In an ambitious installation at the Palazzo Fortuny in Venice, Goodman has pulled together all the strands of her practice.  A walk through this exhibition, called ‘Gardens’, echoes the aesthetic journey the artist has taken since she left Ireland over twenty years ago. Goodman developed a flocking technique in her portrait paintings which involved fixing velvet powder onto canvas, a technique she subsequently applied to textiles.  She began working with a textile company Fantoccoli that printed her designs in delicate fabrics that were finished by hand with flocking. These fabrics, originally intended for clothing, were the initial impetus for the ‘Gardens’ show. Collaborating with fashion designer Duyan and with textile and furniture companies Clerici Tessuto/ Fantoccoli and Moroso, Goodman’s textiles transform the exhibition space into a dreamy world where utilitarian objects have become vehicles for self-expression, for poetry.


Palazzo Fortuny, the former home and atelier of pre-war artist/designer Mariano Fortuny, is a brilliant choice of venue for the show as it provides remarkable synchronicity. Fortuny developed unique processes for producing textiles, particularly the finely pleated silks that clung sensuously to the body. He invented textile stencilling and printing techniques and experimented with dyes that achieved rich, opulent colours, sometimes over-printed with gold. Goodman shares Fortuny’s experimental approach to fabrics, the breadth of his practice, his feel for the expressive potential of textiles as well as his tactile, sensuous style.

The entrance to the exhibition is through an oversized wardrobe filled with dresses, shoes and other objects from past collaborations. Visitors pass through this, like Alice falling through a rabbit hole, into a world of fantasy. The exhibition is organised as a series of separate spaces, each exploring the garden theme. In Flower Heart the bulbous furniture rises from a bed of real rose petals strewn on the ground. The sofas and chairs are like petals themselves, their form and placement echoing the curving shape of a flower bud. Goodman’s painted fabrics add another layer, reinforcing the motif.  Stepping Out is more restrained: a vertical garden which spills out from a two-dimensional carpet on the wall, flowing up and over poufs covered in Goodman textiles.  It has the feeling of a cool rock pool, of flowing water, of dappled light. In another space her re-fashioned Berlin Chair is like an elegant woman in a floaty ball gown. ‘Gardens’ encourages us to re-think furniture and living spaces, seeing how they might become the source of a poetic narrative. In the same way that a walk through a garden heightens the senses, she has constructed a sensorial path through the exhibition space that is lush, tactile and evocative.


Frances Ruane, Irish Arts Review

Nuala Goodman




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