It seems as though tapestry is shaking off its dusty image and coming to the forefront as a contemporary art medium. Now Sir Peter Blake and Peter Saville have joined the revival with fantastic loom creations for a major tapestry exhibition ‘Weaving the Century: Tapestry from Dovecot Studios 1912-2012’.
Grayson Perry has recently found something of an affinity with the heavy cloth. He created six tapestries as a riff on William Hogarth’s ‘A Rake’s Progress’ which were charted in a three-part Channel 4 series, ‘In the Best Possible Taste’. He used tapestry to literally weave an exploration of class mobility in contemporary British society. There has also been a recent show of pop art tapestries by Ted Willcox at the Museum of Everything.
The latest textile event to hit the art world is taking place in Edinburgh. Dovecot studios is one of the world’s leading tapestry studios and is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. To mark the occasion they have opened an exhibition, ‘Weaving the Century’, incorporating over sixty iconic tapestries, rugs, and works from Britain and American.
Among the artist-collaborators are no less than Sir Peter Blake, David Hockney, Elizabeth Blackadder and Eduardo Paolozzi. Rarely seen works by Paul Gauguin, Cecil Beaton, Louise Nevelson, Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland will also be on display.
Dovecot was first founded by the Marquess of Bute and the studio evolved from William Morris’ prestigious Merton Abbey Craft Studio. It has continued to forge artistic links. Head weaver Jonathan Cleaver believes artists are drawn to Dovecot’s highly specialised rendering skills. “We don’t use digital technology to match colours”, he says, “We do it all by eye.” The exhibition, curated by art historian Dr Elizabeth Cumming, will be the first time such a vast collection of works produced by Dovecot has been shown together.
New exciting commissions were made for the 2012 Centenary by Peter Saville and Peter Blake. Dovecot has collaborated with Sir Peter Blake to create a collection of signed limited edition tapestries inspired by his iconic designs and with Peter Saville on a tapestry of his re-appropriation of Peter Blake’s appropriation of Sir Edwin Landeer’s 181 painting ‘Monarch of the Glen’.
It is fantastic to see Sir Peter Blake’s work translated into tapestry, his legendary pop art style lending itself readily to the weaver’s skills. The textural dimension created through the painstaking weaving reveals the rich artistic potential of modern tapestry. Equally, Peter Saville’s ‘After After Monarch of the Glen’ has had new life breathed into it by the very act of weaving.
Surprisingly though it may seem, the Godfather of British pop has confirmed that tapestry is well and truly making a comeback.
David HockneyA Tapestry made from a Painting, made from a Painting of a Tapestry, made from a Painting (Play within a Play,1st edition) (1969) Weavers: Douglas Grierson, Maureen Hodge, FredMann and Harry Wright Cotton warp, wool © David Hockney. Photo by Richard Schmidt
Sir Eduardo Paolozzi Detail: Whitworth Tapestry (1967-8)Cotton warp, wool Weavers: Archie Brennan, Douglas Grierson, Fred Mann, Harry Wright Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester After
Paul Gauguin La Orana Maria (1946)Wool Weavers: Ronald Cruickshank and John Louttit National Museums of Scotland
Peter Blake Based on the ‘I love’ series. On the loom. Completed July 2012.Wool cotton warpWeaver: Naomi Robertson