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Bagatelles installation 2, 2011, New Brunswick Museum, St John, NB, 6 pieces of 210x140cm panels, photo: Istvan Zsako


Bagatelles1 front, 2011, Hand embroidery and acid dye on 3 layers of silk, 210x140cm, photo: Istvan Zsako




Artist: Anna Torma of Baie Verte, New Brunswick,

Interview 88: Anna exhibited in the 2012 World of Threads Festival exhibition Material Connections at Lonsdale Gallery, Toronto.

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Interviews published by Gareth Bate & Dawne Rudman.




Anna Torma was born in Tarnaors, Hungary. Her interest in working with textiles goes back to early childhood when she learned to embroider from her mother and grandmothers. Torma graduated with a degree in Textile Art and Design from the Hungarian University of Applied Arts, Budapest, Hungary in 1979. She has been an exhibiting artist since that time; producing mainly large-scale hand embroidered wall hangings and collages. She immigrated to Canada in 1988.

Torma's work has been profiled in numerous publications including Bordercrossings, Selvedge and Walrus magazines, as well as The Globe and Mail and National Post.

Anna Torma has exhibited her work internationally and represented in public collections including the Museum of Art and Design, New York; La Peau de l'Ours, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Ministry of Heritage and Culture, Hungary; Foreign Affairs Canada; Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and MSVU Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; New Brunswick Art Bank; and Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.

In 2005, Torma received a UNESCO Aschberg Bursary to attend a residence at Cooperations in Wiltz, Luxembourg to complete her embroidery project with mentally handicapped artists. In 2007 she spent 4 months in Paris, France as a recipient of the Canada Council's Paris Studios Grant. In 2008 she received the Strathbutler Award from the Sheila-Hugh Mackay Foundation. In 2010 her solo exhibition: Transverbal was exhibited at the Galerie'd art' d Outremont in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Her latest work is an istallation project: Bagatelles mounted at the New Brunswick Museum in St John, New Brunswick, Canada. Anna's website.


Artist Anna Torma in her studio.


Tell us about your work?

My art practice is craft based. I have a long history of producing large scale hand embroideries and exhibiting them internationally.


Transverbal 6, hand embroidery, 54 x 51 inches, photo: Istvan Zsako

Detail: Transverbal 6, hand embroidery, 54 x 51 inches, photo: Istvan Zsako


From where do you get your inspiration?

I have many concerns about the world but usually choose subjects what I like. Nature and museums, books films and food, music, gardens, family and friends, it can be anything around me.


Transverbal 7, hand embroidery, 54 x 51 inches, photo: Istvan Zsako


Why did you choose to go into fibre art?

For practical reasons, at the beginning I had no opportunity to practice any other form of art-making than hand embroidery.


Bestiary3 detail, 2004, Hand embroidery on linen, cotton threads, 150x134cm, photo: Istvan Zsako


What other mediums do you work in, and how does this inform your fibre work?

Drawing has always been present in my fibre works. Recently I want to give it a different role with larger gestures and the aesthetics of excess. The result will manifest not just as textiles but in works of paper as well.


Drawing 1 work in progress, 2010, Pencil and hand embroidery on silk, 80x80cm, photo: Istvan Zsako


What specific historic artists have influenced your work? 

Here I'd like to talk about my favourite museums, which partly covers the question.

Brooklyn Museum in New York City. I visit this place as often as I can. I like the dedication to show women artists. Last time I saw a spectacular survey of paperwork from Kiki Smith, visited the permanent collection with Judy Chicago and Ghada Amer. Close to the Museum is the Botanical Gardens, it is a heavenly combo for my traveling soul.

L'Art Brut, Lausanne in Switzerland. I visited the exhibition: L'Envers et L' Endroit in 2007 and discovered outsider artists working with fibre around the world in this beautifully curated show. A few names of my favourites: Madge Gill, Judith Scott, and a soulful embroiderer: Jules Leclercq.

The most beautiful museum, which is very near to my heart (and nature) is also located in Switzerland: Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern. The new building and the oeuvre of my favourite painter is worth a visit alone, but I was lucky to see his puppets in a temporary exhibition and experience his universal talent in painting, drawing, theater, textiles and teaching.


World of Threads Suggests:
"Judy Chicago: The Dinner Party: From Creation to Preservation"


Vanitas1, 2011, Hand embroidery on one layer of silk, 153x135cm, photo: Istvan Zsako



What specific contemporary artists have influenced your work? 

Cy Twombly, American painter comes to my mind first. I always liked his minimal, grafitti style early works, but his late paintings about roses speaks to my heart.

Another graffiti artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat's works are always freeing my spirit. I think art can be practiced by everyone and everywhere.

And a young Canadian artist, Luanne Martineau from Montreal, she is fantastic and her works speaks to me. 


World of Threads Suggests:
"Cy Twombly: A Monograph"


Vanitas1 detail, photo: Istvan Zsako


What other fibre artists are you interested in?

First I must mention Margit Szilvitzky, Budapest, Hungary. She was my professor and mentor in my university years. She produced contemporary works based on fibre, and gave us a broader view than official aesthetics of the late socialist state (Hungary).

The others, the big names, like Nick Cave, El Anatsui, Ernesto Neto, Sheila Hicks, Annette Messager, are fantastic examples that interest in craft or materiality does not restrict practicioners anymore to get the highest visibility in visual art.

Back to my Hungarian roots, I'd like to mention my friend from university years, Nora Levai, who also became a contemporary fibre artist using fine lace-like embroidery for her storytelling.

Andrea Dezso is a younger generation's talent, originally from Transsylavnia, now living and practicing in New York City. I am always happy to see her soulful creations criss-crossing all borders of all mediums from bookmaking through embroideries, ending with mosaics or cut outs from steel, in high traffic public spaces.


World of Threads Recommends:
"El Anatsui: Art and Life"


Vanitas2, 2011, Hand embroidery and digital prints on one layer of silk, 174x87cm, photo: Istvan Zsako


Have you experienced fluctuations in your productivity and how have your expectations changed through the years?

In my early years I was responsible to raise children, my time with art was very precious, but was always there. Now I am a professional artist, producing solo exhibitions and I'm invited to group shows, I can't afford any fluctuations.



Vanitas2 detail, photo: Istvan Zsako


What project/piece has given you the most satisfaction and why?

Always the latest: Bagatelles at Museum New Brunswick. This is my first installation; it contains six large painted and hand embroidered silk panels hanging in a half-circle. The front and back of the works are both visible, allowing the viewer to explore the differing positive-negative aspects, while allowing for close examination and viewing from a distance. I am very excited to exhibit embroideries in this way because it allows for the portrayal of the macro and microcosms of my inhabited fibre universe simultaneously.


Bagatelles1 front, 2011, Hand embroidery and acid dye on 3 layers of silk, 210x140cm, photo: Istvan Zsako


What is your philosophy about the Art that you create?

I hope my embroidered drawings resonate not only with technical skills but also with a sympathy for what we don't usually think of as high art.


Bagatelles3-4 front, 2011, Hand embroidery and acid dye on 3 layers of silk, 210x280cm, photo: Istvan Zsako


How did you initially start showing your work in galleries?

When I came to Canada, the Craft Gallery at McCaul St., Toronto just opened. I applied for a show and I was accepted. Then I had a show at the Prime Gallery, Toronto and slowly my career took off.


Bagatelles 3 front, detail, photo: Istvan Zsako


Can you talk a bit about the commercial viability of fibre art and do you find it more difficult to show and sell your work than non-fibre artists?

This recession is not a selling time for any medium, but probably it depends upon your reputation, location and gallery who is willing to carry your work.



Bagatelles3-4 back, 2011, Hand embroidery on 3 layers of silk, 210x280cm, photo: Istvan Zsako


What role do you think fibre art plays in contemporary art?

We are witnessing the dissolving of borders between classical fine art mediums, materiality and meaning which can be manifest in many new and hybrid ways. The best textile or fibre art is a natural fit to this movement.



Bagatelles 2 front detail, photo: Istvan Zsako

Bagatelles 6 front detail, photo: Istvan Zsako


Tell us about your studio and how you work:

My home is my studio, my work is my life.



Bagatelles 2 back detail, photo: Istvan Zsako


What do you consider to be the key factors to a successful career as a fibre artist?

Serious or full time engagement with every aspect of your work.


Bagatelles installation 1, 2011, New Brunswick museum, St John, NB, 6 pieces of 210x140cm
panels, photo: Istvan Zsako


Where do you imagine your work in five years? 

I hope my life will be more balanced. I wish to make longer plans with my art, time and money.


Bagatelles installation 2, 2011, New Brunswick Museum, St John, NB, 6 pieces of 210x140cm panels, photo: Istvan Zsako

Bagatelles installation full, photo: Istvan Zsako


What interests you about the World of Threads Festival?

I like the international aspects, the versatility of sites and the good curatorial concept.


Play1 detail, 2012, Hand embroidery on silk, photo: Istvan Zsako


Do you have any upcoming shows?

Bagatelles, Palais Montcalm, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, July 29 - September 22, 2013

New Works, L.A. Pai Gallery, Ottawa, ON Canada, from September 19, 2013

Anna Torma: Embroideries, L. A. Pai Gallery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, October, 2013

Short Stories: Narrative works by Nate Steigenga, Anna Torma and Cappy Thompson, Bellevue Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, USA, October 10, 2013 - January 19, 2014

Anna Torma: Parlando, Hamilton Artist's Inc, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, January 9 - February 8, 2014

Recent Works, Gallery Page and Strange, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada October 3-24, 2014


Play3 detail, 2012, Hand embroidery and digital print on silk, photos: Istvan Zsako, photo: Istvan Zsako


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