Artist Joana Schneider originally hails from Germany. She incorporates old fishing nets into her works and with refined artisanal techniques highlights their coarseness. Through her works, Schneider shares what she sees, the beauty that is hidden in daily labor.
Immense, resolute, and full of energy are how some art critics describe emerging artist Joana Schneider’s textile works. Schneider has been inspired by the fishermen and net makers of Katwijk aan Zee, a small town along Holland’s coast. Located 16 kilometers north of The Hague, it is known for its beautiful beaches and coastal scenery. From the Middle Ages, people here have relied on fishing. However, the fishing industry is now in decline. Schneider, who is concerned about social structure and relationships, as well as labor issues, has been deeply affected by the people in the fishing industry and the artisanal beauty of their work.
Schneider is from the inland city of Munich in southern Germany. Before studying textile design at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, she never thought that fishermen, beaches, and harbors would have such deep influence on her works. She spent a great deal of time studying with netmakers in Katwijk aan Zee and attempts to incorporate their techniques, as well as the coarse and flexible materials used in the fishing industry, into her works.
For her “Mask” series, Schneider and sail makers used regenerated and recycled fishing rope of propylene and nylon, weaving these materials to arm’s thickness to create massive hanging tapestries of motifs with facial features. While exploring possibilities for and boundaries of creativity, Schneider discovered her enthusiasm for works that are taller and heavier than her. For example, Totem Raufen measures nearly four meters in height and weighs 250 kilograms. These large-scale works also reveal a sense of the dramatic.
“The larger they (my works) are, I feel that I am almost unable to control them at first,” she says. Standing in front of one, Schneider appears small as she adds, “But, finally, I am able to do it. That makes me very happy.”
Labor takes on many forms in human civilizations. To Schneider, these large masks are her effort to use surreal methods to call into question the current state of neglect, distortion, commercialization of labor, as well as its gender inequalities. At the same time, by using fishing nets that have been eroded by waves, mud, and sand over many years, Schneider calls on people to look at the beauty which is hidden in daily labor.
The heyday of Katwijk aan Zee’s fishing industry is past. At its height 100 years ago, there were 130 ships. Today, there are only around 10. As people linger on its beaches and this period of history is gradually forgotten, Schneider’s works leave behind important impressions of this ancient fishing town.
Check it out