Danny Amazonas is a Taiwanese fibre artist. His exhibition, ‘Vibrance in Larger Textured Life’, is at The Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham from 18th-21st August 2022.
Hi Danny, we’re looking forward to an explosion of colour when your spectacular collection of art quilts comes to The Festival of Quilts this summer. Tell us about some of the works that visitors can expect to see.
At The Festival of Quilts, I will be displaying my works from 2000, showing visitors the interesting transformation of how my works evolved from early fabric mosaic to present day Freehand Patchwork.
With a background in oil painting, floral design and mosaic art, you didn’t try sewing until the 1990s. What was it about textiles as a medium that interested you?
As a ‘Jack of all trades’, I’m always searching and experimenting with new ideas. I was fascinated with the art of mosaic in the 80s. After my retirement from business in the mid 90s, my wife and I were vacationing in Taiwan. As we walked by a quilt shop in a department store, I was mesmerized by a huge display of fabric with a whole spectrum of colours and prints. Astounded, I begged my wife to take a 2-week class to learn how to cut fabric with a rotary blade and how to use the sewing machine. I was too bashful to sit with a group of ladies in class, and the instructor was kind enough to allow me to just observe while babysitting a dozen rowdy toddlers as their mothers were busy participating in the class as well. Four years later, I was invited by then Mayor Giuliani to exhibit my work at the City Hall in 1998.
Why my preference of textile over other media, you ask? I have used tiles, wood, stones and paint to create mosaic works. But creating art with textiles makes my studio cleaner, neater and takes less space to store finished works, that is, until I became addicted to fabric and ran out of storage space. And best of all, they’re not heavy and bulky to ship around the world to shows.
In 2012, you developed a technique called Freehand Patchwork. Can you tell us more about this technique?
My earlier works were mosaics of portraits which I did at leisure to please myself and hopefully stay away from dementia. Most images were portraits of friends and family members, and some were commissioned by Taiwanese politicians. Mosaic is a low-resolution image; therefore, all my artworks are close up images which I sketched, or from photos I took or provided by others. But soon I ran out of subjects to work with; I would be stuck unless I evolved and gave it new life. So, a few years later, Freehand Patchwork was born. Basically, it’s a fabric collage. Many quilters use glue or pins, even fusible webbing to secure pieces of fabric while creating artwork. Soon I realized fraying is a great concern when working with fabric. After much trial and error, I found that starching and fusing the back side of fabric is the solution to fraying. This also gave me the freedom to use the fused fabrics like brush strokes as in painting.
Your work is wonderfully exotic. Where do you find inspiration and is there a subject you’d love to work with?
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to those textile designers, especially Kaffe Fassett, Brandon Mably and Philip Jacobs who designed all those “wonderfully exotic” colours and prints, enabling quilters like myself to incorporate them into my work. Painters use a small pallet to mix and create any colour to paint while quilters must collect and stash up all those colours in the rainbow to create works like painting. My idol, Chuck Close, is a great photorealistic painter who inspired my art of mosaic in the 80s. With his influence, portraiture became my favourite subject to work with. I love to take photos in the outdoor marketplace to capture facial expressions of people or animals under different lighting and angles. I then modify and enhance them using Photoshop.
Is it your first time exhibiting at The Festival of Quilts?
Yes, to exhibit at The Festival of Quilts is the dream of all quilters, especially me. I’m always inspired by new art forms and new angles from the creations of others.
Which textile artists do you think are making exciting work right now?
There are so many great artists’ works that I would love to see, and some in particular, like Sheila Frampton Cooper, Katie Pasquini Masopust and Betty Hahn, whose works are on my must-see bucket list.
What projects are you working on currently and what’s next for you after The Festival of Quilts?
I’ve been creating new pieces for this particular event ever since I received the invitation. I’m working 16 to 18 hours, seven days a week creating new works, and often have unfinished work on my design wall. I’ve been spending most my time staring at them and digging through my stash of fifteen hundred treated fabrics to make the best use of each piece. My new works will be expressed with bolder ‘brush strokes’ and less detail, even working on intricate areas of a portrait. Art has no boundary. I will always seek new breakthroughs and will continue to achieve my personal best.
Danny’s exhibition, ‘Vibrance in Larger Textured Life’, is at The Festival of Quilts at the NEC Birmingham from 18th-21st August 2022.
Header image: ‘The Year 2022’, 2022, by Danny Amazonas.