Antonia Reiner Q & A with Antonia Reiner

Interview by Ren Tomovcik
( Photo by Zeynep Ergincan)

Ottawa fibre artist Antonia Reiner has had a big year.  Following her graduation from the Ottawa School of Art with the school's first ever Fine Crafts certification, her innovative and intricate textile artwork has been featured in several exhibits, and her creativity is growing with each installation.

Ghost Dresses is her current installation, a delicate and haunting trio of pieces inspired by the long-lost heroines of ancient myths.  Antonia chats with Ottawafocus about her artistic growth, her love of textiles, and her appreciation for Ottawa's close-knit artistic community.

Antonia, why did you initially decide to apply to art school?I had taken a number of art classes at the Ottawa School of Art over the years: ceramics, acrylic painting, printmaking. I was always on the lookout for a fibre class that didn’t exist yet, but as soon as they offered it as an option with the Fine Crafts Certificate Programme I applied.  That was in 2007. It was great to be taught by practicing artists, and that alone gives OSA a particular kind of energy.

What did you learn at OSA that significantly altered your artistic development?
I learned a lot, both in terms of technique and of liberating my expressive abilities. Above all, the advice and encouragement of other artists was a crucial part of my development. I learned to be more ambitious in my work, more self-assured and direct in what I try to convey. The school also gives you your first taste of exhibiting your work, and that is such an important milestone.

Antonia Reiner (Left: Cherry Bag, photo by Karen Goetzinger)

How did you start working with textiles specifically?I have always had a love of textiles. Growing up in Rome, we took beautiful things for granted, including access to fabulous textiles and fashion!

I find it very spontaneous to be creative through fibre: it allows me to play with colour, texture, shape, the idea of doing and undoing, the potential for turning thread into sculpture. Plus, I like instant gratification. I was too impatient when I worked with clay!

What inspires your work?Music, memory, literature, landscapes. I am always listening to music, and what I listen to influences the piece I am working on.

My Ghost Dresses at the Shenkman Arts Centre are inspired by Ovid’s Metamorphoses, for example. It gives me great pleasure to think that poetry can find an echo in the physical world!

Textile arts are currently undergoing a 'revival.'  Why do you think that is?There is so much innovation in the use of fibre, not just textiles but alternative media, such as fiberoptics, metal, plastics, paper, you name it… I think  there is a general trend to rediscovering apparently humble materials that are potentially so expressive and evocative.

All art and craft is somewhat linked to tradition. Fibre art perhaps more so than others, at least in the public perception. I certainly had to learn the very traditional craft of sewing and constructing before I allowed myself the satisfaction of unravelling a piece to discover what lies at the heart of silk.

Antonia Reiner (Left: Unraveled Rainbow, photo by Kathrin von Dehn)

What do you think about the state of the arts in Ottawa? Do you feel supported by the community as an artist?Ottawa strikes me as a city of contradictions. It is an international capital city, but it feels less than cosmopolitan. Art viewers have access to national-calibre galleries and theatre, as well as a large variety of commercial galleries; but you don’t often get the feeling that people here will go for something really edgy. There’s a conservatism at the heart of this place, which I know many artists are trying to challenge.

Occasionally  you do stumble on a true gem, like Lou Hayden’s ‘Lost Shoes’ exhibition at the Raw Sugar Café earlier this year. It was one of my favourite Ottawa shows ever!  So far I have experienced really positive feedback from those who have seen my work; and Ottawa artists are part of an extremely supportive community.

Who are some local creative people who inspire you?I am fortunate in having been mentored by local fibre artist Karen Goetzinger, who is one of the most supportive and positive persons I have met. Her work is vibrant and joyous, and is always an inspiration. Wendy Feldberg, a friend and also a fibre artist living in Ottawa, draws great, profound beauty from her embroideries. And she is also a fountain of wisdom! Jim Thomson I must also mention here, as I love his ceramics and collect his pieces, but he was also my first teacher at OSA all those years ago, and he is the one who first encouraged me to go further in my own self-expression.

Antonia Reiner
Detail from Ghost Quilts (photo: Antonia Reiner)

What's next for you in 2010?I am busy at work with a series of burlap and silk pieces: large, expressionistic wall-hangings that would be at home in a big, well-lit gallery. I also plan to make a monumental version of my Ghost series; it would be an ambitious, interactive installation, which would require a suitably impressive space. I am learning to knit with metal wire, and am quite in love with the Nuno felting technique.There is so much going on...

  • Visit Antonia's website to see more of her work
  • Check out her Facebook page for additional info and to become a fan
  • See her work in the OSA Alumni Exhibition at the Shenkman Arts Centre until November 22nd, along with the work of other past and present OSA students.

SHENKMAN ARTS CENTRE, 245 Centrum Blvd., Orleans

Monday to Thursday | 9:00 am to 8:30 pm
Friday an | 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday | 11:00 to 5:00 pm
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