Convex Concave 14 (2015)
62 x 60 cms
rayon thread on canvas over custom panel
Nike Shroeder has developed her style over a number of years, first in Berlin and more recently in Los Angeles where she is now based. Her current work includes mixed media with machine embroidery where the stitch is an extension of the paintbrush, and pieces using hanging rayon threads where subtle gradation of colour combined with the lucidity of the thread make her a popular artist worldwide.
What are your first memories of textiles?
I actually did not grow up in a house with a specific love for textiles. It was only in my student years that I discovered my appreciation for it, which then grew into the inspiration and groundwork for my artistic practice.
What is your background in textiles?
It feels like I have been going to art school since I could walk. I laid hands on any medium possible and narrowed it down to sculpting and painting in my teenage years. While I still lived in Germany, I received a B.F.A. in Art Pedagogy / Art Therapy — and that is when I first sat down at a sewing machine. So my background is in the traditional Fine Arts rather than Crafting, Tailoring, or Fashion, but learning my specific technique took years to specialise to the degree I use it today. And all of that is self-taught with a lot of trial and error.
I see you work in a beautiful studio. How do you create a piece?
I keep a sketchbook at all times. It is not only a book of reference, samples and ideas but also a precise documentation of all pieces I have ever made. So it also functions as a artistic diary.
I just recently moved studios, into a lovely new space in Downtown LA with a lot of windows. I have enough room for a couch in there so I can clear my head and look at the downtown skyline as well as the beautiful snow capped mountains, grab a coffee and a book and manifest ideas.
How do you describe your work?
That is a difficult question. Contemporary fiber art is probably the most fitting.
How has your work developed over time?
I fell in love with the materiality of it. I first started to use the stitches as lines, resembling the line of a pen in a drawing. I really enjoyed how it added a naïve quality to the work, because of it being so imprecise and the loose ends seeming to be an accidental extension of the line. The work gains something almost childish. I did that for years and really enjoyed it. Then there was a shift towards abstract work and a fascination for the mathematics of it, how to create a perfect gradient and the fact that most of the actual painting actually happens OFF the canvas.I moved from more figurative to absolute abstract, but in my last show at Walter Maciel Gallery, I went back to painting and porcelain sculpting, incorporating that into my stitched work. It feels like those different mediums are becoming better friends, so I guess that makes me a mixed media artist now…
What or who inspires you?
It could really anything. When it happens it just hits you, and you know you just got a brilliant idea. Even if that might not be the case, at least it keeps you going.
On your canvases why do you leave threads hanging?
The quality of the hanging thread creates an invitation for the viewer to interact and is sensitive to the movement and airflow around it. It IS the actual piece. The canvas is just the tool to hold them.
For your artwork with hanging threads why do you use rayon?
Rayon is smoother than any other thread I have worked with which allows it to fall and move freely. It also has a beautiful shine to it, which cotton does not have.
Do you use your art to make a statement such as 196 men kissing and Happy?
I think every artist is motivated by a certain thought, comment or feeling. Art is just another language to communicate what it is that you want to say.
For those two pieces, 96 men kissing is inspired by a photograph from the 1930s picturing two men kissing, them most likely being soldiers. By repeating that image over and over again and kind of making it more of a pattern than an actual image it draws the audience in to take a closer look.This creates a certain intimacy. It is important to see this piece in the context of my last solo show called ‘inzwischen’ which showed soldiers from WW2 in their downtime and how free and joyful they were once they had put their weapons down. This includes the image mentioned above. It shows them as human beings with yearnings and feelings. And of course it is commentary on gay culture and that it has existed since mankind, even amongst “fighters” and in times of war.
Happy is a self portrait on my 30th birthday and is a humorous interpretation of the mixed feelings and stereotypes that come along with age. Both pieces question common stereotypes in very different aspects.
Are you based in Berlin and LA?
I started my career in Berlin, went back and forth for a few years but am now full time living in Los Angeles. My ties are still really strong to my home country. I feel very connected to both places and visit Germany frequently.
What advice do you have for anyone wanting to be an artist using textiles as a medium?
It’s the same for any artist really: Just keep at it! Keep doing it, and don’t be afraid to fail. Failure is the most important part of my work, and I learned to celebrate every bit of it.