In the middle of the winter it’s quite lovely to weave a tapestry reminding you about summertime. This tapestry is woven from the side using a very complex technique. The 4th image shows the design in the correct direction. Finished, the tapestry will measure about 48 ins high and 72 ins wide. I started the tapestry in November 2016 and I estimate that the weaving process will take me through late spring. The tapestry will be available for sale when completed.
Contemporary Tapestry Weaving – firstname.lastname@example.org
POSTED April 14, 2016
Earlier this week, fifty-eight years after it was commissioned, a seventy-square-foot wool tapestry by Le Corbusier was finally installed at the Sydney Opera House. The work was originally commissioned by the architect who designed the iconic waterfront opera house, Jørn Utzon. At that time Utzon was an unknown and Le Corbusier, at the height of his career, rarely collaborated with other architects, reports Caroline Taïx, Le Monde’s Sydney-based correspondent
In 1960, Le Corbusier delivered the red and black tapestry titled Les Dés Sont Jetés (The Dice Are Cast), but, as the opera was still under construction, Utzon kept it in his home in Denmark. Then, in 1965 amidst construction delays, budget problems, and creative differences, Utzon left the project. In 1973 when the opera finally opened, neither the architect nor the tapestry went to Sydney.
Utzon died in 2008 and The Dice Are Cast was sold at as part of an auction of his collection last year. It was purchased more than $300,000 by donors to the Sydney Opera.
March 18 – April 29, 2016
OPENING RECEPTION | MARCH 18, 6 – 8 PM | FREE
“Impact” explores the motivations of the artist to create. We ask the artist to answer through their artwork, “What inspires you? Who or what is the driving force behind your need to create? What has left an impression on you that lead you to become the artist you are today?” Whether it is a mentor, an event, a concept, or a personal revelation, this exhibition will examine the many avenues that impact the contemporary artist.
Ann Aurbach, Darcy Berg, Joyce Blunk, Matthew Boonstra, Christine Casten, Dion Dion, Emily Dvorin, Michael Fischerkeller, Morris Fletcher, Marni Gable, Jennifer Halli, Michelle Hamilton, Lisa Hinrichs, Mercedes Jelinek, Kris Kessinger, Ruth Kolker, Ulrika Leander, Heather Macali, Melissa McCutcheon, Ed McKay, Rachel Meginnes, Caitlin Metz, Linda Mueller, William Neukomm, Sara Nordling, Elizabeth Odiorne, Geoffrey Parker, Judith Repke, Rachel Santel, Carolyn Schlueter, Elizabeth Sharpe, Suzanne Sidebottom, Samuel Strecker, Michelle Streiff, Brittany Taylor, Ben Underwood, Barbara Watler, Jerry Walters, Teresa Wang, Peggy Wyman, and David Yates.
Jane Sauer is a studio artist, juror, lecturer, curator and former owner of Jane Sauer Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. She served as Chair of the American Craft Council 1997-2000, besides serving on numerous other art related boards, and is currently the owner of Sauer Art Consultants.
Sauer’s woven sculptures often consist of pairs or small groups and explore human relationships, particularly those in her own life. Her list of honors includes two NEA grants and taking first place at the Fourth International Exhibit of Miniature Textiles at the British Crafts Centre in London. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC, the Saint Louis Art Museum, the American Craft Museum in New York, the Detroit Institute of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut.
Black Night (in 3 parts), Jane Sauer
Concurrence, Jane Sauer
Elaborate Layers, Jane Sauer
Foundry Art Centre
520 N. Main Center
St. Charles, MO 63301
For many European tourists in Egypt a stop at the art centre in Harraniyyah is an essential part of their holiday experience. The centre, which was founded in 1952 by the architect Ramses Wissa Wassef, is now a prominent landmark on the cultural landscape of contemporary Egypt and its artistic products are popular with collectors, museums and galleries around the globe. This article highlights a Harraniyyah tapestry recently acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum and considers its distinctive history and design aesthetic.
Despite its established reputation today, the art centre evolved from a bold piece of 1950s experimentation. Its founders, Ramses Wissa Wassef, his wife Sophie and her father, the educator Habib Gorgi, held a passionate belief in the inherent creativity of children; a creativity which they considered to be easily stifled by overly-critical parenting and teaching styles. They were also dedicated to the revival of traditional Egyptian crafts techniques such as pottery and weaving which they felt to be under threat from expanding industrialisation. In 1952 the Wassefs and Gorgi purchased a small piece of land outside the village of Harraniyyah, near the pyramids of Gizah, where they built a small studio in a traditional Upper-Egyptian mud-brick style. They selected several local children and provided each with a loom and locally-grown wool. The children were given no training in design skills and were encouraged to visualise their designs rather than make preliminary drawings in order to preserve the ‘freshness’ of their aesthetic vision. For the same reason, the woven portion of a child’s work was kept rolled up so that the weaver wouldn’t be able to see the whole until the textile was complete.
Design inspiration came in the form of day trips, outings and picnics but the children were also encouraged to draw deeply on their imaginations. No criticism was made of their work as developing the children’s confidence was paramount. Slowly, a distinctive style emerged. The most common subjects were aspects of village life and the natural world. Fantastical, imaginary scenes and creatures also featured. These were depicted in bold colour, with wools dyed onsite using natural dyes according to the centre’s emphasis on self-sufficiency.
Most of the committed weavers were female but in 1959 a twelve-year-old boy asked to join the centre. ‘Ali Salim went on to become one of its best-known weavers. The tapestry recently acquired by the V&A was created by Salim. It is dated 1985 and includes the weaver’s signature at the bottom right alongside the initials ‘W.W’ (for Wissa Wassef). On a label on the back, the maker’s name is also given as ‘Korayem Silem’. Typically, the tapestry depicts a scene from the natural world, ‘Animals by the watering hole’, in which elephants wade, baboons play in a tree, lions hunt their quarry (a herd of gazelles) and birds rest in the trees above. Despite its naïve style, the lively animals and the blocks of colour used to depict the trees, plants and natural landscape give the tapestry an energy and dynamism. The weaving technique is characteristic of the art centre’s style which sought to produce ‘woven paintings’ rather than conventional tapestries. Instead of carrying the weft thread across the full width of the loom Salim has used the coloured wool only where it is needed. This has created an uneven tension across the tapestry and a slightly rippled surface.
The donor of the tapestry brought it from a Harraniyyah workshop the same year it was created. Given to the V&A in 2008, ‘Ali Salim’s piece offers a unique contemporary counterpoint to the Museum’s important and extensive collection of Ancient Egyptian woven textiles.
Swedish Landscape in Fine Art and Tapestry
Top image: John Olsen, Lily Pond (detail), 1984. Commissioned for the Eva and Marc Bresson Collection. © The artist/Australian Tapestry Workshop
Artwork to tapestry: What is contemporary tapestry?
[PUBLISHED IN THE EXHIBITION PUBLICATION ARTWORK TO TAPESTRY, 2011. © TARRAWARRA MUSEUM OF ART/IAN WERE]
What is contemporary tapestry?
Well, it is . . . a coarse, vigorous organic fabric . . . It is heavy with matter and heavy with meaning. But it is more, it is heavy with intentions. It is this which secures its magnificence to man and therefore to the building.¹
So said French painter, Jean Lurçat, credited not only with championing tapestry as a significant architectural element but also with the renaissance of the French tapestry tradition. Soon after the end of World War II, Lurçat gathered a group of French artists at the Aubusson Tapestry Workshop to pursue a new approach to the age-old textile, arguing that tapestries were the ideal wall decoration to replace frescos.2
The history of the art of Western tapestry, and of the famous European workshops associated with it, is integral to the history of painting and architecture. Tapestry has played a time-honored role in architecture, humanizing spaces in buildings both public and private through its natural charm and its softening effect, both texturally and acoustically. The revival of tapestry in the twentieth century claims inspiration from medieval times when workshops — which had been trying to imitate paintings and compete with each other for fidelity of reproduction — returned to the principles of weaving based on traditional methods, and artists began entrusting their designs to the skill and judgment of workshop weavers.
Since its inception in 1976, the Melbourne-based Australian Tapestry Workshop’s (ATW) philosophy has been to employ weavers that are trained artists to work closely with the artists who design the tapestries — to create unique works of art, rather than just reproduce a design in woven form. As founding director Sue Walker said, ‘each [tapestry] is an original work of art created through the dynamic interaction of the artist, the weaver . . . and the collector or client commissioning the work’.3 Over the last three and a half decades many notable Australian and international artists and architects have collaborated with the ATW’s artist-weavers.
A notable example was when Romaldo Giurgola, architect for Parliament House, Canberra, welcomed the collaboration that resulted in Arthur Boyd’s Great Hall Tapestry (1984−88), one of the largest tapestries in the world. ‘What is important to me’, he said, ‘is the Workshop’s potential for collaborative work, work which transcends the usual barriers between client and architect or between architect and artist or between built forms and works of art.4
The process of interpreting an artwork and creating a tapestry is a complex and fascinating one. The Workshop first selects a color palette based on the artwork from the ATW’s range of dyes — over 370 colors on wool and more than 200 colors on cotton, all hand-dyed — and then weaves interpretative samples. The upright loom is prepared for weaving by wrapping cotton warps (yarns placed lengthwise in the loom) around the bottom roller and then threading them through the reed (a series of parallel wires that separate the threads of the warp). The loom is now ready for the cartoon — traditionally a sketch based on the art work but, for the ATW, is usually a black and white photographic enlargement or a line drawing — which becomes the design for the tapestry. The weaving can now begin and collaboration between artist and weaver continues throughout. On completion the tapestry is rolled up on the top roller so that the image can be viewed before it is cut off.
Over the last 35 years the ATW’s skilled weavers have produced an extraordinary collection of tapestries for a wide range of purposes. Monumental tapestries have been commissioned as part of the design of iconic buildings and notable suites of tapestries and significant examples of public art have been created. Commissions within Australia and internationally have resulted in an array of tapestries for private, public and corporate art collections.
Two of the nine artists in this exhibition are John Coburn and John Olsen, both of whom were among the first to collaborate with the ATW. More than any other Australian artist, Coburn displayed a true affinity with the tapestry medium, designing almost 100 tapestries over the four decades of his life. Coburn’s love of tapestry was triggered by seeing the 1956 exhibition of contemporary French tapestries at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which inspired him to live and work in France for several years in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He produced a number of tapestries with the Aubusson Tapestry Workshop including the acclaimed Sydney Opera House curtains, but, the establishment of the ATW in 1976, allowed him to shift production from France to collaboration at home.
Coburn’s bold graphic forms and vibrant colors were an ideal match for tapestry translation. His deceptively simple curvilinear forms were a challenge for weaving, with competence in producing a ‘Coburn curve’ the benchmark of a highly skilled weaver.5 In this exhibition his Garden of Life (2000), which provided great scope for the weavers to develop rich textures, is no exception.
John Olsen was the first Australian artist to design for tapestry, working with workshops in France and Portugal in the 1960s before commencing collaboration with the ATW in 1981. One major tapestry, Rising suns over Australia Felix (1997), was commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and its monumental scale conjures the vastness of the Australian continent. In Olsen’s vibrant tapestry Lily Pond (in this exhibition) — commissioned for the collection of Eva and Marc Besen in 1984 — the weavers have effectively translated the lyrical lines that are a hallmark of Olsen’s painting.
The other seven works in Artwork to Tapestry represent the versatility of the medium and its ability to interpret a range of original artworks — from paintings of various styles to two large-scale prints to a lively gouache to a modest-sized photograph. In this exhibition are three diverse painters: Gareth Sansom, Angela Brennan and Song Ling.
Sansom’s expressionistic paintings combine iconoclastic and sexually explicit imagery with rebellious humor. His Family trust (1990) brims with contorted faces with disembodied eyes, all writhing in a patch-worked pattern. Unlike most other artists commissioned by the Workshop, Sansom did not desire active collaboration during the development of his tapestry. However, he confessed that his curiosity had so piqued that, while the work was in progress, he prowled around the Workshop at night, trying to catch a glimpse of it on the loom.6
The enigmatic title of Angela Brennan’s tapestry, It was not I that looked (2006), is taken from twentieth-century modernist painter Paul Klee who wrote in a journal, ‘It was not I who looked at the trees, the trees were looking at me’. Brennan, intrigued by the translation of the painting into tapestry, visited the Workshop several times to see the preliminary drawings and color samples. For her, the developing tapestry took on a new life. ‘I was fascinated’ she notes, ‘to see the work . . . emerging independently from its original source’.7
Song Ling’s art work for the tapestry, Kong fu – our dream 1 (2009) — inspired by Japanese animation and manga comics — has a bold, graphic style. But, he said: ‘The colors I use are often found in Chinese folk art and embroidery. Old technique versus new technique, traditional versus modern; color versus colour.’8 Ling was also curious to see how his painting would translate to a tapestry, and a visit to the Workshop enabled him to discuss the weavers’ interpretation and the nuances of color.
The original artworks for the four remaining tapestries were two prints (GW Bot and Geoffrey Ricardo), a gouache (John Wolseley) and a photograph (Yvonne Todd). GW Bot’s tapestry, Glyphs, was conceived as a large-scale relief print on tapa cloth in 2005. The cloth, made from bark and sourced from Tonga, is used as both swaddling for new-born infants and as funerary shrouds. According to the artist, the glyphs are ‘a form of shorthand calligraphy dealing with the Australian landscape . . . symbolically and metaphorically’.9 The colors, translated in woven form, are in rusty reds and browns, broken up by black jagged forms echoing natural objects such as fallen branches, burnt tree trunks or termite mounds.
Geoffrey Ricardo’s art often employs a figurative-based narrative tinged with humor and, sometimes, a sense of the absurd. Since 1993 Ricardo has closely collaborated with the ATW on four tapestries, large-scale and smaller, including the one in this exhibition. Emblem (1999), based on an aquatint and dry-point print of an ambiguous human−kangaroo figure, was the result of a particularly intense working partnership with an ATW weaver, resulting in this strange and compelling tapestry.
For his tapestry, Fire and water-moths, swamps and lava flows of the Hamilton region (2010), John Wolseley was commissioned to create an original design, consequently spending a week in the wilds of the Hamilton region in Victoria, painting and recording. The enchanting gouache study on paper is full of observations — the moths, lava flows and volcanic sinkholes that characterize the area — scribbled on the page margins. Wolseley then enlarged the study on a color photocopier, reassembled it, and painted back onto the copy, creating a new art work. In realizing their interpretation in wool and cotton, the weavers have used both the original and revised versions.
In 2006, with sponsorship from Tim and Gina Fairfax, the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) commissioned an ATW tapestry for its collection, Alice Bayke (2008), working closely with photographer Yvonne Todd. ‘It was the involvement with the . . . Workshop . . . that was exciting and rewarding’, said the Fairfaxes.10 As QAG Curator Maud Page finds, Alice Bayke conveys a palpable sense of psychological unease: ‘The key to Todd’s portraits is the deadpan expressions on her protagonists, carefully constructed through conflicting facial elements: mournful eyes, slightly wet lips. The Alice Bayke tapestry does all of that and more’.11
With its rich colors, strong images, hand-made tactile surfaces, and range of scale from palm-size to monumental, tapestry today enjoys a renewed vigor as part of the contemporary art world. The richness of woven color, derived from the mixing of multiple strands of vibrant, specially-dyed yarns, is a technique that is one of the hallmarks of the Australian Tapestry Workshop. As this exhibition vividly demonstrates, tapestry — ideally suited to large spaces — complements the varied surfaces and materials of modern architecture creating an atmosphere of warmth and color.