Michelle Schmollgruber

Analogue cloud photo 100x150cm (template for tapestry), various types of wool. Photo: Michelle Schmollgruber

Photography and Michelle Schmollgruber found each other early on. Her interest in textile work was also not long in coming. Thus began the overlap between photographic and textile work, which has now grown over five decades – and the development of a practice that needs one thing above all: Time.

The time it takes to expose the sensor or film is too short for Michelle, photography too fast a medium. Only in slow motion do some things become visible. Only in the translation of photography through countless delicate knotting, embroidering, weaving gestures – through hand-work – does the image become whole. In a society that seeks to gain stability through acceleration, the decision to take the longest path between two points and beyond is a recalcitrant act, to say the least.

So is making space and time for knotting as a working woman confronted with societal expectations imposed on mothers – even if this activity continues to have a “female” connotation.

Based on a photograph, Michelle exposes the tapestry canvas with her hands. While the number of pixels may decrease in the translation from photograph to slowly emerging tapestry, the voluminous nature of the wool creates a three-dimensional space in the depth of which one can lose oneself.

“We touch things to assure ourselves of reality,” writes Anni Albers, a great textile artist who, as a woman in the 1920s, encountered difficulties in accessing male-dominated disciplines and was encouraged to work behind the loom. She later revolutionized the art of weaving.

Photography is neither the starting point nor the endpoint in Michelle Schmollgruber’s works, but always a node where the threads come together and diverge again. There is no either-or in her works; it is the wide connecting space in between that becomes exciting. Digital and analog merge – In rare cases the photograph remains as a two-dimensional portrait print, linked with questions to the photographed person that lead us into the depth.

Michelle Schmollgruber (*1967) works with textiles, makes street art as well as sound design and has been working with photography since her early youth. Her current works include the photographic spatial installations Feigenbaumszenario 1.0 – 4.0 (2020–2021), the project lamonstera – Zurück zu den Wurzeln (2020), and the photographic fragments mehr oder weniger ich (2019). Schmollgruber’s works have been shown, among other venues, as part of Slide Show: Rethinking Nature at the photo festivals FOTO WIEN (2022), IMAGO LISBOA (2021) and Mois européen de la photographie Luxembourg (2021), at Fotoforum Innsbruck (2016), in the context of the Democracy Congress Innsbruck (2011) and at Galerie im Andechshof Innsbruck (2000).