Textile artist and printmaker Julie Rosvall takes knitting to a new level in Iterations II, on exhibit to May 9 at the Lunenburg School of the Arts.
This is a gentle, thoughtful, lyrical show about process, transformation, preservation and modes of mark making. It has all sorts of metaphorical powers depending on who’s seeing it.
Rosvall knits lace with its loopy open holes and exquisite repeating patterns in swatches and shawls, then starches the pieces lightly in white glue and water before printing them on paper through the process of soft etching or collagraphy.
The prints are a story of pattern and imagery holding and memorializing the original. The delicate strings flowing at the end edges are like elegant pen marks. The patterns become more pronounced as they move from real, functional knit lace to a ghostly image. They become an infinite web of time and space.
Rosvall was inspired by the late Montreal multi-disciplinary artist Betty Goodwin. “In 2010 I saw the work of Betty Goodwin, a printmaker who printed everything from birds’ nests to packages, vests and gloves using a soft ground etching technique.
“I was inspired to explore soft ground with my knitted swatches. I saw the potential to create works that preserve the texture, that say to the viewer the fabric should be revered, and documented for the historical record.”
There is playfulness in this show in a sweet series of mini, textile relief prints on cotton rag paper that are quadriptics referencing the modernist, minimalist grid and in the Sunspots collaboration. Four artists including Rosvall did a take on the Sunspots pattern to create squares in different media from woodblock text to a knit swatch print.
Rosvall also exhibits a column of colourful, hand-dyed silk skeins next to a textile relief print of them in black and white. Drained of colour, the skeins are dazzling not in their colour but in their braided pattern.
Process – the act of making – is important to Rosvall and the soft ground etchings are labour intensive. First she files, sands and polishes a copper plate, then heats it and gives it “an acid resistant coating made of asphaltum, rosin, beeswax, and tallow.
“The prepared plate with the knitted sample on top is put under pressure through the press, creating an impression in the soft ground. The plate is etched in a ferric chloride solution; anywhere that the impression of the knitting was made is etched, creating lines where the ink will hold when printing.”
The collographs are more simple and direct. “I either attach the knitted swatch to mat board, or simply ink the swatch directly and print.”
Metaphorically – looking at Rosvall’s work in the serene gallery space – I think of men weaving nets and women knitting socks during the long winter in any Nova Scotia seafaring town.
This sentiment is not meant as a romanticization of rural life but as a celebration of people using their hands to make useful but also beautiful things– something people have been doing forever, something that is essentially human.
The patterns and shawls recall anything from Victorian aunts and Shetland Islands lace knitters to rippling seaweed to modern art.
Rosvall lives in Wolfville and moved there from her native New Brunswick in 1998. She studied weaving with master weaver Jackie Mackay and volunteered at her Summer House gallery. When Mackay became ill and passed away, Rosvall was given Mackay’s spinning wheel. That launched the textile artist into spinning and knitting. A huge advocate for the crafts community, Rosvall has worked for Craft Nova Scotia in different ways since 2003.
ITERATIONS II: Textile Prints by Julie Rosvall is at the gallery, 6 Prince St., Monday to Friday, 10 to 4. Masks are required. This Saturday she, letterpress printmaker Tina Arsenault of Arquoise Press and the Mahone Bay Printmakers are at the storefront gallery, 12 to 4, for demonstrations and conversation. To read more about Rosvall go to her webpage: https://www.inkpaperpress.ca/