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Irene Alvarez: Turn Me Op

This is what happens when glittery lurex, Walt Disney, synthetic fluo, marijuana aliens and the Incas come together in one expo

With a neo-ethnic altar for RA13 concept store Antwerp, a collaboration with australian-born, Antwerp-based menswear designer Mic Eaton of Material Boy in the form of a series of Totem-style illustrated T-shirts and the collective 'Get the Haze' show at the Museumsquartier in Viena already in her proverbial woven bag of tricks, Spanish textile artist Irene Alvarez is ready to move on to different shores. New York, more especifically, where progressive concept store Seven is currently housing an installation of 'TURN ME OP', Irene's most recent project in collaboration with the Audax Textielmuseum Tilburg. We spoke to the artist about the result - a clash of optically dizzying patterns, colorfully twisted cartoons, ethnic skulls and pop psychedelia, ready to change the face of tapestry design.


Dazed Digital: How did your collaboration with the Audax Textielmuseum for your installation at Seven come about?
Irene Alvarez:
I started collaborating with the Audaxtextiel museum, Tilburg, in 2009 when RA13 asked me to make a sculpture for their store. I wanted to mix my background in sculpture with textile because of the context where it was going to be in. "Inti Altar" was the result. A metaphoric altar composed by a sculpture in relief and a carpet. From then on I really got into weaving my illustrations and continued to make projects related to textile. The last project was TURN ME OP. A series of tapestries. It was important for me to make several woven pieces because i wanted to show different things. 

DD: What were you biggest inspirations behind it?
Irene Alvarez:
My biggest inspirations was the meeting point between Op Art, Pop Art, ethnic art, cartoons and optical illusions.

DD: How did you manage to create the optical illusion effect?
Irene Alvarez:
What is amazing about working with textile is how you can work with an infinite possibility of weaving techniques or yarns. For the tapestries i wanted to create a twined hologram surface. Viscose is incredibly shiny and reflective, becoming really handy in the making for the background.

Glittery Lurex, glowing fluo colors, glossy synthetic yarns mixed with matt acrylics gave a contrast where some parts of my drawings seemed detached, or coming upfront from the woven base creating an optical effect.  

DD: Why did you decide to venture into textile design?
Irene Alvarez:
Living for five years in Antwerp gives you a big landscape in art/fashion, influencing me to get into textile design. I started to work on my illustrations and translated these into fabric.

DD: You also have a background in sculpture - how did it influence your textiles and illustration work?
Irene Alvarez:
Sculpture gives you great experience to think in materials, textures, and translating your drawings to three dimensions or to anything else you want.

DD: What is your connection to latin american and ethnic art?
Irene Alvarez:
Ethnic art has always captivated me. Especially the art of the Incas. There is something incredibly magnetic in their ways of expressing their culture. Their figurative art is stunning. So simple in the form and abstract at the same time.

DD: You use a lot of references to Walt Disney and cartoons - does this reflect some kind of Peter Pan syndrome, or is it a social comment? Why do you choose to incorporate elements of pop culture?
Irene Alvarez:
Pop culture is our daily bread and evolving very fast. Certain images like skulls, marijuana aliens, smiley faces or Mickey Mouse have become icons, we use written abbreviations as a perfectly understandable language for social networks like OMG, XXX, etc. I link pop culture to the animation or cartoon world, going out to rave parties or taking a walk through a city full of huge screens and LED lights.

I wanted to engage the viewers perception through optical effects. We are constantly seeing images that want to retain our attention on internet or TV. When you see an optical illusion image, your eyes have to constantly look at one point. This way you will not get dizzy. But the fact is that it becomes very difficult to not look at various places on a picture. I see this as a metaphor of our audiovisual culture.

DD: You have said you wanted to give new meaning to our western references - what is the message and you want to convey through your work?
Irene Alvarez:
My focus is to give a different point of view to our western references. I love to take icons or symbols that are rooted in our memories and give them a turn in a way that you can create different meanings or see things differ.

DD: What are your plans for the future after this expo?
Irene Alvarez:
I am moving to Berlin very soon! And so excited planning my next travel to Peru!


TURN ME OP is on show at Seven New York  until the 31st of January 2012