As dramatically large glass windows filtered through the last of the day's sunlight, guests gathered at Armadillo's Surry Hills space to hear from an acclaimed young textile artist named Julia Gutman. Gutman is 29 years old, a Sydney-based visual artist who works with found and donated textiles to fashion patchwork portraits of her friends and family members. Her practice looks to challenge ideas surrounding the male gaze, and to explore the meaning and memory imbued within material.
Earlier this year, she was awarded Australia's foremost portraiture prize, the Archibald Prize, making her the youngest winner in 85 years – and only one of three women to win in the prize's history. Tonight, she would be joining RUSSH's Editor-in-Chief, Jess Blanch, to speak to an intently listening crowd about her practice, rituals and recent historic prize win.
Speaking about her prize-winning piece, which depicted the singer Montaigne, Gutman said "That was the first time people called what I did portraiture. It made me think, were all of those other works portraits?"
"It's made me really think about the idea of figuration in a painting, and how it's most often using people to tell a story chosen by the artist. Those people don't get to be themselves, they're just a stand-in for an idea or a myth – or they become a muse. In a portrait, you're thinking about the person."
As for the types of textiles she likes to use in her works, Gutman said "It's usually things that are past the point of wearability."
"I have this really extensive library of clothes and fabrics that I've been collecting for the past 3-4 years, since I started working in this way. It's all things that have been given to me by friends or family members, so everything's been worn, everything's stained, everything has holes in it – everything has really strong memories and associations."
She mentions an embroidery by her great-great-Grandmother that was sewn into a recent work, and a portrait of her sister that she fashioned out of "...something of mine, something that's hers, something of our grandma's – which is pretty special. But then there's all these old Harris Farm bags in there too."
The later part of the evening saw guests floating through the textile haven of Armadillo's Surry Hills space, running hands along the neat lines of earth-toned rug samples along the walls, or kicking off their shoes to ground themselves on the sumptuous, cloud-like Petra rugs underfoot – the brand's first foray into the Berber style.
Textiles and the gentle rituals forged around them are at the heart of what Armadillo do, day-in-and-day-out, so it only made sense that we would be gathered in their Surry Hills home on this chilled spring evening to hear from an acclaimed young artist whose bread and butter lies in understanding the layered and nuanced magic of fabric.
The evening's sensory experience was continued with a gustatory offering from Sian Redgrave, who put on a grazing table spread unlike most. A glistening tower of butter stood tall amongst stacks of vibrant lettuce cups, spirals of crusty bread rolls and a rather inviting selection of cheeses.
Providing refreshments was Manly's Winona Wine, who were pouring a selection of their finest chilled reds, oranges and sparkling wines for guests throughout the evening's affairs (do yourself a favour and get your hands on a bottle of Das Juice from their cellar).
Here, enjoy key moments from the evening, and see some of your favourite creative minds experience the sensory delights on offer.
Explore Armadillo's new Petra rug online at armadillo-co.com and in stores now.