The Houndstooth chats with John Brooks

This edition of the Houndstooth Wrap presents a new feature, with a profile about one of our colleagues – introducing John Brooks, a multidisciplinary textile artist whose practice spans multiple mediums. John teaches in the Advanced Diploma of Textile Design and Development.

Originally studying a Bachelor of Fine Art (Drawing) at Victorian College of the Arts and the Advanced Diploma of Textile Design & Development at RMIT, John has worked as a textile artist and exhibited at major local and regional galleries. As a textile artist, John’s work is preoccupied with the performativity, anthropomorphic and transformative quality of materials. John took some time from his new role as lecturer within the Advanced Diploma of Textile Design and Development program to talk about his practice and answer some questions for us.

What lead you to textiles and developing your textile design practice?
I originally started out studying fashion at a small school part time, but knew very little about fabric and had a really misguided idea of what fashion was, or could be. Somebody I worked with was studying what used to be ‘Studio Textiles’ and the course sounded more exploratory, while also helping me understand the nature of the materials I was working with. I changed courses and was determined to focus on print, but after a semester of weave, I connected with the process and working with an amazing teacher, I spent three years focusing on weave and graduated from textile design, moving to art school to push my practice even further for another four years.

What are some exhibitions and projects you’ve worked on?
Most recently I exhibited in the Third Tamworth Textile Triennial at Tamworth Regional Gallery curated by Glenn Barkley, and the exhibition ‘Every Second Feels Like a Century’ at West Space curated by Hannah Presley and Debbie Pryor, and ‘Materiality’ at Town Hall Gallery curated by Mardi Nowak. These were large group shows in 2017 and allowed the artists involved to develop a body of work that pushed the use of materials (often textiles) in diverse and innovative ways. At the moment I’m preparing to do a residency at Bundoora Homestead Arts Centre, and working out the beginnings of a collaborative project to develop a ‘material clinic’.

You work across diverse mediums, from weaving to drawing to film, what is your working process?
My process involves a lot of back and forth between mediums. A lot of the time I’m getting a sense of what the material is capable of, leaving things up to chance and then refining them once I understand how we behave with each other. Research and reading generally come first, and lately I have been combining a lot of the mediums I work with into a larger installation. Some days I’ll be shooting video footage and recording sounds, and then I’ll be working between paper and the loom, or playing with materials on other days. Towards the end of a project, it tends to involve more studio time making structures and sculptural forms and mixing sounds and editing videos. I usually need to be working on several elements at the one time to make sure everything works together – if I make an installation object by object, the relationship between the work can be disjointed, and also if I get stuck somewhere, I can work on something else while I’m thinking through making.

What do you remember about being a student?
I remember working with a friendly yet slightly competitive cohort, and having access to amazing facilities. The competitive edge drove us to push ourselves and create more work in order to develop further, and also to take advantage of the time we had with the equipment and spaces on offer. Also it was great having access to a large range of staff with expertise in a variety of areas that were super helpful.

What were some of the major influences on your work as a textile artist?
Most of my influences come from things other than textiles. Lately a lot of inspiration comes from the writing of Timothy Morton, blobs, Pipilotti Rist’s video installations (I really appreciate that she gives her audience something comfortable to recline on to entice them to commit to a longer video), the moon, pearls, inter-connectivity, oysters, Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s films, ritual, sentimental objects, Merri Creek (and the compositions of rubbish that get caught in the trees when the water levels rise), rocks. A lot of forms created by chance are so appealing to me, so I’ve formed the habit of keeping an eye out for mounds, drippy paint, spills, anything that’s been manipulated by heavy rain, hairy textures, slime, soggy carpet.

What excites you about working with Textiles students at RMIT?
I’m excited about talking to people who are passionate about their work. It’s really satisfying showing someone a source of inspiration you think they might be interested in, assisting them with teasing out ideas, or helping them identify their strengths. When people are a bit obsessed with their work and are committed to their development it can generate a really exciting and productive atmosphere.


Any suggestions for new staff profiles for the houndstooth blog in this series would be appreciated! Please send any ideas to Laura Gardner at laura.gardner@rmit.edu.au.

 

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