Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Artist Feature: Al Munro

Last but definitely not least, today we have the final artist feature and are talking with Al Munro. Al is a current PhD Candidate and lecturer at the ANU School of Art with the Textiles Studio.  She is represented by the Brenda May Gallery and has had several solo exhibitions with Brenda May Gallery as well as Craft ACT, Linden Centre for Contemporary Art, Charles Sturt University and ANCA Gallery.

Al has also participated in many group exhibitions such as Imitation of Life at CMAG, Natural Dirgession at the University of Technology Sydney, and Green at Brenda May Gallery .  Her works are in collections such as Art Bank, Commonwealth Government of Australia, Australian National Gallery, National Library of Australia and Megalo Print Studio Archive.

All images in this interview are provided by and copyright of Al Munro.

"Thinking about science and drawing"

Tell us a little about yourself and your arts/design background

My name is Al Munro and I live and work just outside Canberra in a rural area called Carwoola. Canberra remains my base though, and I think of myself as a Canberra artist. I am currently undertaking a PhD in the Textiles Workshop of the ANU School of Art, where I am also a part-time lecturer. 

My practice spans textiles, drawing and print, and my original arts training was a BA and Masters in printmaking. Over the last 10 years or so I have begun working more and more with textile media, on their own or by incorporating them into my drawn and printed works. An example of this is the work called "Thinking about science and drawing" which I think of as a yarn drawing, where the yarn becomes an elastic, fluid and physical drawn line, anchored to the wall by winding around dressmakers pins.

"Thinking about science and drawing - detail"

What led you to use embroidery in your work?

I began to use embroidery - needlepoint in particular - because I was interested in using a medium which would allow me to represent repeated units of code. For some time I had been using printed images as small units of a visual code which could be repeated and reconfigured in different ways to produce new 'messages'. I thought of this process as a visual analogy for the genetic codes of DNA used to map and visualise the natural world. 

A new body of work began to look at the codes and formulas of the mathematical world and their relationship to mapping geological and crystal specimens. The needlepoint stitches were perfect as they provided a regular coded unit which could be varied with colour. The grid of the Aida cloth and canvas was like a mathematical axis which provided a consistency and structure akin to the depiction of crystal forms as regular geometric solids. Through beading and other forms of embroidered embellishment I was able to reinsert some of the beauty and sparkle of the original specimens, qualities stripped away by the mathematisation of scientific visualisation and mapping.

Could you talk a little on the process of creating your work?

The works I am showing in the Needlework/Needleplay project are the crystallographic needlepoints. Technically these are fairly straightforward and I was really learning as I went with these works. I begin by finding a black and white diagram of a crystalline form represented as a regular geometric solid. I find these illustrations very beautiful and intriguing despite their intended purpose as diagrams which emphasise function over formal qualities. I either print these as a laser print or photocopy which has been enlarged to the size I want the embroidered piece to be.

Image of Crystallography Installation 

Then I pin the diagram behind my Aida cloth and stitch in the black/grey outline of the diagram. I can then remove the cartoon from behind the needlepoint and fill in the diagram with coloured areas. Some I fill in with solid colour, while others I will fill in with patterns, beading and other embellishments. The areas outside the stitched diagram are then folded and stitched to the back of the work leaving a needlepoint which is the same shape as the diagram. The back is then finished with felt to provide a support and tidy up the loose ends (and also hide my not so neat moments of stitching!)

Can you tell us a little about your inspirations?

My work takes as its starting point to codes, patterns, formulas and maps that have been used to visualise the natural world. My interests have ranged from the colour codes of supermarket packaging to the mathematics embodied in contemporary and historical scientific prints and diagrams. 

I love super-bright fluoros colours, sparkly yarns and beading, but I am also really attracted to matte  industrial greys; both these seem to me to emphasise the artifice and constructedness of visualisations of the natural world. I really really really love grids and repeat patterns too and find endless inspiration in even the simplest graph paper pad.


  1. i like to use soft light colours, i combination with a darker one like blue or green. i also like to use metalic yarn with gold colors. i let myself inspire by little things like just one flowers or the most simple abstract shapes but still beautiful in my eyes. and then i let myself inspire on the feeling i have on the moment i start to work on something and just follow my instinct, like when i am making a doily i just follow my feeling and see how the patterns turns out eventually. and my little inside garden atelier also gives me inspiration, there i can take all the time i need to work out a pattern.

  2. Wonderful feature about Al Munro, thank you for sharing her work!