Something is afoot in the world of tapestry. Having been rather left behind when the design world first decided that applied arts were on trend, it is now catching up fast. Witness works on show at Artists Meet Their Makers: Contemporary art re-interpreted by West Dean Tapestry Studio, an exhibition opening at the Crafts Study Centre in Farnham, Surrey, on April 4. Pairing artists including Tracey Emin, Michael Brennand-Wood and Biggs & Collings with master weavers such as Philip Sanderson and Katharine Swailes, it explores how a dialogue is established between disciplines.
West Dean Tapestry Studio has history in this regard, having opened as a commercial workshop in 1976 with a commission from Mary Moore to produce a piece from a drawing by her father, the artist and sculptor Henry Moore. At this new exhibition, however, Brennand-Wood has chosen to challenge the model for transforming a painting into tapestry by presenting Sanderson with a textile-based piece. “A tapestry is frequently woven from a drawing or painting,” Brennand-Wood says. “I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen when a textile talked to a textile.” The result is a piece (Transformer, £12,500) that references all Brennand-Wood’s motifs – a cartoon character, Italian lace, Kaitag embroideries – in a way that is surprisingly painterly.
Sanderson has also translated the work of artist and printmaker Rebecca Salter into a delicate tapestry (Untitled, price on request) that is not only informed by the original piece, but makes reference to the tonal range Salter has used in other works. Uncovered (price on request), meanwhile, is Swailes’ interpretation of a joyful abstract by Biggs & Collings. They are both tapestries that can – and should – be viewed as paintings.
Artists Meet Their Makers also includes a fascinating display of samples, notes, yarns, photographs and dye recipe books from West Dean Tapestry Studio’s dye laboratory, helping to widen appreciation and understanding of the weaver’s art. The show runs until July 1.
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