Dubbeldam, The Netherlands 1947 – Perth, Western Australia, Australia 2001
– 15 March, 2001
Subiaco, Perth, Western Australia, Australia
Materials & Technique: textiles, silk, cotton: batik-dyed, stitched
Western Australian textile artist Elsje van Keppel visited the Netherlands in 1989 to reconnect with her Dutch cultural background. However, it was during the return journey to Australia, when she visited Jakarta and met artists at the Brahma Tirta Sari Batik Studio in Yogyakarta, that a more potent Dutch‑Indonesian textile history engaged her attention. From then, she explored traditional batik, quilting, felting and expressive stitch in works that grew from a heightened awareness of environment and the role of textile arts in expressing a view of landscape inflected by the colonial experience.
Using natural plant-derived dyes, batik and loosely layered and stitched pieced quilting, van Keppel opened up a new language for textiles in Western Australia and demonstrated an understanding of the transformative processes of nature and environment in the Australian bush. Heartbeat hangs freely away from the wall, casting coloured shadows from each of its myriad stitched elements to evoke the effects of dappled light through tree canopies.
Van Keppel gained an Associateship in Art Teaching from the Western Australian Institute of Technology in 1972 and a Graduate Diploma in Art and Design from the University of London in 1979. She also studied for a year in the Textiles Embroidery Department of the Fine Arts School at Goldsmiths College in London. As a teacher and mentor, she was highly influential on a younger generation of Western Australian artists who worked with her in studio and bush workshops until her death in 2001.
Robert Bell AM Senior Curator, Decorative Arts and Design
in artonview, issue 72, Summer 2012/13