Portuguese artist Vanessa Barragão pays homage to the ocean with her incredible sculptural textile art. Her textured woolen rugs, tapestries, and wall hangings are made using a variety of techniques to transform discarded industrial textile waste into forms that mimic the organic coral structures found in the sea. Her recent works, Coral Garden and Ocean Tapestry address the huge scale at which the textile industry pollutes the natural environment.
“The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world,” Barragão explains. “All the machinery used requires tons of energy while producing a lot of waste and disposable trash. It is extremely harmful for our planet and it affects all of its different natural environments, particularly the ocean which absorbs 90% of the atmosphere pollution.”
Barragão tries to be as eco-friendly as possible when creating her work, which is why she not only uses recycled material, but she also meticulously produces everything by hand. Rather than use machinery to render her large structures, Barragão practices age-old techniques such as crochet, latch hook, hand-tufting, embroidery, felting, and knitting. The resulting textile structures comprise a vast range of textures and colors.
For Coral Garden, Barragão created an immersive installation from an artisanal rug factory’s deadstock supplies. The stunning collection explores the harmful effects of global warming on coral reefs. A large textile wall panel depicts a plush, richly colored reef on one side, while the other is rendered in a more muted color palette, visualizing the devastating effect of coral bleaching. Similarly, the artist’s Ocean Tapestry piece is made using woolen yarns in cold, blue hues.
Barragão hopes that her work will help raise awareness of environmental issues and that people will make an effort to improve our Earth’s health. She says, “These living and complex natural organisms [coral reefs] are the heart of an immense habitat of marine species which depend on one another to survive. Without this pilar, a major part of sea life can become close to extinction which will ultimately affect us and many other living species.”
You can see more of Barragão’s fantastic work on her website.