Expert Ease: Textile Artist Sébastien Courty

Art. What it expresses and how it’s expressed has changed radically over the decades and continues to spark heated debates. One of today’s most thought-provoking concepts is from Sébastien Courty, a Frenchman working and living in New York with commercial and private clients throughout the world.

Following a career that began with painting and then eclipsed into the creation of three-dimensional, hand- and screen-printed fabrics, some of which became women’s fashions, he is now focusing on weaving – but with a twist.

Courty explains it this way: “My goal is always to push the boundaries of any medium I use. I do not want to create something practical, but a piece of art. I choose textiles (for my subject matter) because these offer unlimited forms and ways to work with it. Weaving is a really interesting process. It allows you to play with volume, texture, consistency, color and much more.”

Imbued with this “visceral tangibility” as he terms it, are his six new 13 x 60 woven pieces called “totems,” each one regarded as “a sacred object that serves as a unique and symbolic artwork for a particular country, and an invitation to travel and discover parts of the world one has yet to explore.”

Five of Courty’s totems. From left to right: Peru, Ivory Coast, India, China and New Zealand. (Tanzania not shown.)

The countries he chose for this collection, which was first exhibited in Hyères, France in the summer of 2018, are Peru, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, India, China and New Zealand. While selected randomly, the materials used for each reflect the primary items each country exports, including rubber, corn fiber, precious stones and other substances not normally associated with weaving, as well as its culture.

“Together, they draft a singular identity through natural resources and commercial success,” he says, “transporting viewers into the country itself, enabling them to learn more about its social and economic life.

“Pushing textiles to the front of the art scene,” Courty argues, “is long overdue. They have been a fundamental part of human life since the beginning of time and must be constantly reinvented and challenged for the future.”

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