Margo Wolowiec creates contemporary weavings that bridge the physical and the virtual. Her process distorts photographs and text that she pulls from the internet into unusual textiles which waver between representation and abstraction.
Wolowiec’s practice balances deep theoretical considerations about the digital-world, information, and politics with the physical processes of weaving and printing. The bottomless image-proliferation of social media is central to her practice. Apps and algorithms are used to collect photographs from hashtags or geo-tags, which Wolowiec then prints onto polyester threads and weaves together. Her large works are assembled in panels that are mounted onto canvas or stretched on free-standing copper frames, as if an embellished room separator or privacy screen. Ancient, modern and contemporary references mix within her work: Navajo rugs, traditional Berber weaving, the Bauhaus tapestries of Otti Berger, and contemporary artists such as Laura Owens and Ruth Laskey. Along with her online strategies and material process, the result of Wolowiec’s eclectic influences is a collection of re-interpreted images with serene physical presence and poised beauty.
The series, Storm Systems, addresses the urgency of climate change. All of the works in the series are created from photographs and graphics of extreme weather conditions and raise issues relating to global warming. Thursday Temperature is a large single panel wall-work from the series. The work is composed of obscured images in hazy rectangular patches that are predominantly abstract but tease moments of representation: the jagged rifts of a mountain range and the bulbous curves of a coral reef are suggested but remain ambiguous. A deep blue, indigo dye bleeds up through the work, leaving a stain in the fabric that represents rising sea levels. Imbedded within the visual metaphors of the piece and the original online source of the imagery, Thursday Temperature makes the connection between environmental crisis and the distribution of information or misinformation. Wolowiec’s reassembled catastrophic images provide us with a map of how immaterial online content has a complex and often devastating material impact on the world.
Text is an important symbol throughout Wolowiec’s oeuvre. Wolowiec believes that the histories of writing and cloth are bound to each other more closely than many realise: the word “text” derives from the Latin “texere,” meaning to weave together. Throughout history, tapestry has been used to impart information and commemorate important events in the same way that written language does in the contemporary age. In Wolowiec’s textiles, words and phrases borrowed from multiple news outlets (credible, fake and everything in between) become warped. This means that language shifts between legibility and illegibility. Words turn into images and images have the same potential to manipulate meaning as words: text and photographs bleed in and out of each other with the same transience as our ever-refreshing newsfeeds. And yet, stitched to the stillness of a canvas or metal frame, Wolowiec slows down the bit-rate of information, offering a rare moment to contemplate and reflect. Through subverting text and image with her rigorous critical thought and unique material process, Wolowiec makes an important contribution to contemporary art that is both aesthetically profound and conceptually compelling.