Julia Gutman’s (b.1993) multidisciplinary practice is anchored by an experimental textile process, with which she interrogates her own relationships and the performance of selfhood. Her figurative works are made primarily from donated fabric – worn clothes, slept-in sheets – and often replicate compositional moments from historical artworks, using her friends as models to respond to and reinvent the originals. Garments often become physical artifacts of the past – stand-ins for those we have lost, or relics of who we once were. In this sense, Gutman works with the textures of memory, using found textiles as a vehicle for connection and collaboration.
While Gutman’s process is labour intensive, it is not precious; edges are rough, seams are wonky and images are frayed all over. Her mode of sewing is at once tender and aggressive. She brings together disparate things in an act of ‘mending’, but violently punctures and rips the materials in order to do so. Not a seamstress in the traditional sense, her process is much like painting. The stories of the materials intertwine with the imagery to create a layered narrative.
In May 2023, Gutman was awarded the Archibald prize, making her the youngest winner in 85 years. She was one of six exhibiting artists in Primavera at Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art Australia in 2022. Her work has been exhibited across Australia and internationally in Rome, Milan and New York.