Exhibition: Artists Meet Their Makers
Crafts Study Centre, Farnham, Surrey.
20 April 2017.
The Crafts Study Centre is a specialist university museum open to the public, as well as a research centre and home to internationally renowned collections of modern British craft. This is an exhibition of Contemporary Art reinterpreted by West Dean Tapestry Studio in Chichester. Artists Meet Their Makers is a celebration of the skill and imagination of West Dean Tapestry Studio’s Master Weavers. The studio was set up by West Dean Founder Edward James, and has worked with many leading modern and contemporary artists including Henry Moore, John Piper, Basil Beattie, Michael Brennand-Wood and Tracey Emin.
I was particularly drawn to ‘Black Cat’ by Tracey Emin, Carron Penney and Philip Sanderson. This was woven in 2011/12 and reminded me of my art student days in London when she exhibited her first student show with Damien Hurst.
The exhibition was organised by curator Liz Cooper and includes new works from outstanding previous projects, including ‘House of Tunnels’, woven by Katharine Swailes from a painting by Basil Beattie in 2015, and ‘Transformer’, created by Philip Sanderson from a design by Michael Brennand-Wood in 2012.
Philip Sanderson’s piece ‘Nowhere’ greeted us as we walked up the stairs. Although the tree in it looked very familiar (and even after discussing it with him) we couldn’t determine which part of Great Britain the weaving depicted ( See the website for the picture, sorry I didn’t take one of this!). We were greeted in a very friendly manner by the staff at the crafts study centre. I have to say that I was expecting the exhibition to be much larger and was surprised to see that everything was in one room with little natural light.
The exhibition was brought alive with a new film by R&A Collaborations showing Katharine Swailes in conversation with Emma Biggs & Matthew Collings, with whom she developing an interpretation of a painting.
Other works I loved were ‘Underground Sleepers’ based on a design by Henry Moore, woven by Penny Bush and Pat Taylor (Left).
I was also delighted to see that a neutral contemporary piece was in the process of being woven in situ by master weaver Philip Sanderson. This commission was based on old Holland neutral tint ink on Japanese paper by Rebecca Salter.
Philip had rigged up a loom from scaffolding poles, which I liked for its immediacy. It was inspiring to see him working there. I loved watching Philip’s nimble fingers deftly wrap the grey wool and weave it along the warp. He worked in a fluid rhythmical way, tapping the bobbins onto his work, so that each line of weaving was perfectly horizontal. It was interesting to see how copying such loose, modern ink on Japanese paper can be such a meticulous process. After 24 years of working at the tapestry studio, Philip seemed to be working at super speed! He said that it could be arranged to see the tapestry studio at West Dean on a Wednesday at 1pm. He seemed slightly concerned that there was no one to follow in his footsteps when he eventually moves on, which won’t be for some time of course.
You will have to see which piece you like best when you come, the exhibition runs until July 2017, check their website for more details.
By Ali Rabjohns, textile artist, 2017.