On face value, a ball of string might not seem the most exciting object in an artist’s tool box. But in the right creative hands, embroidery thread, cord, and yarn can be used to create incredible masterpieces. Today, string art is utilized for artistic DIY projects, but it’s also evolved into a respected, contemporary art form.
In the case of installation art, many contemporary artists have adopted lengths of string to transform light-flooded spaces into ethereal landscapes. Other artists prefer to confine their works to boards or canvases, where interwoven strings are anchored by pins or bolts. The crisscross of colorful string results in captivating, three-dimensional art.
What is string art?
Also known as thread art, the origins of string art go back to the 19th century, when Englishwoman Mary Everest Boole used a form of string art called “curve stitching” to help teach children mathematics. This process influenced fellow mathematician Pierre Bézier, who in 1962 developed the Bèzier curve.
This mathematical development inspired artists such as John Eichinger, who specialized in creating geometric designs which he referred to as “string mandalas.” This began a fad for hobbyists, who used the first string art kits in the late 1960s to create homemade string art for their walls.
Several decades later, today’s contemporary artists continue to innovate the use of string, demonstrating that this humble material shows no artistic bounds.
Here are 8 artists who are taking string art to the next level.
Inspired by string art’s mathematical origins, Australian artist Nike Savvas is renowned for her physically immersive and optically dazzling installations. Her large-scale works are made from specific geometric formulas, resulting in three-dimensional wooden structures covered in geometric patterns of colorful wool.
Mexican artist Gabriel Dawe is known for transforming grand architectural spaces into prismatic worlds. For his ongoing series, Plexus, the artist explores the connection between fashion and architecture. He uses thousands of single strands of sewing thread hooked onto walls, ceilings, and architectural elements. The delicate pieces of string seem to play with the space and light to create mesmerizing explosions of color, just like an indoor rainbow.
In 2013, Japanese artist Chiharu Shiota presented In Silence, a site-specific installation for Art Basel, representing an eerie, burnt out concert hall, where a grand piano, along with row upon row of empty chairs seemed to be engulfed by a thick layer of black smoke-like thread. Since then, Shiota continues to exhibit internationally, presenting rooms wrapped in webs of single-color thread. Her latest exhibition‚ Direction at the Art Museum of Bergen in Norway explores the artist’s memories of life, death, human relationships.