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Waving between thread and fabric:Visual Veil Exhibition by Stella Tang

by Ada Li, ampost, five, 2004

Behind the Veil

Stella is a lover of painting which to her is a very personal matter. Painting is too disconnected from others and difficult to decipher, therefore she takes the industrial faric to design her veils. "Fabric gives a soothing feeling when one touches it. The cutting is also nice and it closer to the people. I have the idea of weaving together all the beautiful things to see what it would look like", said Stella.

However, Stella's fondness of graffiti is not too difficult to discover when one pays closer attention to the details of the works. A Visual Veils takes colourful chiffon as its canvas on which the artist sketches busy lines with a sewing machine. One imagines it as little kid who was told by her art teacher to fill up the space on the white paper with different colours.

To sew the fabrics together layer-by-layer seems to be a cracy and meanningless job. However, it is a great challenge to Stella. The project started in 2002 when she paid for a Singer Sewing Machine herself and started the experiment. There were so many technical problems such as the material slides away and creases easily, and she had to solve all these before she could proceed. However, as an artist, Stela takes it as part of her creation.

Turns on the machine, Speed up one's creativity

When the sewing machine starts to run through the fabrics, the association of visual veil rolls itself out. As the lines on the fabrics increase, Stella's thinking moves further to issues of equality, of speaking out. "Today, we seem to enjoy freedom in many different ways, but in fact, we are losing what we have without noticing the change. We ae too ready to comprise and to adjust to the reality", she said.

Other than freedom of speech, Stella also thinks of the religious veil that is imposed on women in the Middle East. To foreigners, the veil is a symbol of sexist suppression and a focus or a starting point for many intercultural dialogues. I think of the Afghani film OSAMA where a 12-year old girl used a veil to disguise herself as a boy in order ro find a job for her family's livelihood. Sexual discrimination is brought to the big screen, so is the director's accusation of authority.

It is a gloomy world when one looks at it through layers and layers of woven fabrics. However, it is still possible to find a focus if one concentrates on the holes where light penetrates. Stella told us that light can be the source of vision and it can also be the source of things that we are longing for. In between vision and veil, there exits some kind of opposition which form the "Relativity of Veil". Sewing can be an insensible action, it can also be a thought-provoking process and training; the veil can be described as a psychological retreat to resist the external world, it can also be a form of self-resistance; it is a self-closure yst a voyeuristic behaviour; and when the world is fighting for freedom of speech; it demonstrates the power of silence, a resistance to the Other.

Veil up together

Other than ladies' visual veils, the exhibition also provides veils for kids and men, and a large collection is designed for mix and match, such as headband, glasses, and tradition fashion. The men's veil is the most complicated one in the collection. Covered up from head to toe, leaving only a small breathing gap - what a joke with men! Stella laughed. There are some sample exhibits for visitors to try on to experience the new visual impact.

Under globalization and monpolies by economic giants, the traditional manufacturing industries and arts and crafts are disminishing. To Stella, the fabric industry is a symbol of people's power. She wants to make the exhibition a tribute to the spirit of the golden age when clothing industry was flourishing.

Visual Veil - it may be a deco, an accessary that makes a face mysterious; it may even be a gap that reminds us that there is a discrepancy between vision and reality.