Tapestry: Here & Now The Holburne Museum, Bath

Tapestry: Here & Now, an ambitious survey of contemporary tapestry, is on show at the Holburne Museum, Bath from 23 June to 1 October 2017. To celebrate the exhibition, an important tapestry from the Museum’s own collection will be on public display for the first time.

Tapestry: Here & Now showcases the most innovative approaches to tapestry and the breadth of international talent in contemporary practice. The exhibition presents a diverse mix of UK practitioners shown alongside artists from Finland, Latvia, Norway, Japan, USA, Canada and Australia, emphasising the contemporary relevance of tapestry both nationally and internationally.

Each of the exhibition pieces represents a moment in the development the artist’s career, textiles making and contemporary society more broadly. The works demonstrate the ways in which the narrative heritage of the medium is used by artists to engage with political, aesthetic and personal issues of contemporary relevance.

Wide-ranging themes of enduring relevance are explored throughout the exhibition, including how we respond to the natural and man-made world around us. Barbara Heller’s Ozymandias looks at landmines as a potent symbol of how the innocent suffer from the effects of war. Kristin Sæterdal’s New Territory poses questions about technology and its role in saving or causing an environmental catastrophe. 6704-13 by Pat Taylor portrays Muslim refugees alongside political figures, while Self- portrait 1 by Erin M. Riley depicts the artist’s own tattooed body as if posted on social media.

The ‘Arts’ Tapestry (1934-5) by Edward McKnight Kauffer will also be on show for the first time. This tapestry from the Holburne Museum’s own collection is an extraordinary representation of the importance of the arts. A seated muse-like figure holds an open book, beside a globe and a fluted Ionic column, reflecting the importance of understanding classical art and architecture. McKnight Kauffer (1890-1954) was an American-born designer, best known for his many poster designs for London Transport. This tapestry was made on a loom in Old Church Street, Chelsea, while the designer was working in London.

McKnight Kauffer’s tapestry was purchased for the museum in 1972 from the Handley-Read collection. At the time the Holburne housed the Craft Study Centre, a unique collection and archive of twentieth-century British crafts including pottery, woven and printed textiles, calligraphy and furniture. The Crafts Study Centre has moved to a purpose-built home at the University for the Creative Arts, but crafts remain at the heart of the Holburne’s contemporary programme.

Curator of Decorative arts at the Holburne Museum, Catrin Jones, said: ‘We are thrilled to bring to Bath the work of such an extraordinary range of artists working with tapestry today. They remind us that tapestry is anything but traditional: it is creative and colourful, and can tell extraordinary stories about how we see the world around us. Lesley Millar’s selection of works reveals the personal, the political and the truly unexpected.’

The full list of exhibited artists is: Valerie Kirk, Barbara Heller, Aino Kajaniemi, Akayo Matsumura, Misao Watanabe, Yasuko Fujino, Ai Ito, Saori Sakai, Rolands Krutovs, Kristin Sæterdal, Tonje Høydahl Sørli, Caron Penney, Fiona Rutherford, Sara Brennan, Jilly Edwards, Fiona Hutchinson, Joan Baxter, Pat Taylor, Philip Sanderson and Erin M Riley.

Tapestry: Here & Now has been curated by Professor Lesley Millar in partnership with the National Centre for Craft and Design (NCCD). The exhibition title is a call for further research, practice and the promotion of cross cultural, networking and greater experiential opportunities for contemporary tapestry at a time of global uncertainty, when the focus on the here and now and its legacy is more pertinent than ever.

Visit website: holburne.org/events/tapestry-here-and-now/

* Lead image: Joan Baxter, ‘Hallaig 2’, wool, silk, lurex, 188cm x 196cm © Joan Baxter

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