Touchy subjects

What can a fluffy bike and rubber Hoover tell us about everyday life? asks Hester Lacey
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Indy Lifestyle Online
The centrepiece of the Flexible 2 exhibition is a child's bike covered in fluffy blue mohair - so soft and cuddly you want to take it home and nurture it.

As the name suggests, all the exhibits include flexible media, explains Penny Hamilton of the Whitworth Art Gallery. "Textiles, rubber, silicon, galvanised steel... "

Hang on, galvanised steel? Not usually known for its flexibility, surely. Aha, but this galvanised steel is bent into orb shapes which look as feather- light and scrumpleable as tinfoil.

Other flexi-art includes a book knitted out of liquorice strings, entitled "Eat Me Sweet Me", another book made out of marshmallows, fruit trees wrapped in clingfilm, and works incorporating aromatic seeds, which make the gallery smell pleasantly of curry.

"The exhibition shows current trends in modern textile art," says Hamilton. And what, pray, is textile art? "Textile artists have been trained in embroidery or fashion - in some ways, the media that they use is as important as the actual image they create."

Manchester has a proud textile heritage of its own, but this clutch of cutting-edge textile artists come from 17 countries across Europe.

Allusions to everyday life (including housework), in particular the female body, fashion and clothing, form the theme underlying the collection. Hence the endearing heart-shaped rubber Hoover; the enormous knitted dresses hanging from ceiling to floor; and a particularly spooky work entitled "Ensnared", which looks like the boning for a crinoline dress, but is made to resemble a ribcage.

Flexible 2 is on show at The Whitworth Art Gallery, Oxford Road, Manchester, tel 0161 275 7450, until 26 May.

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