels like home,” she says. “I still have family there and I find my visits so inspiring.” She is developing a project using sheepskin as a material, which she hopes to exhibit in Aotearoa in the near future.

“I’m still figuring out the balance between exhibitions, commissions, and time for my own creative exploring,” says Pattle. She mentions how important her studio space is to her research and development as an artist. The old weatherboard studio outside her place in Brunswick, in Melbourne’s arty Inner North, has large sash windows and plenty of light.

Caro Pattle working on Colossal Blue Amphora, 2022

“While I’m in the middle of a project, it’s like a bomb site,” she admits, but she describes her cleaning up process after a project as “brutal.” Her work is requiring progressively more time and space, she notes; her recent woven vessels are around a metre tall and use up to 30 metres of fabric each, rendering them broad and heavy. Taking ten days to complete, these vessels are a labour of love. And it is exactly the way Pattle transforms inanimate things into apparently sentient objets d’art, replete with emotion, which is really exceptional.

First published in Art Zone #92


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