“I like the idea that I am creating a complex piece from something as simple as a single thread,” says Rita Parniczky of her chosen artistic medium: weaving. It’s a satisfaction shared by many textile artists, but the results achieved by Parniczky, who combines weaving techniques with photographic technology, are utterly unique.
Her experiments with photograms – produced by placing her woven creations directly onto the surface of photographic paper and exposing them to light in a darkroom – stand as artworks in their own right but have also inspired the intriguing, translucent woven installations for which she is best known. The X-Ray Series is made using a unique weaving technique Parniczky developed during her studies at Central Saint Martins and perfected a few years later on her large, semi-computerised Canadian loom. Exactly what the process involves is a closely guarded secret, but its effect is to expose the vertical warp structure in much the same way as an X-ray reveals the skeletal form of the human body. “The vertical warp is not visible in most woven textiles,” she says. “My technique allows me to reveal what is usually hidden. Sunlight passing through the material visually transforms the work, making it appear to be formed of crystals or ice.”
The works are thus usually suspended a few centimetres away from walls to draw attention to the diaphanous quality of the material. Parniczky’s most recent private project, commissioned by the owner of a contemporary house in Suffolk, consisted of three separate mesh-like panels that fill one of the living room walls, while the V&A has acquired a piece commissioned by The Worshipful Company of Weavers. But whoever she works with, the commissioning process is the same: “It is important that I understand what my clients want, but ultimately I am an artist, not a weaver for hire, so they also have to understand how the work comes about. I like clients to come to the studio in London, see the making process and look at my work in real life – preferably on a sunny day so they can witness the change occurring with the light.”